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Authors and academics for equitable access to learning material

October 20, 2012

Three large academic publishers – Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor & Francis – have filed a petition in the Delhi High Court claiming copyright infringement with regard to the course packs used by students of Delhi University in a number of disciplines.  It is clear from DU’s stance in court that they are  distancing themselves from the  photocopier, thus clearing the way for the Court to pass an injunction staying the sale of course packs. It is absolutely critical now  for academics and authors to step up our campaign in support of our students’ access to learning materials:

Please sign the on-line petition at the link below:

“…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….”

14 Comments leave one →
  1. October 20, 2012 8:32 PM

    How many of those who want CUP/Taylor Francis, etc to ‘reconsider’ would also consider boycotting these publishers till they reconsider their price-tags or simply put up their academic produce online for free download. Words about free access to knowledge are rich, especially from those who will still continue to provide material to these publishers for their business. In this quid pro pro, the student loses out. There are many publishers who print affordable books. Could this be an opportunity to support them. At some point, the Bolsheviks must separate from the Mensheviks, innit :p

    • Nivedita Menon permalink*
      October 21, 2012 12:57 PM

      Why do you assume that the signatories to such a petition would not consider taking a stronger stand too? After all, this issue has blown up very recently. It’s a bit “rich” to use your terminology, to make such sweeping assumptions about people who are actually getting involved actively – why is snideness the standard knee-jerk response to every initiative, even when you agree with it, and always from someone who wont reveal their name? After all, your suggestions could have been made in a positive and supportive way too.

    • ag/n permalink
      October 21, 2012 1:39 PM

      hajarduar, i assume you’d extend this logic to boycotting the institutions which support publishers like these and others too? say, harvard and MIT?

      • January 21, 2013 5:17 AM

        If institutions were forcing people to write only for publications with paywalls, yes. The question is, with whom the crucial choice lies. It is typically not the university. The university only reroutes public money ( in case of Harvard or MIT -a lot of private money actually).

  2. Nivedita Menon permalink*
    October 21, 2012 12:10 PM

    Take a look at the arguments made by Rukun Advani on the Permanent Black blog, where he has also posted Nandini Sundar’s spirited response.

  3. Lawrence Liang permalink
    October 22, 2012 11:18 AM

    Here is a link to a list of all the signatories since Change.org idiotically does not let you see the entire list. This will be updated

    http://publishersversusstudentsofindia.blogspot.in/2012/10/list-of-signatories-on-academics-appeal.html

  4. dr.umertharamel permalink
    October 22, 2012 2:49 PM

    it is a violatn against the right of publishing a document of autonomical positn of universities.so need a strong protest.

  5. October 22, 2012 10:19 PM

    Why OUP, CUP and T&F should raise objection to photocopying of text books by students when host of other major International publishers are silent on the issue of photocopying?.
    They should remember that they are basically university presses established with the sole objective of spreading the knowledge and not to make profits. What if authors stopped writing for these publishers? I think book publishing should be seen as part of the scholarly communication system and not as an industry.

  6. passerby permalink
    October 23, 2012 6:51 AM

    ‘It is clear from DU’s stance in court that they are distancing themselves from the photocopier, thus clearing the way for the Court to pass an injunction staying the sale of course packs’
    If so why protest only against publishers, and why not against the DU. Was the photocopier operating without the knowledge of academics of DU or was DU administration unaware of this practice.
    What are the limits of fair use is for the courts to decide.Even if the courts decide to limit it the government can frame rules that widen the scope of fair use. So this may turn out be a larger issue than just protesting against these publishers.

  7. passerby permalink
    October 23, 2012 6:59 AM

    The petition is meant for academics who teach.I am a researcher who has no obligation to teach and hence wont sign it. I am an author and not an educator. Are all educators authors ? :). Readers also have a stake in fair use and for that they need not be authors/educators/academics and this fact has been simply ignored in this debate. This petition could have been written differently so that non-academics and others concerned including lawyers can sign.

    • Nivedita Menon permalink*
      October 23, 2012 9:28 AM

      passerby, this is the beginning of a campaign with many facets and levels of strategy. This particular petition is precisely NOT about the rights of readers, whom OUP and Co. do not care about, but in the voice of a) authors, whose rights they claim to speak for, declaring that they do not speak in our name and b) educators, who recommend reading lists for their students. It is a very specific appeal from these quarters.

      Maybe you could have posed your comments as questions seeking information, rather than assuming you know it all already?

      “Readers also have a stake in fair use…this fact has been simply ignored in this debate” – not true, please see all the recent posts on this, and even the particular petition you are talking about, which is precisely about students reading.

      “If so why protest only against publishers, and why not against the DU” – if you had cared to pose this as a question, you would have got the answer that DU is very much also a field of the larger campaign.

      “this may turn out be a larger issue than just protesting against these publishers.” No, not “may” be, but IS, and we are well aware of this Why do you think many of us are so exercised and so active?

      This is a campaign on the ground, and the on-line petition is just one of the things that is happening, it is only the tip of the iceberg.

      Please consider showing your support for the issue (evident in your comments) in a less patronizing manner :)

  8. Shashank permalink
    October 25, 2012 10:03 PM

    @Nivedita.
    Legally speaking this is a copyright infringement by the DU. Looking at a broader perspective, not only DU but many other colleges also provide study material which is directly photocopied from the books of such prestigious publishers. The only defense that can be taken is based on the sociological factors that the youth coming from economically backward classes face.
    Whatever the decision of the court may be, it will create a landmark precedent.

    • Nivedita Menon permalink*
      October 25, 2012 11:08 PM

      “Legally speaking this is a copyright infringement by the DU”, you say. On the contrary, it is in fact completely legal. Our statement lists the sections of the Copyright Law that make it legal. See also Amlan Mohanty’s post on this.

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