New Delhi, Aug. 26: Exams are round the corner but Delhi University students are being given a crash course in an out-of-syllabus subject: copyright rules that have come in the way of unhindered photocopying of books or chapters.
If photocopies have to be made at all, their university would have to acquire a licence. Else, they could be accused of copyright infringement.
The law has been in place for some time but the licence fee was structured recently and the rules acquired teeth when three publishers went to court against the practice of photocopying chapters from different books and selling the compilation as "course packs".
A shop on the Delhi School of Economics campus, Rameshwari Photocopy Services, was raided last week on orders from Delhi High Court. Three publishers ' Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor and Francis Group ' had moved court alleging that the vendor was bringing out "course packs" by reproducing study material taken from their books without authorisation. The case is still being heard.
Since then, photocopy shops have been refusing to make copies of pages of books for fear of infringing on the copyright of authors and publishers and attracting legal action.
The law allows photocopying if no commercial benefit is involved ' a grey area on campuses where vendors have set up shop. The end-users, the students, are not deriving any financial benefit but the photocopiers are. For instance, Rameshwari's "course packs" for two papers in the undergraduate political science course cost Rs 500.
Universities can get around the problem by paying an annual licence fee of Rs 24,000 and colleges Rs 12,000, according to the Indian Reprographic Rights Organisation (IRRO), which can give permission to photocopy books.
In India, few had paid heed to such rules ' till the raid spread alarm among the photocopy vendors.
The students' semester exams are due in November-December but they have yet to gather their study material. Even the Central Library and the 14 other libraries have only one or two copies each of some foreign publications they need. Some of the books cost thousands of rupees.
"Without photocopies, studying is impossible. We cannot afford to buy all the books we need every month. We are really worried about how to prepare for the semester exam," said Soumik Bhar, a final-year MA economics student at DU's Delhi School of Economics.
The boy from Calcutta said each MA economics student required four to five books every week, some of them by foreign authors and publishers. "We need some chapters from each of these books, not the whole book. The prices of books by foreign authors go into thousands of rupees. The only way to read them is to photocopy the relevant chapters," he said.
Mayank Tomar, who is pursuing an MA in sociology, said that apart from the semester exams, the students had to take internal exams every month. They also had tutorials, all of which required preparation. "For the past week, there has been a break in our studies. It will affect our performance in the exam," Tomar said.
Kamalakanta Raul, a PhD scholar in Delhi University, said certain books by foreign publishers cost over Rs 10,000 and even the Central Library had just one or two copies. "How can a few hundred PhD students share just one or two books? Photocopying is essential. Photostat vendors are doing students a service," Raul said.
Dharampal Singh, owner of Rameshwari Photocopy Services, said the "course pack" had been compiled by Delhi University faculty members and given to him to make multiple copies.
"We did not compile these course packs. The faculty of every department were preparing them and giving them to us for copies. Students were asked by the faculty to collect the copies. We have been doing this for so many years," Singh said.
The three publishers have alleged that photocopying of books infringes the copyright of the authors and publishers. In India, issues of copyright violation and non-payment of royalty to authors or publishers are dealt with under the Copyright (Amendment) Act, 1957 (see chart).
The act was amended this year and notified in the Gazette of India. Section 52 allows photocopying of books for personal and private use, including research.
Alka Chawla, an expert on intellectual property rights and a professor at the Faculty of Law in Delhi University, said the provision of fair dealing could not be treated as licence to reproduce a full book without consent from the author.
The IRRO, a society of authors and publishers, collectively manages the rights and pays a part of the funds generated to the authors. The three publishers who moved court are IRRO members.
"In India, hardly anybody bothers to take a licence from the IRRO to reproduce any material," Chawla said.
IRRO secretary-general Anant Bhushan said: "If there is no economic benefit involved in copying, it is all right. But if somebody makes a business by making photocopies, it cannot be allowed. They have to take a licence by paying a fee to the IRRO."
The IRRO has finalised a fee structure to issue licences to universities and colleges that will enable students to photocopy books in shops on campus. "If an institute has got a licence from us, any book can be issued from its library for photocopying up to 10 per cent of the book or one chapter," Bhushan said.
Last week, the IRRO wrote to all universities in the country to get licences from it to avoid legal complications on copyright violation.
"We have been giving licences for the last two months. But not a single university or college has taken a licence so far. Only a few corporate houses have. Last week, we asked all universities to take licences so that students and photostat vendors don't face problems," he said.
Asked why the IRRO did not decide licence fees earlier in the 10 years of its existence, Bhushan said there was hardly any awareness on copyright issues. "Copyright is a big international issue now. There is a lot of pressure from foreign countries on India to implement the copyright law properly," he said.
The IRRO has signed bilateral pacts with the RROs of 17 countries, including the UK and New Zealand, under which those countries can get the licence fees generated by the IRRO towards photocopying of their books in India. Correspondingly, the IRRO can get licence fees from those countries for photocopying of books by Indian authors.
"We have started getting licence fees from foreign countries also. The Copyright Licensing Agency of the UK will give us licence fees it collected for photocopies of Indian books there," Bhushan said.
Dinesh Mishra, the president of the Indian Society of Authors, said students should be allowed to photocopy study materials.
"The prices of books have increased so much that students cannot buy them. Photocopying material for study has been common practice in institutions for decades. You can restrict free use of materials for commercial purposes but not for the purpose of study by students," Mishra said.
He said making photocopies for study or research was an internationally accepted practice.
Chawla said authors and publishers had become increasingly sensitive about their economic and commercial rights being violated through photocopying.
Intellectual property rights (IPR) were earlier handled by the World Intellectual Property Organisation. Since 1994, however, the World Trade Organisation has considered IPR an economic and commercial right of the author.
The WTO has introduced an Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (Trips), prescribing provisions to check copyright violations. Since India is a signatory to Trips, it has to follow copyright laws in letter and spirit. The Copyright Act was amended this year to bring it on a par with international practices.
"India is a member of the WTO and has to conform to Trips provisions. It has to sensitise authors on their economic and commercial rights. Earlier, authors were not so sensitive to these issues. But of late, they are fighting for their commercial rights in all possible ways," Chawla said.