Small university shop at centre of India publishing row

Small university shop at centre of India publishing row

NEW DELHI - 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.

Distinguished Indian academics have lined up to express dismay over the suit, including Nobel Prize winner and Harvard University professor Amartya Sen, warning that these packs could become expensive, or unavailable altogether, hitting students hard.

"As an OUP (Oxford University Press) author I would like to urge my publisher to not draw on the full force of the law to make these course packs impossible to generate and use,"

Sen wrote in an open letter last September, a month after the case was filed in the Supreme Court.

"Educational publishers have to balance various interests, and the cause (access to) of education must surely be a very important one," he wrote.

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