The Delhi High Court recently rejected the demand of publishers’ to ban coursepacks on the grounds of violation of copyright. R. Nanjappa shares why he thinks the ruling is unfair.
The Delhi High Court ruling on the Delhi University photocopy case is not a fair judgement; nor is it straight.
One can surely take out extracts from books for quotation, review or personal study, but taking photocopies of hundreds of pages and including them in course packs by a regular university is nothing short of a wholesale plunder. This cannot be anything but a violation of the copyright act.
It is not a joke to write a good quality text book. Good authors labour hard and long, and carefully revise/update the editions.
Picture for representation only. Source: By Adrian Sulc (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
See how many editions Samuelson’s Economics has gone through and what major changes each edition incorporates! I have been reading books for over 60 years now, and I have not yet seen a single original text-book or reference book of high quality published by any Indian publisher in English (or Tamil, the other language I know.)
I come from a poor family too. As a student in the 50/60s, I could not afford to buy all recommended textbooks (that were almost always books by foreign authors/publishers). I used to sit in the library for hours and take down extracts from the books. In the process, I had a chance to read many standard books as a good author also gave further references and reading suggestions. I learned to read them well, make summaries and precis. This helped me absorb and remember things better and was reflected in the quality of my answers in tests; for six years through post-graduation, I retained the first rank.
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Leading publishers like Oxford and Longman used to have special low prices for India. Then the English Language Book Society came up with cheap editions of great books. Even these were beyond my means; I bought many but could not buy all.
In the 60s, the Americans came out with the Indo-US Joint Textbook programme. This was a great boon as the books, many of which we could only dream of, were offered at less than one fourth the original price. Later, many books were published by Indian publishers in Indian editions at low prices. Thus we had Peter Drucker’s book on Management (Allied), Dalton’s Public Finance, Dudley Dillard’s Economics of J.M.Keynes, Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, The Federalist Papers, etc.
Even today, Oxford and Pearson, Prentice Hall, (Tata) McGraw Hill Education, have special low prices for most of the academic books in India.
Students from underprivileged backgrounds surely deserve help but there are right and wrong ways to help.
Why can we not come up with alternatives like subsidies on books, promoting used books market, opening book banks and encouraging borrowing? Can we not encourage some charities to donate good textbooks? Can’t the university itself manage some tie-up with publishers? Or buy the books in bulk for which they always get decent discounts? Some lateral thinking is required here.
Writing a good textbook is a work of care, sustained effort and intense dedication to both the subject and the student community. The author’s labour surely deserves recognition and reward.
– R Nanjappa
Written in response to this article: Delhi HC’s Ruling on DU Photocopy Case Is a Huge Step Forward for Access to Education in India