Thursday, November 8, 2012

Who is afraid of Copyright Infringement?

On 10th of October a Public Meeting was organised by Campaign to Save D School Photocopy Shop, was held at Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University. This event was a part of the long drawn campaign on the issue of ‘copyright infringement’ provoked by the clamping down on photocopying by the Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor and Francis Group. The public meeting saw the attendance of several authors and people associated with the field of writing and publishing and discussed a range of issues and matters related to authorship, workings of the publishing industry, the Delhi University system of promotion and its nexus with publication houses. The meeting began with an introduction of the campaign and the law suit taken up by the three publishers against Rameshwori Photo Copy Shop on the “course pack”. In spite of the spontaneous nature of the campaign the need to caution against taking this as a stray incident was emphasised by Mr. Usman, a representative of the campaign. 

Touching upon the workings of the publishing industry Mr. Sudhanva Deshpande, Managing Editor, LeftWord Publishing expressed that he also works with the publishing house and emphasised that many from the publishing world are also with the campaign of the students and that the three publishers Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor and Francis group are not representative of them. Appreciating the organising of the public meeting on the issue of ‘copyright infringement’ Mr. Deshpande further stated on the ecosystem that needs to be in place for publishing of books to happen, knowledge is required to be shared and spread widely as possible and it makes sense to have a system where books are read and discussed. 

Besides those present for the meeting, a number of authors/ speakers who were unable to attend the meeting also send their statement to be read out in solidarity with the campaign. Nandini Sundar, Sociologist and Activists in her statement picked up from The Law Suit Para 17 filed by the publishers and said “Para 17 is the worst since it insidiously invokes the rights of the authors. For one, authors of academic book s are paid such small percentages in royalties and the print runs are so low, that this is scarcely a matter of concern for them. Second, the primary interest of authors is having their books read and being prescribed in courses. Any academic author would tell you that they would much rather have their books widely photocpied than not read at all... ” 

Prof. Satish Deshpande, Head of Department, Sociology signed his book “Contemporary India” as a part of the public meeting. He emphasised that the social obligation of the academic writer is not with the publishing houses but rather the books are being written with public funding and support from public academic institutions. 
Prof. Menon signing a photocopy of her book 

Echoing similar views Prof. Nivedita Menon spoke from the point of view of University Promotion System and the Publishing houses. She shared that There is no academic writer that she knows of who is not livid with the actions of the publishers. It is their action that is illegal. She further stated “You (students) pay us, the publishers does not pay us” and further stated that the publishers should not speak on our behalf. She shared the letter of protest and said that the 99 percent of the academic writers would endorse the actions against the erring publishing houses. 

Public intellectual and author, Arundhuti Roy who couldn’t make it to the meeting had sent a signed photocopy of her latest book Broken Republic and also conveyed her ‘best wishes to the campaign’. 

Uma Chakravarty, feminist historian who could not be there for the public meeting sent her singed photocopied book The Social Dimensions of Early Buddhism. She also sent in her statement: 

“For an academic the photocopying revolution is as important or even more so than the Neolithic revolution and the Industrial Revolution for history. All my works are mine, my labour and the more it is read the more fulfilled I am as scholar. Copyright go to hell” 

Subhash Gatade, activist and columnist signed his book The Saffron Condition and expressed his solidarity with the campaign. Dr. Aditya Nigam after signing a copy of his book The Insurrection of Little Selves reiterated the need to look at long term solutions to fight the might of the likes of Oxford University Press. He expressed the need to form a consortium with small publishers and work out a modality of copyleft where the profits of the publishing houses are also not adversely affected and also the academic writers have the option of shifting from publishing houses like them. 

Ravi Sundaram, Senior Fellow, CSDS expressed his solidarity by signing a copy of his book Pirate Modernity and stated that the incident is not a one off stray incident but rather a new trend which will lead to privatisation of the education system. Prof. Ujjwal Singh, Department of Political Science DU, voicing similar concerns also donated his signed photocopied book The State democracy and anti-terror laws in India. 

Sudha Vasan, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology spoke on the need to resist the monetary value assigned to books on the pages, quality of cover etc. She stated that “the value of book is decided by the number of readers (of the book) and the discussions initiated by the book”. Voicing an earlier discussion on the same issue “Eklavya’s burden” Sudha spoke on the accessibility to education and books and the trend which has been since centuries of denying certain people of certain caste, gender etc. 

Lawrence Liang of the Alternative Law Forum and Prof. Shamnad Basheer of National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS) Kolkata, also reiterated that the issue is not of a singular lawsuit and eloquently emphasised on the life of literature as not encompassed within the four corners of law and legality but rather that thoughts are free-flowing and does not recognise the such set corners. They said that efforts were on to implead students and authors in the law suit since they will be affected the most through the outcome of the case. 

The public meeting concluded with the speakers and authors donating their photocopied books to the Ratan Tata Library for greater reach and accessibility to the student community. A consistent mobilisation being needed, the meeting concluded with a call for a regular conglomeration on the issue which will be held every Wednesday, 3:00 p.m. in DSE campus. 

Statement by Prof. Amartya Sen (Nobel Laurete) in support of the campaign against the consortium of three publishers. 

I am very distressed to learn via my friend Partha Chatterjee about the attitude of the OUP on the use of photocopied course packs for the benefit of students. I do not sign join letters but I would like to state that I am personally distressed as an OUP author to learn about this policy decision. I hope something can be done to make the academic arrangements for the education of students less difficult and more sensible. 

Response by Prof. Nandini Sundar (Department of Sociology Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University) to the law suit of OUP, CUP and T&F:

I fully endorse the letter by authors protesting against the move by OUP, CUP and T& F to slap a legal notice for copyright violation on Rameshwari photocopiers. I would like to add three points. The critical paras in the petition, as I see it, are 15, 16 and 17. 

1. Para 15 is simply erroneous since it says that the photocopying of course packs is not part of legitimate instruction, even though their own affidavit shows that most of the material photocopied is limited to a chapter or two. It would be interesting to know what the publishers regard as fair copying for legitimate instruction -one page of a book? Course packs are in use the world over in universities. 

Further, it makes no sense to charge Rameshwari for doing this for profit – the photocopying shop is clearly not a charitable enterprise. The issue is whether this affects the sales of the publishers; which it does not, since there is no indication that students would be buying all the books recommended instead. They would probably be forced to resort to class notes or “guides” (kunjis) which is what we see in many universities in this country. 

2. Para 16 deals with payment of royalties. It is one thing to expect a chain like Kinkos in the US to provide royalties, another to expect a small photocopying shop operating out of a small room to provide royalties. Even if the three publishers who have filed the petition are members of IRRO, what about all the other publishers, including of books which are out of print, and which are no longer subject to copyright which are prescribed in our courses. 

3. Para 17 is the worst since it invidiously invokes the rights of authors. For one, authors of academic books are paid such small percentages in royalties and the print runs are so low, that this is scarcely a matter of concern for them. Second, the primary interest of authors is having their books read and being prescribed in courses. Any academic author would tell you that they would much rather have their book widely photocopied than not read at all because students cannot afford the books. 

Third, this completely ignores the economics of writing as well as the publishing industry and the extent to which this is subsidized by universities. Unlike the large advances that are given to fiction, the academic research that results in books is costly and is funded by universities and research grants. Second, scholars routinely perform services for publishers like refereeing which is not compensated at anything like their actual cost. For instance, a day’s salary for a Professor would be about Rs. 3000. Reading and writing a report on a manuscript can take anything from a minimum of one day to a week. Referees are usually paid about Rs. 1000 for books and nothing at all for journal articles (published by Cambridge and T&F), which means not only that individual authors but also universities are heavily subsidizing the presses. 

Fourth, it is inconceivable to imagine the production of books without the ambience of universities. It is in the course of teaching that teachers get many of their ideas and inspiration; and anything that inhibits the ability of students and teachers to jointly participate in studying and learning can only have a dampening effect on the whole enterprise of publishing. 

Much of my teaching depends on books and articles in my own possession, especially university presses from abroad, or articles which I have downloaded which would be difficult to obtain in India. The only way to make them accessible to students is through photocopying and since there is no way that students could have bought these books (they are simply not available in India), these do not present a revenue threat to publishers. 

4. While these 3 publishers can protest about their own books being photocopied, they have no right to shut down the whole business. In fact, Rameshwari photocopying staff work long hours, selflessly, in difficult conditions (the white light and noise of photocopying machines is hazardous), and they have done much to serve the university community. 

Dr. Alf Nilsen 

Postdoctoral Fellow 
Department of Sociology, University of Bergen 

Dear Ratan Tata Library – Please accept this gift of a Xeroxed version of my book, Dispossession and Resistance in India: The River and the Rage (Routledge 2010). 

I would like to take this opportunity to also express my support for today’s action, which I see as a timely, brave and necessary challenge to a market logic that keeps poking its nose where it doesn’t belong – for example, in the production and critical discussion of knowledge, which should truly be a common. As the author of this book, I want to emphasize that what motivates me above all in my work is the hope that what I write will be read, discussed, criticized and valued as what it is, namely, a contribution to an ongoing informed, critical debate in the public domain. Shame, therefore, on those who seek to enclose my work and the work of my colleagues behind the fences of so-called intellectual property rights! 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must get back to my Xeroxed copy of Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in India 

Aseem Srivastav and Ashish Kothari authors of Churning the Earth published by Oxford University Press wrote: 

“To students at Delhi School of Economics and Sociology and the Ratan Tata Library---In solidarity with your all important struggle to make books more readily available to a wider range of students and ultimately to EVERYONE. 

Very Best---Wishes always Aseem Srivastav 

Uma Chakravarti author The Social Dimension of Early Buddhism published by Oxford University Press wrote: 

“For an academic the photocopying revolution is as important or even more so than the Neolithic revolution and the Industrial Revolution for history. 

All my works are mine, my labour and the more its read the more fulfilled I am as a scholar. Copyright GO TO HELL.” 


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