ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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On Copyright Protection

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On 21 December 2020, three global academic publishers filed a copyright infringement suit against free-access online repositories, Sci-Hub and Library Genesis (Libgen), in the Delhi High Court. The three top-tier publishing houses publish scientific and academic journals and titles including the Lancet, the Cell, Gray’s Anatomy and Journal of Applied Polymer Science. In the instant petition, the plaintiff publishers sought a dynamic injunction, directing Indian service providers to block the Sci-Hub and Libgen sites, which provide free access to plaintiffs’ paywalled journals. Considering it “a matter of public importance,” the court immediately refused to order the blocking of sites, but the final verdict is yet to come. The publishers have asserted that they have the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, issue copies, make available to the public, and/or communicate to the public, their original literary work. As claimed by the publishers, Sci-Hub and Libgen’s act of providing free access to their copyrighted journals and articles constitutes infringement of copyright.

One shudders to think of an outcome that affects the interests of researchers and academicians across the country because the consequences may significantly elevate the cost of research. This whole issue contextualises the tensions between copyright and free access to educational materials. The stark contrast between economic private rights and public interests is not peculiar to India, however, the court in this case has the responsibility to rule decisively in India’s socio-economic context. In doing so, the most daunting task would be to allocate the private and public interests in knowledge goods, given that the goods as information, perform a twin role of both “input” and “output” in an innovation process.

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