|Image from here|
The readers must by now be familiarized with the aspects of the Delhi University copyright controversy, with the frequency of its making one headline after another in the recent times. For those who aren’t, we refer to our posts here.
In a rather interesting turn of events, a letter has been sent a few days back by a group of as many as 309 writers and academicians from all over the world to the publishing houses (Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor & Francis) who’d instituted the copyright suit against D.U. and the photocopying agency. 33 of the signatories to this letter had been specifically mentioned by the publishing houses to have contributed to the work that forms the subject-matter of the dispute. He signatories have collectively issued a request to the publishing houses to withdraw the suit for injunction and damages, as in their opinion, the ‘course-packs’ prepared by D.U. fall firmly within the ambit of statutory exceptions to copyright infringement (‘fair use’), being covered under Sections 52 (1)(a) and 52(1)(n) of the Indian Copyright Act, 1957.
Among the signatories, there are eminent names of the likes of Professors Thomas Blom Hansen, Partha Chatterjee, Ayesha Jalal, Christophe Jaffrelot, Veena Das, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Marc Galanter and Professors Richard Falk, Arjun Appadurai, Jonathan Parry, Ramachandra Guha, Farid Esack, TN Madan, Ian Copland, Tanika Sarkar and Uma Chakravarty from a wide range of places such as Europe, the USA, UK, South Africa, Singapore, Australia, Argentina and Palestine. The letter has issued a polite but firm request to the publishing houses not to pursue their own ends in the names of the authors, which they have done so far.
The people, who’ve taken this excellent initiative to further the cause of academic fair use by allowing the authors to voice their own thoughts and separate themselves from mere profit-making motives, include Shamnad himself, Amita Baviskar from the Institute of Economic Growth, Nivedita Menon from the Jawaharlal Nehru University and Nandini Sundar from the Delhi University.
The authors have not only expressed firm solidarity with the students in their protest against this copyright suit, but also categorically said that given the salaries are mostly derived from the university payroll that in turn in largely government subsidized, at least in India, there is a huge public contribution to the profits made by the academic publishing house and hence the public cannot be entirely deprived of the benefits of these works. Moreover, given the high price of the books, it was highly unlikely that the student community formed the intended target audience for profit in the first place and hence photocopying by them cannot translate into lost profit for the publishing houses.
The letter [which has evoked considerable media coverage, see here, here, here and here] also contains the following attachments, the links of which are provided as follows:
1. Letter to OUP, CUP and Taylor & Francis signed by 309 academics and authors from around the world, the first 33 of whom are “suit” authors.
2. Letter sent separately by Professor Amartya Sen in September to OUP expressing his distress at the law suit [wherein he’s urged the publishing houses "Not to draw on the full force of law to make these 'course packs' impossible to generate and use” and instead to “balance various interests,” since “the cause of education must surely be a very important one. He has gone on to say that "The introduction the students get through these course packs must tend to be favourable to the sale of the books in the future when the existence and the quality of arguments presented in particular books become more familiar to the next generation of earning adults, through their training during their own education.”]
3. Email sent by Raju Ramachandran, a leading senior counsel and “suit author” who has opined that the creation and distribution of course packs for educational purposes is clearly covered by the copyright fair use and educational exception [wherein he’s stated, “I am of the clear view that photocopying of the essay for educational use would be 'fair use' and would also fall under the educational exception in our copyright law. I would also like to make my position as an author very clear that nothing can be more fulfilling for me than the fact that the student community would be reading and discussing my views. I would be deeply disappointed if students are not able to access and debate my views only because they are unable to buy the book in which my essay is printed."].
4. Email sent by Kaushik Sundar Rajan, a leading academic and author supporting the photocopying of his books to further the educational cause [wherein he’s stated unambiguously, “The 'only' way in which my book has been read has been through photocopying, and I have given copies of my book to individuals in India explicitly requesting that they photocopy and distribute as widely as possible. Without this, my work would only have been read by primarily Euro - American audiences, which would have defeated the very purpose of my being an academic. I am happy for you to quote this in any affidavit you may file if it is of use. I think it is important to establish that the ability to freely reproduce academic works through photocopying is important not just for consumers in (relatively) resource poor settings who cannot afford Euro - American prices, but is also important for authors who wish to disseminate their work outside Euro - American settings.”].
5. A comprehensive list of signatories to a protest petition on change.org. This consists of 1267 names, including academics, authors, students, and members of the general public who are worried about your law suit and its implications for the future of access to education in India. This list of names can also be found at:
One wonders what the reaction of the publishing houses is going to be to this move on part of the authors, since so far the former were firmly announcing themselves to be representing the larger interest of the authors in filing this copyright suit. We hope to keep the readers informed about further developments.