Thursday, October 10, 2013

War on Course Packs

ToI has an AFP story on the war course packs unleashed by the Cambridge University Press, the Oxford University Press, and Taylor & Francis:

A cramped, one-room shop tucked away in Delhi University seems an unlikely battleground for a publishing war that, academics warn, threatens quality of and access to education in the world's second most populous nation.

The busy shop, where photocopiers churn out papers for a steady stream of students for a small fee, is at the centre of a court battle brought by three venerable academic presses over the interpretation of India's copyright law.

The lawsuit, filed by Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press and Taylor & Francis against Delhi University and the shop threatens production of "course packs" -- de facto "textbooks" made of photocopied portions of various books.

Course packs are common throughout much of the developing world -- where most university students cannot afford to purchase new or even second-hand textbooks -- and are seen as key to the spread of education there.

Many leading academics, including Prof. Amartya Sen, have taken a stand against the lawsuit by the publishing companies. On his Google+ stream, Prof. Tim Gowers of Cambridge posted a petition against the lawsuit, and offered this comment:

... It doesn't sound like a straightforward case to me -- probably CUP and OUP are technically in the right but not necessarily right to enforce that right so vigorously. In any case, I'm happy to give it more publicity, since it raises interesting and important issues.

From the comments on Gowers' post, I got a link to Prof. Shamnad Basheer's op-ed in The Hindu that lays out the arguments against the publishers' moves. The op-ed ends with this call:

In the end, this lawsuit must be seen for what it is: a highly pernicious attempt to fill the coffers of publishers at the expense of students! It must be resisted with all the moral and legal force we have.


  1. Santosh Sali said...

    So important news...

    Almost a two decades back, when I was studying Engg and few of my friends medical, We could see that photocopy was the only means to get good books and articles.
    Now after 20 years, even though the computers and internet has proliferated in every corner of academic world, I don't get access to large number of research articles, books for my work. This is not possible even if you are connected with tier-1 school in India. I wonder - but I feel the publishers are going overboard in forcing access control on the intellectual property.