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Indian Case Summary

The Chancellor, Masters & … vs Rameshwari Photocopy Services & … on 9 December, 2016 – Case Summary

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In the case of The Chancellor, Masters & Scholars of the University of Oxford & Ors vs. Rameshwari Photocopy Services & Ors, the Delhi High Court delivered a landmark judgment on December 9, 2016, that has significant implications for copyright law and the education sector in India. The case revolved around the photocopying of copyrighted publications for educational purposes, specifically the creation of course packs for students.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs in the case were Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press (UK and India), Taylor & Francis Group (UK), and Taylor & Francis Books India Pvt. Ltd. They filed a suit against Rameshwari Photocopy Services, a shop licensed to operate within the Delhi School of Economics (University of Delhi), for creating and selling course packs that included photocopied pages from their copyrighted publications.

The course packs were prepared under the authorization of professors from the Delhi School of Economics. The shop charged students 50 paisa per page for these course packs. The plaintiffs argued that this practice constituted copyright infringement as it competed with their publications and operated on a commercial basis.

Issues Raised

The primary issue in the case was whether the photocopying of copyrighted publications for the purpose of educational instruction constituted copyright infringement. The plaintiffs contended that the reproduction of their copyrighted works by Rameshwari Photocopy Services, with the assistance of the Delhi School of Economics, could not be classified as reproduction by a teacher or a pupil in the course of instruction, as per Section 52(1)(i) of the Copyright Act, 1957.

The defendants, on the other hand, argued that their actions constituted fair use within the meaning of Sections 52(1)(a) and (h) of the Copyright Act, 1957. They maintained that their activities did not affect the market for the plaintiffs’ books since they charged a nominal rate for their services and that students could not afford to buy all the books, extracts of which were included in the course packs.

Court’s Observations and Judgment

The Delhi High Court, presided over by Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Yogesh Khanna, delivered the judgment. The court observed that copyright has been converted from a natural/common law right into a statutory right by the Copyright Act, 1957. Therefore, unless it could be proved that the defendants had infringed the copyright of the plaintiffs within the meaning of infringement under the Copyright Act, 1957, no action for infringement would lie against them.

The court held that the act of making photocopies of copyrighted material would amount to infringement of the copyright under Section 51, unless Section 52 could be shown to be applicable. The court opined that Section 52 could not be read as a proviso to Section 51, and the rights of the persons mentioned therein had to be read expansively.

The court concluded that the preparation of course packs by Rameshwari Photocopying Services did not amount to infringement of the plaintiffs’ copyright. The court held that Section 52(1)(i) of the Copyright Act, 1957, which covers the preparation of course packs, must be interpreted widely. The court also noted that the term ‘reproduction’ used in Section 52(1)(i) was distinct from the term ‘publication’ used in Section 52(1)(h), and Section 52(1)(h) would not be applicable to the preparation of course packs by photocopying of copyrighted work for educational purposes.

This judgment has been hailed as a significant victory for access to education in India, affirming the right of students and educational institutions to photocopy portions of copyrighted works for research and educational purposes.