A report that is at odds with access to knowledge

Source: The Hindu

Relevance: To understand the copyright act

Synopsis: The copyright act should provide education for all. It should also respect the rights of publishers. So we need to attain a balance between the two.

Journey of Education through court cases

Supreme Court (SC) in various judgements has expanded the right of education

  1. Miss Mohini Jain vs State of Karnataka & Ors, Emphasized on the Right to Education (RTE). Thus, the 86th  Amendment Act, 2002 inserted Article 21-A in the Constitution of India to provide free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of 6-14 years as a Fundamental Right
  2. Anuradha Bhasin vs Union of India, Avinash Mehrotra vs Union of India: The court broadens the horizons of RTE by making it obligatory on government and civil society.
  3. Farzana Batool vs Union of India: The Court states, although professional education is not a fundamental right, the government should take necessary measures to secure the right to education at all levels
The standing committee report and Copyrights:

The Parliament Standing Committee on Commerce in its recent report highlighted the worrying state of education. The committee suggests curtailing “fair dealing provisions” under Indian Copyright law. As the law enables access to the work without copyright’s holder assent. This provision poses a detrimental impact on the publishing industry and authors who are dependent on royalties

Court view in the DU photocopy case and Committee recommendations:

In this case, the court adopted a wider understanding of educational exceptions enumerated in the list of “Fair Dealing provisions” in the Copyright Act. The court allows

  • Section 52(1) (1) allows the reproduction of any work by teacher/pupil in the course of instruction. The court held that the course of instruction does not confine to time & place of instruction.
  • Court also permitted the content reproduction as long as it is justified by special purpose under Section 52
    • Section 52(1)(a) provides for the right to a “fair dealing” of any copyrightable work

The Parliamentary committee in its report mentions that the conflict between educational institutions and copyright owners does not bode well for the “overall literary culture and image of the country”.

So, the committee requested the government to make amends in Section 52 of the law to allow copying only in government-owned institutions. Also, to provide regulations on how much content can be copied & for storage of copied works in digital formats

A flawed View

But the committee’s views are flawed on many counts:

  • They betray the reason for being, granting copyrights in educational content. The committee misunderstood the role of ‘fair dealing’ in this context.
  • Having quantitative restrictions on the extent of permissible copying would not be apt. Instead of this, steps should be taken to make education more equitable and fairer.
Looking backwards

Coronavirus has further revealed the challenges as the provisions failed to handle the scenario of dissemination of digital education.

The committee should have recommended measures to amend section 52 to meet the demands of today’s challenges.

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