Does photocopying a book violate copyright?

'Photocopy' is of utmost importance for most of us. It is a time-saving and economical method that has proved to be a boon for a huge number of students. Imagine you are studying engineering or medicine or law and you have to buy a book worth Rs 6000/-! That is no doubt a pinch on your pocket. So what is the best way to obtain that book at a low price? Simple. Get it photocopied.


Even in our day to day life, we are heavily dependent on photocopies. A friend of yours owns a collection of short stories of your favourite author but you cannot purchase the same copy as the price is too high for you. So you borrow the book, get a photocopy of the same and read it with satisfaction.

When photocopy of a book, irrespective of its author, publisher and content, is universally accepted, there is no room for argument that photocopying a particular book violates the copyrights of the publisher of that book.

What do some of the leading publishing houses have to say about photocopy?

Leading publishing houses like Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press, United Kingdom (UK); Cambridge University Press India Pvt Ltd; Taylor & Francis Group, UK; and Taylor & Francis Books India Pvt Ltd argue that Delhi University has violated their copyright by providing students with photocopies of the course packets that included sections of reference books related to different subjects.

The publishers also claim that the educational institute has been selling the photocopies of the reference books thus hinting at commercial gain for the institute. Delhi University has assigned the job of photocopying and providing the books to its students to Rameshwari Photocopiers.

What does Delhi High Court say regarding copyright and photocopy?

According to Indian Express, the Delhi High Court said that the words - in the course of instruction within the meaning of Section 52(1) (i) the aforementioned would include reproduction of any work while the process of imparting instruction by the teacher and receiving instruction by the pupil continues... Resultantly, reproduction of any copyrighted work by the teacher for the purpose of imparting instruction to the pupil as prescribed in the syllabus during the academic year would be within the meaning of Section 52 (1)(i) of the Act.

Does photocopying a book violate copyright?

The court also said that there are international agreements on copyright law with broad definitions of infringement; yet they had left it up to individual country's legislature to define the exceptions to copyright violation.

The Delhi High Court also made a very valid point when it said that all the students could not be expected to buy books. This is a very significant decision taken by the court since there are many talented students hailing from poor families. Such students cannot be expected to spend thousands of rupees on book. So photocopying of required books for the purpose of studies cannot be called violation of copyright. Hence, the court's decision, as of now, is welcome.

Read: NLIU organises National Workshop on "Copyright Law in India"

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