Wednesday, March 13, 2013

[ASEAK Release] Eminent Academics Across the World Join Students in Condemning Publishers

In an Open Letter to Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor & Francis Group, 309 renowned academicians from the world over (letter attached with Press Release) have expressed their solidarity with students’ right to access the authors work through means such as photocopying. This campaign among academics was initiated by Amita Baviskar (Institute if Economic Growth), Shamnad Basheer (National University of Juridical Science), Nivedita Menon (Jawaharlal Nehru University) and Nandini Sundar (University of Delhi). This letter comes in the wake of a law suit filed by the publishers against Delhi University and Rameshwari Photocopier (a licensed photocopy shop at DSE), in which they have registered their strong objections to the publishers’ claims. Supporting the stance taken by ASEAK which is representing students’ interest in the Delhi High Court the academics have asked for publishers to withdraw their law suit. The concerns raised by the academics strongly resonate and are in solidarity with what ASEAK has been arguing for – namely: 

• that photocopying to texts, and production of “course packs”, for educational purposes is legal and covered under Sec 52 of the Copyright Act. Sec. 52(1) (i) allows for ‘the reproduction of any work by a teacher or a pupil in the course of instruction’ or as a part of questions or answers to questions’.Sec. 52(1) (a) allows for a fair dealing with any work (except computer programs) for the purposes of private or personal use, including research.

• That in a developing country like India photocopying of books is the only way of ensuring affordable access to books for students pursuing higher education that are priced at prohibitively high costs by these publishers. Thus the reason authors “make course packs” is to ensure that students have access to the most relevant portions of the book without which they would be seriously compromising the students education.

• That academic authors are mostly employed by public funded Universities and hence publicly funded research should be publicly accessible.

• That academic publishing is not sustained by publishers’ investments, and their profits are hugely under-written by tax payers money.

• That the right to affordable access to educational material should be put before the publishers profit motive

Of the 309 signatories, 33 are authors whose works are included in the “course packs” which the publishers claim is an infringement of their copyrights. Among the 33 “suit” authors who have signed the letter include leading academics such as Professors Thomas Blom Hansen, Partha Chatterjee, Ayesha Jalal, Christophe Jaffrelot, Veena Das, Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Marc Galanter.

Among the other eminent academics/authors who have signed this letter are Professors Richard Falk, Arjun Appadurai, Jonathan Parry, Ramachandra Guha, Farid Esack, TN Madan, Ian Copland, Tanika Sarkar and Uma Chakravarty. The list of signatories include academics from all over India and from universities in Europe, the USA, UK, South Africa, Singapore, Australia, Argentina and Palestine.

Amartya Sen, in a separate letter (reproduced below) has expressed his distress at the law suit.

Kaushik Sundar Rajan, a leading academic from Chicago University has said that photocopying of his books was “absolutely essential” and “the only way” for his ideas to reach readers in India. Strongly supporting the free dissemination of ideas Sundar Rajan observes the actions by the publishers to be “petty, egregious, and worthy of the strongest opposition and condemnation”. (relevant excerpts of e-mail reproduced below)

Raju Ramachandran, leading Supreme Court counsel and “suit” author has opined, that the creation and distribution of course packs for educational purposes is clearly covered by the copyright fair use and educational exception under Section 52 of The Indian Copyright Act, 1957. (relevant excerpts of e-mail reproduced below)

Letter to the publishers by authors and academics

Dear OUP, CUP and Taylor and Francis, 

It has come to our attention that Oxford University Press along with Cambridge University Press and Taylor and Francis have filed a petition in the Delhi High Court claiming copyright infringement by Rameshwari Photocopy Services along with Delhi University as a co-defendant. We are given to believe that the infringement that has been claimed is with respect to course packs that are used as a part of various social science subjects including history, politics, economics, sociology etc. As authors and educators, we would like to place on record our distress at this act of the publishers, as we recognize the fact that in a country like India marked by sharp economic inequalities, it is often not possible for every student to obtain a personal copy of a book. In that situation the next best thing would have been for multiple copies of the book to be available in the library so that students are able to access these books without any difficulty. But given the constraints that libraries in India work with, they may only have a single copy of a book and in many instances, none at all. The reason we make course packs is to ensure that students have access to the most relevant portions of the book without which we would be seriously compromising their education. 

The argument made by publishers for strong copyright enforcement is based on presumed losses caused to them. Given the pricing strategy followed by publishers, we do not believe that students are the primary market for these books and hence it would be disingenuous to presume that every photocopied article or book would be a lost sale. We would also like to refute the claim that academic publishing is sustained by the investments made by publishers. This claim hides the fact that most academics are able to write books because they are supported by public infrastructure and money by virtue of being employed by universities or research centers. Academic writers are paid salaries and make their living from the university system, which in India is still largely government subsidized. Academic authors could not possibly make anything close to a living from the royalties that publishing houses offer them. This means in effect that the profits of academic publishing houses are under-written by tax-payers’ money, and there is a huge public contribution to the profits made by academic publishing houses. 

That apart, we believe that these course packs fall very much within the ambit of statutory limitations to copyright and in particular are covered under Sec. 52 of the Copyright Act. 

Sec. 52(1)(i) allows for ‘the reproduction of any work by a teacher or a pupil in the course of instruction’ or as a part of questions or answers to questions. 

Sec. 52(1)(a) allows for a fair dealing with any work (except computer programs) for the purposes of private or personal use, including research. 

In most countries in the world there are copyright exceptions made for educational uses and this provision is most critical in developing countries in which the cost of books, in proportion to incomes, is exorbitant. 

We would finally like to place on record that the petitions filed by the publishers claim that they are acting on behalf of authors and representing the interest of authors. As academics and authors we believe that the wider circulation of our work will only result in a richer academic community and it is unfortunate that you would choose to alienate teachers and students who are indeed your main readers and we urge you to consider withdrawing this petition. 

Amita Baviskar (Associate Professor, Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi ) 
Shamnad Basheer (Chair Professor IP, National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata) 
Nivedita Menon (Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi) 
Nandini Sundar (Professor, Delhi University) 
(On behalf of 309 authors and academics)

To see the complete list of signatories click here. The first 33 are authors specifically mentioned in your suit.

Reproduction of Amartya Sen's Letter to OUP. To view the original letter click here.

Thomas W. Lamont University Professor
Professor of Economics and Philosophy
Department of economics, Littauer 205, North Yard
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138
t. +1.617.496.0084, +1.617.495.1871 - f. +1.617.496.5942
e. asen@fas,

To Oxford University Press
Delhi, India

I have been told about a recent problem that has arisen about the use of sections of OUP books for the purpose of teaching in Indian universities in general, and in Delhi University in particular. As in American universities, some Indian universities to tend to use "course packs" made of bits and pieces of different books.

I understand that due to some legal changes such course packs could be described as "illegal", involving violation of copyrights laws.

I do recognize that copyright is an important issue, and must be of specific interests of publishers. on the other hand, the use of sections of books for teaching purposes through "course packs" has enormous educational values, particularly because of the problems of affordability on the part of students. As an OUP author I would like to urge my publisher to not draw on the full force of law to make these "course packs" impossible to generate and use. educational publishers have to balance various interests, and the cause of education must surely be a very important one.

In fact, the introduction the students get through these course packs must tend to be favorable to the sale of books in the future when the existence and the quality of arguments presented in particular books become more familiar to the next generation of earning adults, through their training during their own educations.

May I urge you to reconsider this question in the light of both the importance of high quality education for students, and enlightened self- interest in promoting books published by the OUP?

With anticipation and appreciation of your reasonableness, 

your sincerely 
Amartya Sen

Relevant section of Email from Raju Ramachandran (Senior Counsel, Supreme Court of India)

Dated 24 February, 2013

“I have been informed that the above essay of mine is prescribed reading in the political science course in Lady Shri Ram College of Delhi University. This information came to me quite accidentally, when I happened to meet a teacher from the college. I was, therefore, dismayed to learn from you that access to my essay may become difficult if copyright issues prevail.

Speaking as a lawyer, I am of the clear view that photocopying of the essay for educational use would be ‘fair use’ and would also fall under the educational exception in our copyright law. I would also like to make my position as an author very clear that nothing can be more fulfilling for me than the fact that the student community would be reading and discussing my views. I would be deeply disappointed if students are not able to access and debate my views only because they are unable to buy the book in which my essay is printed.”

Relevant section of Email from Prof Kaushik Sunder Rajan (University of Chicago) 

Dated 27 October, 2012

"One thing I would like to say (and will happily say on record) is that for me, as an author, the ability to have my work photocopied in India has been absolutely essential. I was not able to find an Indian publisher for Biocapital, even though the book deals with issues of Indian science. I have been very keen for my work to be read by Indian academic, activist and scientific communities.

The *only* way in which my book has been read has been through photocopying, and I have given copies of my book to individuals in India explicitly requesting that they photocopy and distribute as widely as possible. Without this, my work would only have been read by primarily Euro‐American audiences, which would have defeated the very purpose of my being an academic.

I am happy for you to quote this in any affidavit you may file if it is of use. I think it is important to establish that the ability to freely reproduce academic works through photocopying is important not just for consumers in (relatively) resource poor settings who cannot afford Euro‐American prices, but is also important for authors who wish to disseminate their work outside Euro‐American settings.

...This just makes the actions of OUP, CUP and T and F seem to me ever more petty, egregious, and worthy of the strongest opposition and condemnation.


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