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Friday, November 22, 2013

A Push for Legalizing Book Piracy

A Pakistani bookseller was recently sentenced to seven years in prison and a hefty fine for printing and selling unauthorized copies of textbooks copyrighted by Oxford University Press (OUP). That sort of piracy is rampant in many parts of Asia, and publishers are trying to crack down on it.

In India, OUP has filed a lawsuit, together with Cambridge University Press and Taylor & Francis, against a copyshop affiliated with Delhi University for unlawfully reproducing and selling their books. This suit, however, has spurred a movement to legalize copying of materials for academic purposes.

The Indian government is considering petitioning the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) to revise its copyright rules to allow academic and research institutions to make copies of course materials without getting permission from or paying the copyright-holders, usually the publishers.

The government’s position is that students and educators should have free and open access to materials used for teaching and learning. Other countries, such as Chile, have made the same argument.

If WIPO agrees, the change could cost publishers a ton of revenue and raises the question: Who then ought to pay for development of course materials?

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