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No, this is not quite a textbook solution

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The Economic Times Blog |   March 18, 2017 |  ET Editorials |ET | Opinion |

The decision by a set of publishers to not pursue their case against Rameshwari Photocopy Service, Delhi, which photocopied portions of textbooks and sold them to students as ‘coursepacks’, may have settled the long-drawn-out court battle with foreign publishers but highlights unsettled nuances of infringing copyright for the purpose of education.  The publishers had wanted caps on how much of the book could be photocopied, and had asked for the payment of copyright dues for inclusion of the material in the coursepack. Those representing the interests of the students and photocopy shop argued that the coursepack was a collection of reading material selected by the teachers in keeping with the objective of the course and its curriculum and, therefore, should not be subject to a copyright fee or limits on the amount of the textbook that could be photocopied. Technically, this is expansive interpretation of the fair-use clause in the Copyright Act.

What constitutes as fair use is contentious and up for interpretation. Copyright serves to acknowledge the author’s effort and intellect, and reward him for these. And while there are uses for which the author or creator should be willing to forgo the reward, there needs to be a limit to how much the creator has to forgo.  There is a need to balance the needs of individuals/students with that of the author/creator, to keep the supply of good books flowing. A principled solution could be for universities and colleges to allocate a portion of their library funds to pay for the intellectual property of textbooks, whose publishers can then be persuaded to make their books available at reduced rates and to forgo further claims on photocopying for students’ use, with a collective body for the university system negotiating with the publishers to determine a reasonable compensation. – This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Economic Times. –  Courtesy


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