HC restores for trial issue of sale of photocopied books

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court today set aside its single judge verdict allowing sale of photocopies of textbooks published by leading foreign publishers, including Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press (UK), by a shop located at the Delhi University (DU) campus.

However, there was no immediate relief for publishers as the bench of justices Pradeep Nandrajog and Yogesh Khanna, restored for trial the suit on the issues of whether photocopying of the entire books would be a permissible activity and if the inclusion of copyrighted work in the course pack for the students was justified.

“The appeal is disposed of declaring the law as above (in the verdict) and setting aside the impugned judgment and decree holding that no triable issue on fact arises,” the bench said.

“The suit is restored for trial on the issue of fact and for which parties would be permitted to lead expert witness testimony,” the court said while listing the suit for further proceedings on January 4 next year.

The bench noted in its judgement that the single judge had also dismissed the application seeking interim injunction against the shop, Rameshwari Photocopy Services, on the reasoning that no triable issue arises.

“Having restored the suit and identifying the triable issue warranting evidence, we are not inclined to grant interim injunction to the appellants but would direct respondent No.1 (Rameshwari Photocopy Services) to maintain a record of course packs photocopied by it and supplied to the students. Every six months the statement of number of course packs photocopied and supplied shall be filed in the suit,” the bench said.

The division bench had on December 5 reserved its verdict on a petition filed by the publishers – Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press (UK), Cambridge University Press India Pvt Ltd, Taylor and Francis Group (UK) and Taylor and Francis Books India Pvt Ltd – seeking reversal of the single judge’s September 16 order contending that sale of photocopies of books published by them affects their market share.
During the arguments before the bench, DU had come out in support of the photocopier, saying public interest of students should be given priority over private interest.

The publishers have approached the division bench against the September 16 order claiming Rameshwari Photocopy Service in DU was infringing upon their copyright over the text books.

The single judge order, which brought cheers to many students by rejecting the publishers’ 2012 plea against the sale of photocopies of their textbooks, had said copyright in literary works does not confer “absolute ownership” to the authors.

It had also lifted a ban on the shop from selling photocopies of chapters from textbooks of foreign publishers to students.

In their plea before the division bench, the publishers have contended “we seek assurance that copyright law in India will balance the interests of those creating learning materials here in India as well as globally, with those requiring access to them in a fair and sustainable manner”.