The recent verdict of Delhi High Court in the context of liberal interpretation of Indian Copyright Act 1957 is a welcome step. The Court verdict is based on the premise that Copyright Act is intended to increase and not to impede the harvest of knowledge.

 Indian education system and Universities are marred with some of the serious limitations; this verdict has tried to address the same. These limitations include; one colossal mismatches between the number of learners and the relevant books and study material available in the public libraries. Two, exorbitant cost of course books (especially that of foreign publishers) that the bulk of learners cannot afford at market prices.

Bone of contention

The suit related to copyright violation was initiated by three major international publishing houses against Photocopy Service providers of University of Delhi. These publishers claimed that photocopying of course packs prepared by these Photocopy Service providers comprising the portions from their books was the violation of the Indian Copyright Act.

The Verdict

 In the verdict, the Delhi High Court is of the view that Copyright is not a natural or common law right in India, but is subject to statute. The Court opined that copyright is not an inevitable, divine, or natural right that confers on authors about absolute ownership of their creations. So photocopying for academic purposes is not an infringement as Section 52(1) (i) of the Copyright Act that permits the making of copies of literary works by a teacher or pupil for academic purposes.

Do you know?
According to Indian Copyright Act, certain acts do not come under the purview of copyright. The following acts shall not constitute an infringement of copyright, namely:
(i)  the performance, in the course of the activities of an educational institution, of a literary, dramatic or musical work by the staff and students of the institution, or of a cinematograph film or a sound recordings if the audience is limited to such staff and students, the parents and guardians of the students and persons directly connected with the activities of the institution [or the communication to such an audience of a cinematograph film or sound recording

Implications of the judgment:

1. Interests of Publishers

The judgment of Delhi High Court tried for balance between the “legitimate interests” of publishers and the right of students to get access to books. Terming copyright as a statutory right rather than a “divine” or natural right, Court allows for exceptions to the right. Even, Berne Convention and TRIPS allow countries to carve out exceptions under domestic law while ensuring that the “legitimate interests” of the publisher are protected.

Thus Sec 52 (1) (i) INDIAN COPYRIGHT ACT, 1957 permit the making of copies of literary works by a teacher or pupil for academic purposes. This provision is aimed to balance copyright protection with the public interest in ensuring access.

Now a pertinent question that arises is whether conferring unrestricted reprographic rights on academic institutions will drive reputed publishers out of the field of education? It is true that academic publications, especially international ones, are expensive, putting them beyond the reach of many students. Also being the private businesses, they are primarily driven by the profit motives. The unrestricted reprographic rights and insufficient copyright protection may make publishers unsecure about their investment. Eventually, it may lead to backing out of major publishing houses from the country, which might be detrimental for the public interest.

2. Access to Education

This radically transformative decision by Delhi High Court will have herculean effect with reference to principle of equitable access to education. Access to education is one of the most important considerations for a developing country like India where libraries and universities have to cope up with the needs of thousands of students simultaneously. It would be just a utopia to expect every student to buy hardcopies of every book. Equitable access to education is quintessential for a country like India where the focus is on protection and promotion of human capital. Optimum utilization of demographic dividend will not be possible if access to education is impeded by high cost of relevant educational materials. 

3. Global Implications.

Compliance with international standard for protection of IPR is a must in today's globalized world. The copyright norms of international law (Berne Convention, TRIPS Agreement) have emerged from the standpoint of the developed western world. These laws and norms are aggressively pushed by the copyright lobby which is guided by the vested interests of a few but powerful and influential multi-national companies.  Ironically these vested interests are shielded in the guise of protection rights for writers and content creators. The connotations related to the equitable access to education and availability of books and study material at an affordable cost; which are very important for the developing countries have very lukewarm presence in the current international norms and laws.

Judgement of Delhi High court provides a new insight into copyright jurisprudence one which is cconcurrent with the view that the end goal of technology is the improvement of our lives both material and intellectual.  This judgment along with the judgment in the case of generic medicine (Novartis case), has the potential to sets precedent for developing countries around the world to follow.


Ccopyrights law is related with maintaining a balance between competing ideas of private and public interest. However with ever-increasing use of technology and in the age of easy accessibility it shall be beneficial to have an enabling environment where rights of both publishers and people at large are protected. The High end publishing houses must shed their unidirectional approach that copyright law is all about the protection of the property rights of owners only. It is much more than that. It is intended to increase and not to impede the harvest of knowledge. It is intended to motivate the authors for better creativity for the benefits of the people at last. Protection provided by copyright law can't be the shield for profit churning mechanism. Any law must be interpreted in a way that promotes the continuous evolution of human being for the better rather than resulting in regression.


Concept Builder
Different types of Intellectual Property Rights
What is Copyright
:- Copyright is a legal right created by the law of a country that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights for its use and distribution. Copyright protects only the original expression of ideas, and not the underlying ideas themselves. Protection provided is usually only for a limited time. This exclusive right is not absolute but limited and there lies some  exceptions to protection of copyright for instance "fair use".  Copyright is a form of IPR that is recognized under the 1995 TRIPS Agreement. India parliament has passed INDIAN COPYRIGHT ACT, 1957 for protection of Copyrights.
Trademark:- A trademark is a recognisable sign, design or expression which differentiate products or services of a particular source from those of others. Owner of a trademark can be business organisation or an individual.
Patents:- A Patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention, which is a product or a process that provides, in general, a new way of doing something, or offer a new technical solution to a problem.
Geographical Indication:- A  Geographical Indication (GI) is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. GI is provided both for agricultural product and artistic products for eg- Benarasi saree, Mysore sandal soaps etc.


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