This article on Delhi University photocopy case is written by Pragati Singh from Faculty of Law, Lucknow University.


Copyrighted materials are subject to intellectual property. Copyright is a legal right that grants the creator of any work exclusive right (subject to certain limitation and exception to copyright law) to use, distribute, reproduce, to have control over derivatives works and public performance etc. The people among whom such rights are shared are known as ‘Right Holders’.

Every country has different copyright law but many aspects of national copyright law have been standardized through international copyright agreement. Like Copyright of ‘works’ of foreign nationals, whose countries are the member of Convention Countries to which India is a signatory, are protected against any infringement of their ‘works’ in India through the International Copyright Order, 1999. The Indian Courts has always been vigilant against infringement of Copyright of foreign authors/owners, including software, motion pictures, the screenplay of motion pictures and database. But such protection from infringement does not available where there has been a use of any copyrighted material through the fair use and dealing.

The Copyright Act prohibits photocopying unless the copying falls within the ambit of fair use doctrine exception. Under fair use doctrine, one can photocopy copyrighted stuff even without owner’s permission.


In the present article’s case, a complaint had been filed against a photocopy shop and Delhi University by Big publishing houses. The defendants (i.e. Rameshwari photocopy shop and Delhi University) were accused by the plaintiffs that they regularly compile up the data from copyrighted books published under their publication and provide it to the students in Delhi University. In 2012, publishers like Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press United Kingdom, Cambridge University Press India Pvt. Ltd., Taylor & Francis Group, United Kingdom and Taylor & Francis Books India Pvt. Ltd. accused the above mentioned defendants for “infringing the copyrights of their publications materials by photocopying, reproduction and distribution on a large scale and circulating among the students and teachers of the university”. The publishers sought to restrain the photocopy shop from supplying photocopied course packs to students as it was violating the Indian Copyright Act, 1957 and asked for compensation amount of  Rs.60,01200 and Rs.65000 for court fees.The whole scenario of this case was revolving around the topic whether copyright law was violated by the defendants or not.



Under Indian Copyright Act,1957 Section 52(1)(a) allows any fair use and dealing with a copyrighted matters like in a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work. Such fair use, dealing and practice allows the scholars and pupils to make a Xerox copy of the required data from the books for the purpose of research and private study which are not easily available to general public or are that expensive in monetary aspect that just could not be purchased by middle class or a normal class people.

In Lenz v. Universal Music Corp. case Stephanie Lenz has uploaded a video of her child dancing on the song LET’S GO CRAZY on Youtube. Universal Music Corp. sent YouTube a takedown notice pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act claiming that Lenz’s video violated their copyright in the “Let’s Go Crazy” song. Lenz claimed fair use of the copyrighted material and sued Universal for misrepresentation of a DMCA claim. In a decision rejecting a motion to dismiss the claim, the district court held that Universal must consider fair use when filing a takedown notice, but noted that to prevail a plaintiff would need to show bad faith by a rights holder.

Section 52(1)(I) defines the exception of infringement of copyrighted materials where there is a reproduction of any literary, dramatic, musical or of any artistic work by -:

  • By any teacher or pupil in the course of instruction,
  • As part of the question to be answered in an examination
  • In answers to such questions.
  • The word ‘instruction’ in section 52 (1)(i) do not confine in a lecture room or classroom, thus the scope of this provision is not limited to reproduction of a work by a teacher in the course of a lecture but also includes reproduction for the purpose of making and issuing course packs.
  • The term ‘teacher’ in Section 52 (1)(i) is not limited to an individual teacher but includes the whole educational institution.

So in this case, defendants were the subject of the ambit of section 52 of the copyright Act, 1957. Dharam Pal Singh, owner of Rameshwari Photocopy Service said, “If a student needs 33 readings for a course like Agrarian Sociology, it could take plenty of months to collect the readings from different books. I make life easier for students through providing them all the relevant material in a compiled course pack”. Students of Delhi University lashes out against such complaint and opted to become defendants in the lawsuit against Rameshwari Photocopy Service & its employer and Delhi University. Over 300 authors and academics raised their disagreement for the lawsuit filed by publisher in an open letter. Around 33 authors were mentioned in the suit, whose books the publishers claimed had been copied in the course packs.


India is a land of 125 billion people out of which 267 million people belongs to the middle-class population. In a country like India, there is a drastic variation in economic position between the people, it is often not possible for every student to obtain a personal copy of a book. In that situation, the next best that can be exercised is to make copies of the books available in the library so that students can read these books without any hurdle. “Higher education in India will be impossible if we have an overzealous copyright law” quoted by Mr. Satish Deshpande author and professor of sociology at Delhi University.


Classes of people Salary/income per month in Indian rupees % of population belongs


  1. Super Rich                         1,22,40,000   &  above                          1%
  2. Rich class                              24,48,000 to 2,40,000                       2%      
  3. Upper class                                48,000  approx.                            7%
  4. Middle class                               12,000  approx                             20%
  5. Lower class                                 4,000  approx                             30%
  6. Poor class                                    2,400  approx                            30%
  7. Wretched                             less than 1,200 approx                       10%


As per shown in the above table it is very clear to understand that around 90% population is unable to afford the books which are very expensive or hard to get because we know neither one can study his whole course through one book nor every relevant material can be available in single book. There is a requirement of various books in today’s education system.


In the case of  “The Chancellor, Masters & Scholars of the University of Oxford & Ors. V. Rameshwari Photocopy Services & Anr (DU photocopy case) the legal spat had begun in August 2012 when the plaintiffs filed a suit in the Court making the allegation that the RPS and delhi university were violating their copyrights by distributing the compilations of parts of books of their publication in the form of course packs. In action to such complaint The Court had then issued an interim stay against the RPS in October 2012.

Justice Rajiv Sahai End law of the Delhi High Court on September 16 2016, dismissed the suit by observing “Copyright, especially in literary works, is thus not an inevitable, divine, or natural right that confers on authors the absolute ownership of their creations”. The 94 pages landmark IP ruling banked on the observation that Section 52(1)(i) of the Copyright Act is wider enough to include the acts of photocopying and the creation of course packs by University for its students. The further court observed that “If Delhi University can photocopy, so can it’s agents (Rameshwari photocopy shop) or any other photocopier, whether inside or outside the University”.



All modern copyright system ensures the situation where copyright will not be treated as infringed by the unauthorized reproduction of any copyrighted content. Under such cases, the judiciary or any other authoritative body in the interest of justice has to favour the other interest over the claim of the copyright owner. On 1 June 2014 united kingdom has added three new statutory instruments into their Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. These statutory instruments updated the exceptions and limitations to the rights of performers and copyright around Research, Education, Libraries and Archives, Disability, and Public.

Administration. The updated Research, Education, Libraries and Archives regulation extends the copyright exception for students and libraries from just literary and artistic works to all forms of copyright works. So every country is accepting the rule where there copyrighted work may be used and reproduce for the welfare of education system and students.

Getting the study material available in different book of big publication houses is not so easy. Numerous difficulties may arise while doing this whether it could be financial or any other. So if a person wants to attain the higher education without any privation than he would rather prefer reproducing of the relevant matter of his need through copying than purchasing of such expensive books.


Case filed by the publication houses was just to fix the downfall in their business arising out of the distribution of contents of their publication work by the photocopy shop. It was stated by the plaintiff that “publishers are not charity house and why publishers should be giving out their works for free” as a huge amount have been paid to the authors to publish and sell their written material. Delhi High Court verdict, in this case, has confined to the territorial limits of Delhi and has weakened the position of the publishers in any future bargain. In this case, Section 52(1)(i) has not interpreted as exception but as a controlling provision setting free the reproduction of copyrighted content in the name of access to education.

On 11 May of 2012 in the case of Cambridge University Press v. Becker it was decided by the  United States District Court for the northern district of Georgia, that university does not require a license to photocopy below threshold value of 10%.  The fact cannot be denied that India is quite behind in the aspect of economic growth from other developed countries. There is a need for bigger threshold value because of the higher theoretical studies in the universities but even though there should be some specific limitation in % of making copies of copyrighted stuff.

Most of the people belong to middle or lower class unable to afford the books published by the reputed publication but that does not give right to an Institution to circulate their content among their student in a large scale by infringing the copyright law. In the present case, HC decision indicated that country wouldn’t follow the global trend sets for copyright law.

There is the necessity of a provision that would determine to which extent the reproduction of copyrighted material would not amount to infringement of copyright law for the educational purpose, till then everyone can claim relief against infringement of copyright work. After all –

“The More You Take, the Less Fair Your Use Is Likely to Be”

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