Updated: Aug 22, 2020


There are various elements that are associated with a Copyright as far as its scope is considered, for example, the theory of ideas and expressions (including the merger of the two), the substantial similarity between two works, liabilities incurred out of it, and many more.

The Doctrine of the Merger of ideas (which is not copyrighted) and expression (otherwise copyrighted) was laid down in Baker v. Selden. Wherein it was stated that if the ways of expressing an idea are few and if copyright protection is provided to the producer of it, then it would prevent anyone except producer to use that idea, thus, creating a monopoly in the market. So, the Doctrine of fair use was invoked to strike the sense of steadiness between the barefaced reproduction of the work and the reasonable use of the same. Fair use is the Doctrine that entitles the copier to copy the copyrighted work without being called an infringer even though the copyright holder, i.e., the producer, has not allowed him to copy. It was initially based upon the Doctrine of equity that provides specific literary works to be used by others also. Furthermore, it stresses the fact that copyright not being an inherent right, should be impartial with the rights of the users.

The article goes on to analyse the famous “DU Photocopies Case” in light of the Doctrine of Fair Use, and to the extent, it can be granted to the owners of the copyright holder. Also, it highlights the importance of the welfare society and the interest of the people to not overshadow by the copyrighted work.

DU Photocopies case, i.e., The Chancellors, Masters, and Scholars of the University of Oxford and others v. Rameshwari Photocopy Services and others

The case involves a suit for relief for a permanent injunction against Rameshwari Photocopy Services and the University of Delhi (hereinafter referred to as Defendants) on the ground of encroachment of Copyright under Section 52 of the Indian Copyright Act, 1957. Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, and Taylor and Francis (hereinafter referred to as Plaintiffs) contended that they are liable for infringement of copyright as,

1. The defendant created a copy of the course pack;

2. The faculty of the college was encouraging the students to buy these course packs instead of purchasing the original study material;

3. The plaintiff’s book was readily made available to the defendants;

4. There was a motive for profit employed through the copying of the course pack and selling it.

Defendants, on the other hand, contended that,

1. There was not any proof to establish plaintiff’s copyright over those course packs;

2. The act of photocopying falls under the scope of Section 51(1) (a) and (h) of the Indian Copyright Act, 1957;

3. Defendants were duly licensed to provide students with photocopied material;

4. The syllabus concerning was of wide ambit and hence was to be referred through various books and therefore for the convenience of the students, the course pack was compiled and made available to them;

5. The books kept in the library are expensive and significantly less in number, hence photocopying them is made allowed;

6. The photocopied material is not for any profit but educational purpose;

7. The defendants have acted in good faith under Section 76 of the Indian Copyright Act, 1957.

They also contended that the impugned legislation is welfare legislation, and the welfare of the society is kept in mind. Hence, the rights of the owners and producers are duly acknowledged. Also, the photocopying was not allowed on the defendant’s premises, and they got nothing out of them.

Ratio of the Bench

It was held that there was no infringement of copyright in the part of the defendants, and the court interpreted Section 52 broadly leaning a little towards the educational institutions. The rights of a person mentioned in Section 52 and the rights of the copyright owner given under Section 51 has to be read following each other not to be interpreted narrowly but strictly. Also, this has to be done applying the principle of ‘Lex Specialis derogate legi generali’ and hence the extent of clauses (h), (i) and (j) of Section 52 of the Act cannot be constrained by the limitations of the general clause (a).

Copyright act is a statutory right, and not a natural right. Therefore, it should not hinder the harvest of knowledge but should help in the enrichment of knowledge among the public. Making copies of the course pack of the plaintiff by the defendant does not infringe the copyright of the publishers even when copying is done outside the premises of the college because the benefit of the students is of paramount importance and copying by them does not amount to any copyright infringement as is the case when they try to click a photo of a page of a book or photocopy some of the pages for their personal benefit. The term “instruction” in Section 52 (1) (i) extends to the whole academic session of the institutions, and “teacher” has to be interpreted keeping in mind the entire educational institution. The word “reproduction,” “teacher,” and “pupil” also included its plural, and hence teachers while imparting education to the students and students while receiving instructions from them are not restricted to the personal boundary between them but are a process imparting due knowledge to the students. The Delhi High Court while deciding in the goodwill of the defendants said that,

Copyright, especially in literary works, is thus not inevitable, divine, or natural right that confers on the authors the absolute ownership of their creators. It is designed instead to stimulate activities and progress in the arts for the intellectual enrichment of the public.”

Judgement Analysis

The instant case in-depth analysed the scope of Section 52 of the Indian Copyright Act, 1957 and discarded the four-step process while deciding the fair use as is applicable in other jurisdictions and that is,

1. The purpose and disposition of your use;

2. The nature of the copyrighted work;

3. The amount and substantiality of the segment taken and;

4. The consequence of the use upon the prospective market.

The court extended the ambit of Section 52 by determining the fair use by “the purpose of the use,” in the instant case is; education and not by any quantitative extent. The court’s view regarding holding fair use standard is to be read-only into clause (a) of sub-section (1) of Section 52 and not to be read in any other clauses of the impugned section. Two crucial conclusions can be drawn from the instant case:-

a. It laid down that copyright protection given to literary works does not confer absolute rights on the owner; instead is provided to enrich the progress in the art for the general public.

b. The rights of the person in question while determining the infringement of the copyright protection has to be construed narrowly and not reduce the ambit of Section 51 of the said act.

The judgment also bases its reliance on Article 7 of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which in detail lay down individual objectives to be met, like the fortification and enforcement of the intellectual property rights must be done not interfering with the social and economic welfare of the society. The instant case does involve the intersection of public welfare and social interest when dealing with copyrights of the owners and admittance to educational resources. This becomes, even more of a delicate topic in developing countries like India, where none of the policies or any developmental goals should be a hindrance to the educational purposes of the students. Hence, this welfare approach overshadows the private rights of the owners while they are claiming for their copyrights.

Title Image Source: Score

The article has been written by Sherry Shukla, who is a Third-year law student at National Law University, Nagpur. IP Law has always caught her interest and she is inclined towards unfolding various aspects of IP Law and pursuing her career in this field.