A long-running battle between a group of UK academic publishers and a photocopy shop based on the Delhi University campus looks set to continue as the publishers have filed an appeal against the decision of the Delhi High Court.
The case started in 2012, when the publishers obtained an interim injunction against Rameshwari Photocopy Services for producing unlicensed course packs, which reproduced significant sections of the publishers’ copyright works. That injunction was overturned in September this year, when the Delhi High Court (‘DHC’) ruled that the copying fell within India’s educational copyright exception.
One of the interesting features of that decision was the DHC’s broad interpretation of the exception, which permits the reproduction of any work by a teacher or a pupil in the course of instruction. The publishers argued that there was a distinction between copying by a teacher within a classroom setting and the production of course packs for study outside the classroom, but this was not accepted by the DHC. If upheld, this decision would suggest that India’s copyright exception is not subject to notions of fair dealing, non-commercial use, or other limitations, which are familiar from the UK’s copyright exceptions.
Whilst such a broad interpretation of the exception has been welcomed by educational institutions as a way of maintaining free access to educational materials, it poses significant challenges to publishers developing textbooks and other materials for the Indian market. From the publishers’ perspective, if institutions have free rein to copy these works wholesale, eliminating the need for students to purchase books, there is little incentive for them to invest in new content or develop materials for Indian students.
The publishers’ appeal will be heard on 29 November 2016. We will continue to monitor the outcome of this case with interest.