A further hearing for Oxford University Press’ copyright infringement case against Delhi University has taken place, at which lawyers representing the Indian university had their first opportunity to state their defence.
The dispute has broken out over Delhi University’s distribution of “course packs”, photocopied collections of selected sections from textbooks, available to students at a significant discount.
Owing to the expense of buying recommended texts for study and the limited availability in campus libraries, these course packs are widely used by students throughout India. According to critics of the publishing houses, banning the course packs would make higher education inaccessible to hundreds of thousands of Indian students.
However, the publishing houses, and their authors, receive no royalties from the sale of these packs.
OUP and Cambridge University Press brought the case against the university last year.
Rachel Goode, a spokesperson from OUP, commented: “As publishers we strive to disseminate our materials as widely as possible; ensuring our titles are accessible to the audiences they serve whilst compensating fairly those that develop and produce high quality content.”
“The publishers involved in the case do not expect, nor have we ever expected, Indian students to purchase the books from which the segments are taken. The licenses are about Rs 0.50 (approximately £0.005 GBP) per page.”
She maintained that the licensing scheme offered a “legitimate and accessible method for securing permissions”.
She added: “We are in full support of the creation of course packs, which can provide relevant segments of copyrighted works for students at affordable prices.”
A spokesperson for the Association of Students for Equitable Access to Knowledge, commented: “India is a country that has vast economic disparities. By saying students can afford to buy these books is absolutely unjust and ridiculous”
Outlining the legal case for their defence, she added: “Not only is this case about us defending our right to education from a moral standpoint, but if we speak the language of law, Section 52 of the Indian Copyright Act clearly outlines an exemption for reproduction of material for academic purposes”.
Deepa Gupta, director of campaign group Jhatkaa, stated: “If OUP/CUP win the case the most likely scenario is that they make sure Delhi University signs onto a licencing agreement under the IRRO which would increase the cost of all the course packs by 50% and add significant pressure to lower income background students.
“There is also a potential scenario where students are required to buy text books which are just as expensive in India as they are in the UK, which would absolutely ruin a very large number of students ability to get through university.”
The students’ cause has gained significant support from academics across the globe. In 2012, over 300 academics, including 33 represented by Cambridge and Oxford University Presses, signed an open letter condemning the action.