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Education Is a Social Good, Not A Private Asset
The recent judgment by the Delhi High Court has sought to promote the cause of education and equitable access. It has tried to balance the exclusive right of the owner of copyright and the interest of the public in ensuring that important educational works are available in the public domain. While the principal purpose of the law under Copyright Act is to provide exclusive rights to owners of copyright, sometimes this has to be subordinated to other equally important purposes such as education. The division bench (Justices Yogesh Khanna and Pradeep Nandrajog) held that: “The importance of education lies in the fact that education alone is the foundation on which a progressive and prosperous society can be built. Teaching is an essential part of education, at least in the formative years, and perhaps till post-graduate level. It would be difficult for a human to educate herself without somebody: a teacher, helping. It is thus necessary, by whatever nomenclature we may call them, that development of knowledge modules, having the right content, to take care of the needs of the learner is encouraged. We may loosely call them textbooks. We may loosely call them guide books. We may loosely call them reference books. We may loosely call them course packs. So fundamental is education to a society — it warrants the promotion of equitable access to knowledge to all segments of the society, irrespective of their caste, creed and financial position. Of course, the more indigent the learner, the greater the responsibility to ensure equitable access”. Through this ruling, the judges have pre-empted the attempt by the publishers to look at a social service like education through the narrow lane of private property. It is a significant judgment which can serve as a model for similar interpretation of copyright statues in other countries

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