All eyes are on Indian justice’s interpretation of copyright law in the digital age

Restricting the circulation of scholarly works to protect the copyright of its owners and to make free or inexpensive research accessible to students and scholars have both remained controversial issues, especially with the advent of the era. digital.

In India, the academic and legal fraternity awaits a court judgment in a case involving alleged copyright infringement by two popular websites Sci-hub and Libgen, which provide access to hundreds of thousands of research documents every day , effectively bypassing payment walls. and restrictions.

Both of these websites are the subject of copyright lawsuits in an Indian court for infringement of intellectual property which gives its owner the exclusive right to the research work.

Speaking to the Anadolu agency on the eve of Copyright Day, which is celebrated on Saturday, senior lawyer Diljeet Titus said the court ruling would have a cascading effect on the definition of copyright law. author and would affect the ability of researchers to access scientific and academic data. article for learning purposes.

Expressing concern at the prospect of banning these websites, Delhi-based scholar Sweta Singh said it would have consequences for research and education activities in India.

“Sci-hub and Libgen are stepping in to provide alternative arrangements for expensive academic publishers. Previously, I had trouble finding research papers as they were usually paid and paid. Even as I won, I felt the subscription cost would often be higher for individuals, ”she said.

A year ago, global publishing houses Elsevier Ltd, Wily Pvt Ltd and the American Chemical Society filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Alexandra Elbakyan, the owner of Sci-Hub and LibGen.

– Huge help in the absence of access to the library

Singh said Sci-hub is of great help when libraries in India fail to provide institutional and remote access to quality publications.

Likewise, Libgen is extremely useful, especially during a pandemic when many students and teachers dependent on physical libraries could not visit them due to the lockdown and the pandemic, ”she said.

According to a New Delhi-based Internet Freedom Foundation, which defends these two websites in court on behalf of a group of social scientists, the Sci-Hub has more than 85 million research articles while LibGen provides a free access to scholarly articles, books, and journals.

Krishnesh Bapat, a lawyer who is part of the legal team, said the court had issued notices on his request. He said social science academics would be affected if those websites were blocked.

“Since we’re susceptible to being affected, that’s why we want the court to hear us. We are not disputing anything at the moment. It’s up to the court to decide what is right or wrong, “he said.

Nikhil Dasari, an academic, said the trial has turned into a larger issue of respecting copyright rules and providing easy access to education.

“In a place where we have great inequalities in access to education, platforms like Sci-Hub offer a chance of equal access to research which is, more often than not, generated by public resources”, said he declared.

In 2012, several international publishers sued a photocopy shop near Delhi University for copying books without permission or license.

– General ban on interfering with learning

Rejecting the rest, the Delhi High Court observed in 2016 that “copyright, especially in literary works, is therefore not an inevitable, divine or natural right which gives authors absolute ownership of their creations. “.

Lawyer Titus said it was easy to draw parallels between the case of websites and that of photocopy shops, believing that they are generally used by academics for educational purposes.

“However, it is crucial to keep in mind here that in the case of Delhi University Photocopying, the copyrighted material was being sold only for educational purposes for university students. , while Sci-Hub provides research material to anyone who wants to access it, so the educational exemption cannot be invoked here, ”he said.

He said that a blanket ban on free online repositories like Sci-Hub and Libgen would seriously compromise the ability of researchers to access scientific and academic papers for learning purposes.

“It would also have a huge cost to the public and the national interest,” he said.