Rameshwari Photocopy Service shop copyright case

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Rameshwari Photocopy Service shop copyright case
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CourtDelhi High Court

Rameshwari Photocopy Services is a shop licensed to it within the precincts of the Delhi School of Economics (University of Delhi),[1] which came into limelight due to copyright litigation filed by five prominent publishers which included Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor & Francis, in a case known as the Rameshwari Photocopy Service shop copyright case (colloquially DU Photocopy Case, or formally The Chancellors, Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford and Others v. Rameshwari Photocopy Services and Others).[2]

Albeit with an initial denial by the University of Delhi, the ultimate picture which emerged was that the professors imparting teaching in the Delhi School of Economics had authorized preparation of course packs and Rameshwari Photocopy Services was entrusted with the task of photocopying the pages from the books published by the plaintiffs, and after binding the same, to supply them to the students charging 50 paisa per page.[3]

Rameshwari Photocopy shop background[edit]

Rameshwari Photocopy shop was established in 1998 and is owned by Mr. Dharampal.[4]


Association of Students for Equitable Access to Knowledge (ASEAK) and Society for Promoting Educational Access and Knowledge (SPEAK) sought and allowed for impleadment.[5]

Case of the plaintiffs[edit]

The case of the plaintiffs that the inclusion of specific pages of its publications by Rameshwari Photocopy Services, under the authority of the Delhi School of Economics, amounts to institutional sanction for infringement of its copyright.

It is the further case of the plaintiffs that the professors of the Delhi School of Economics, through its Library, issued the books published by the plaintiffs to Rameshwari Photocopy Services for preparing course packs.

It is the case of the plaintiffs that the course packs, which contain no additional material apart from photocopies of its copyrighted publications, were being used like textbooks and therefore, the compilations prepared were competing with the publications of the plaintiffs.

According to the plaintiffs, Rameshwari Photocopy Services was operating commercially as was evident from the rate charged by it for selling the course pack is 40/50 paisa per page, as distinct from the market rate of 20/25 paisa per page being charged by other photocopiers from the students while photocopying material given by the students to be photocopied.

Anticipating that the defence would be predicated under Section 52(1)(i) of the Copyright Act, 1957, the plaintiffs have pleaded that Section 52(1)(i) was not applicable since reproduction by Rameshwari Photocopy Services, with the assistance of Delhi School of Economics, could not be classified as reproduction by a teacher or a pupil in the course of instruction. Additionally/alternatively the reproduction in the manner carried out by Rameshwari Photocopy Services if held falling within the ambit of Section 52(1)(i) would render Section 52(1)(h) superfluous was the contention. Meaning thereby, the plaintiffs had required the two sub-Sections to be harmonized. The plaintiffs have further pleaded that Section 52(1)(i) only covered reproduction in the course of instruction‘ and not in the course of preparation for instruction‘ as was evident from the replacement of the expression in the course of preparation for instruction‘ in the Bill which was tabled before the Legislature with the expression in the course of instruction‘ in the Act as finally promulgated upon the Bill being adopted; with modifications by the Legislature. According to the plaintiffs, reproduction by Rameshwari Photocopy Services fell within the ambit of Section 52(1)(h) and would have to be limited to two passages from works by the same author published by the same publisher during any period of five years as provided under the sub-Section.[3]


Rameshwari Photocopy Services contested the copyright of the plaintiffs in the books from which the course packs were prepared. Rameshwari Photocopy Services pleaded that the preparation of course packs by it amounts to fair use within the meaning of Sections 52(1)(a) and (h) of the Copyright Act, 1957. Rameshwari Photocopy Services pleaded that its activity does not affect the market for the plaintiffs’ books since it charges a nominal rate for its services as fixed by the License Deed executed between the Delhi School of Economics and Rameshwari Photocopy Services. As per it, the students cannot afford to buy all the books, extracts of which were mentioned in the syllabi prepared by the Delhi School of Economics.

Apart from adopting the stand taken by Rameshwari Photocopy Services, in its written statement, the University of Delhi pleaded that Section 52(1)(i) of the Copyright Act, 1957 permits students and educational institutions to copy portions from any work for research and educational purpose. The University pleaded that Rameshwari Photocopy Services has been licensed by it to operate a photocopy shop within its premises in order to facilitate photocopying by students for educational and research purpose. Denying issuing books to Rameshwari Photocopy Services for the purposes of preparation of course packs, the University pleaded that no limitation on the quantum of reproduction under Section 52(1)(i) has been provided under the Copyright Act, 1957 and because Section 52(1)(i) covers reproduction for educational purposes, unlimited photocopying would be permitted. For which argumentative pleadings reference to the limitation of two passages provided under Section 52(1)(h) was highlighted. The argument was that wherever the legislature had deemed fit, it had limited the extent of the copying which was permissible. It was argued, by way of pleading, that the term ‘reproduction‘ used in Section 52(1)(i) was distinct from the term ‘publication‘ used in Section 52(1)(h), with Section 3 of the Act defining publication‘ as making a work available to the public‘, with the term ‘public‘ having a wider connotation than the term students‘ and therefore, Section 52(1)(h) would not be applicable to preparation of course packs to be used by students for an educational purpose. University of Delhi pleaded that the expression "course of instruction" must be interpreted expansively.

Highlights of Delhi Highcourt judgement on 9 December 2016[edit]

  • Judgements Point No.31:"...unless the legislative intent expressly excludes fair use, and especially when a person’s result of labour is being utilized by somebody else, fair use must be read into the statute..."[3]
  • Judgements Point No.33 & 35: "..In the context of teaching and use of copyrighted material, the fairness in the use can be determined on the touchstone of ‘extent justified by the purpose’...."[3]
  • "...that the four factors on which fair use is determined in jurisdictions abroad would guide fair use of copyrighted material during course of instruction. The qualitative and quantitative test which is one of the four tests would not apply to clause (i).."[3]
  • Judgements Point No. 57 clarifies difference between reproduction‘ and ‘publication‘ according to this ruling, "...Publication need not be for the benefit of or available to or meant for reading by all the members of the community. A targeted audience would also be a public as rightly urged by learned counsel for the appellants. But, a publication would have the element of profit, which would be missing in the case of reproduction of a work by a teacher to be used in the course of instruction while imparting education to the pupils. That apart, if reproduction includes the plural, it cannot be held that making of multiple copies would be impermissible. It happens in law that footprints of one concept fall in the territory of other but that does not mean that the former should be restricted.."[3]

Announcement of withdrawing the suit[edit]

On 9 March 2017, news papers including Hindustan Times reported that, the three publisher announced to withdraw suit against Rameshwari Photocopy service shop and not to pursue photocopy shop case further in the courts.[6] According to news report of The Hindu, the publishers had told the division Bench that they had decided to withdraw the suit against Rameshwari Photocopy shop as they did not want to engage in a legal battle with their stakeholders — the educational institutions.[7] Despite main plaintifs withdrew the case, Indian Reprographic Rights Organisation (IRRO), made an attempt to move a petition in Supreme Court challenging the judgment passed by the Division Bench of the Delhi High Court on 9 December 2016.[8] Given that the original suit filed before the Delhi high court had been withdrawn by the publisher plaintiffs (OUP etc.) and the IRRO was merely an intervenor in the lower court proceedings, Supreme Court decided to not to interfere in the Highcourt order.[9][7]

On 3 June 2017, The Financial Times also covered an extensive story on the case illustrating data from Nielsen that despite lack of public numbers, the publishers still made considerable profitable growth in India.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Chancellor, Masters & ... vs Rameshwari Photocopy Services & ... on 9 December, 2016". indiankanoon.org.
  2. ^ Krishna & Saurastri Associates LLP - Janhvi Chadha. "The Appeal Bench's decision Delhi university photocopying case: fair use re-visited - Lexology".
  3. ^ a b c d e f lobis.nic.in/ddir/dhc/PNJ/judgement/09-12-2016/PNJ09122016RFAOS812016.pdf
  4. ^ "A day in the life of Rameshwari Photocopy Service shop, Delhi University". 18 December 2016.
  5. ^ "The Chancellor, Masters & Scholars of the University of Oxford & Ors. vs Rameshwari Photocopy Services & ANR" (PDF). High Court of Delhi. 16 September 2016. Retrieved 3 September 2018. See Point 11 and Point 12.
  6. ^ "Delhi University photocopy case: Three publishers withdraw copyright suit against shop". 9 March 2017.
  7. ^ a b Hindu, The. "Won't interfere with HC relief to DU photocopy shop, says Supreme Court". thehindu.com. PRESS TRUST OF INDIA. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  8. ^ Agarwal, Pankhuri (29 April 2017). "Breaking News: IRRO Challenges Del HC's DU Photocopy Judgment Before the Supreme Court". https://spicyip.com/2017/04/breaking-news-irro-challenges-del-hcs-du-photocopy-judgment-before-the-supreme-court.html. Retrieved 9 June 2017. External link in |website= (help)
  9. ^ "Breaking News: Supreme Court Refuses IRRO Appeal in DU Photocopy Case". SpicyIP. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  10. ^ "Subscribe to read". Financial Times.

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