University of Oxford Vs. Rameshwari Photocopy Services: An analysis

University of Oxford Vs. Rameshwari Photocopy Services

This Case Analysis is submitted by – Sukanya T, B.Com., LL.B., (Hons.), School of Law, SASTRA Deemed to be University.

Citation: (2016) 160 DRJ (SN) 678.

Case number: CS (OS) 2439/2012

Court:High Court of Delhi at New Delhi.

Name of the Judge:Rajiv SahaiEndlaw, J.

Date of judgment: September 16th, 2016.


  • Area of law:

The division bench of the Delhi High Court passed a landmark judgment with regards to an issue pertaining to Copyright Law. By the passing of this judgment it was settled that educational institutions do not infringe section 52(1)(i) of the Copyright Act, 1957 by simply photocopying certain portions of different books to formulate study materials or course packs that fall under the syllabus. However, this act of photocopying must be justified educational instruction. It was further held that for formulating such course packs or study material, the educational institutions do not require the permission of the publisher if they are necessary to the students and only for purpose of instructional use.

  • Background facts:

Five publishers namely the Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press (UK), Cambridge University Press (India), Taylor & Francis Group (UK) and Taylor & Francis Books (India) instituted a suit before the Delhi High Court in August 2012 for permanent injunction against the Delhi University and Rameshwari Photocopy Service alleging them of infringing their copyrights. They claimed infringement based on the fact that defendants copied excerpts from the books published by them and compiled them to make study materials and course packs. They contented that this Act of the defendants clearly violates the copyrights protected under section 51 of the Copyrights Act

Contention of the parties:

  • Contention of the Plaintiffs:

Represented by Mr. Saikrishna Rajagopal with Mr. Sahil Sethi.

The plaintiffs in this case are three prominent publishers namely The Oxford University Press, the Cambridge University Press and the Taylor & Francis Group. The plaintiffs instituting a suit for relief for permanent injunction providing a list of at least four packs of the defendants that infringe their copyrights and have contented first, the defendant 1 made the course packs based on the syllabus issued by defendant 2. Second, the faculty of defendant 2 are recommending and encouraging their students to buy these packs instead of the original books. Third, the defendant 2 are providing defendant 1 with the plaintiffs’ books kept in their library. Fourth, there is a profit motive behind the defendants photocopying and compiling the study packs. Using various parts of the plaintiff’s books leads to publication of their material, which clearly violates their copyrights.

  • Defendants’ contention:

Represented by Mr. Rajesh Yadav (D1), Mr. Gopal Subramaniam(D2), Mr. Rajat Kumar (D3), Mr. N.K. Kaul (D4).

The defendants have claimed that they have in no way infringed the copyright of the plaintiff and contended that first, there is no document to prove and establish that the plaintiffs have copyrights for those books. Second, the act of photocopying falls under the ambit of sections 51(1)(a) and (h). Third, the defendant 1 is licenced to provide photocopies to the students and faculty of Defendant 2. Fourth, the syllabi prescribed by the defendant 2 is very wide and is spread across several books by different authors. For the affordability and convenience of the students, such study packs are prepared. Since only extracts from books are recommend from various publications, it would not be practically feasible for students to carry around 30-40 books. Fifth, since most of these books are expensive, they are kept in the defendant 2 library for student reference and further, since these books are limited in number, photocopies are made so that every student has access to the material. Sixth, these study packs are strictly used for educational purposes only and on instruction. Seventh, the defendant 1 has acted in good faith under section 76 of the Copyright Act.Further, the Defendant 2 contend that the Copyright Act is a welfare legislation and the benefit of the society should also be kept in mind while guarding the rights of the owners and authors. And they did not provide to the defendant 1 any books for reproduction and they gain nothing out of such reproduction. Defendant clearly contend that they did not give permission to the defendant1 to photocopy on their premises.


  • The interim injunction:

The plaintiff-publishers, obtained an interim injunction against the defendant 1 on October 17th, 2012. The Court held that since the defendant 1 obtained their license to photocopy from defendant 2 and defendant 2 had no interest whatsoever to infringe the law or copyrights of the plaintiffs, the defendants 1 has no right to make such study packs. The Delhi University however preferred an appeal to against this order to a division bench, which was dismissed and the Court directed them to file an application before the single Judge to clarify its stand.

  • ASEAK and SPEAK:

The Association of Students for Equitable Access to knowledge (ASEAK), in 2013 approached the High Court as a ‘necessary party’ to the suit. The Court accepted their application as they were an association of the Delhi University students and could give the actual stand of ‘for educational purposes only’. They contented that the study packs were an effective measure to attain equitable education for all. Another association called the Society for Promotion of Equitable Access to knowledge (SPEAK) comprising of scholars and academicians from various disciplines of social sciences and law. Their application was also allowed by the Court.

  • The decision of the Single bench:

The single Judge, Rajiv SahaiEndlaw J., dismissed the suit of the plaintiffs and held that neither of the defendants infringed the copyrights of the plaintiff-publishers. Relying upon Section 52(1)(i) of the Copyrights Act, he held that the impugned actions of the defendant do not amount to copyright infringement. The said section provides that there is no copyright infringement of any kind of reproduction of a copyrighted work, if such reproduction is done on the instruction of the teacher and the work is part of the syllabus of the students.

  • Provisions of law involved: Section 52 of the Copyrights Act.


  • Highlights of the judgment:
  • Section 52 of the Copyright Act must be interpreted broadly and in favour of educational institutions, which otherwise should be interpreted narrowly.
  • The copyright Act aims at developing the intellectual enrichment of the public and not to impede the harvest of knowledge. It is only a statutory right and not a natural right.
  • The making of course packs by a University does not infringe the copyrights of the publishers. Therefore, there is no infringement even when the photocopy is outside the library of the University or is done with the help of and assistance of someone. This is the reason why Defendant 1 was not liable for infringement.
  • Photocopying of certain portions of the publisher’s work does not amount to infringement if it done for the benefits of the students. Just like how when students photocopy certain pages or take photographs of the same for their personal benefit does not amount to infringement.
  • The term instruction extends to the whole academic session of an educational institution.
  • The term teacher mentioned in section 52 should be interpreted to include the entire educational institution.
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