Students throng a photocopy shop on Ranchi University campus on Wednesday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Photocopying textbooks is the norm in Jharkhand and shops on or near college and university campuses are allegedly the biggest offenders.
Right next to the tribal and regional language department of Ranchi University, a private shop does brisk business with students frequenting it to get “important” portions or, sometimes, entire books photocopied every day.
Proprietor Manoj Munda conceded that he was aware of the intellectual property rights, but could not turn down students. “We may replicate portions, but never photocopy entire books,” he insisted.
Shailender Kumar, proprietor of Perfect Xerox in Golmuri, Jamshedpur, admitted that students do come to his two-decade-old shop to get their textbooks photocopied. The shop is within 100 metres of ABM College, a constituent of Kolhan University.
“On an average, around 10 students come daily for photocopying pages of reference books. However, seldom do we copy more than 50 pages for a student,” he claimed.
While Ranchi University hosts a shop on its campus, there are at least 10 more that have mushroomed around various cradles in the capital and Jamshedpur. At a minimum of 40 paise per page, these shops are the academic lifelines of students who cannot afford to buy every book, some of which may be as pricey as Rs 800.
Makers of Modern India, which costs Rs 800, can be photocopied for Rs 250, History of Ancient India (Rs 445) by Rama Shankar Tripathy can be photocopied for Rs 150. Similarly, Public Administration by Dr Maheshwari, which sells at Rs 400, will cost Rs 200 if photocopied.
A ban on photocopying entire books for commercial use has been in place for some time, but the extent to which it is violated came to light last week after a raid on a shop at Delhi School of Economics.
Delhi High Court had ordered the raid after three publishers — Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor and Francis Group — moved court alleging that Rameshwari Photocopy Services was bringing out “course packs” by reproducing study material taken from their books without authorisation.
The Indian Reprographic Rights Organisation can alone give permission to photocopying of books if necessary at all, but universities are liable to be charged with copyright infringement if they don’t seek its consent.
The law allows photocopying if no commercial benefit is involved, which is a grey area. Students being end users, they are not deriving any commercial benefit, but the photocopiers are.
“We have to study from many books and it is not possible to buy all. Hence, we have no alternative, but to seek help from photocopy shops,” said Santoshi Munda, an economics MA student at Ranchi University, who came to photocopy “portions” of H.L. Ahuja’s Advance Economics Theory, worth Rs 350.
Unlike Delhi School of Economics, colleges in Ranchi and Jamshedpur do not have photocopy shops on campus. So, the ones outside mint money.
Ranchi University pro-vice chancellor said V.P. Sharan said he was aware of the rules, but cited convenience of students. “Often, there are only a few copies of valuable books in the library and all students want them. In such a case, photocopying is the best option. Besides, students do not photocopy entire books, but only relevant pages, which is not illegal,” he claimed.
Director of XISS Father Alex Ekka echoed him. “Books that are very costly cannot be bought by everyone. But, they have to study. Photocopying pages from books should not be seen as illegal,” he said.
There is a simple way to get around the problem though. Universities can set up their own photocopying centres and pay a licence fee of Rs 24,000 a year to give students legal access to textbooks. The amount is Rs 12,000 for colleges.