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Copyright is Not the Right to Copy
|by Dr. Ratan Bhattacharjee|
Who copied from whom in this world? The first book that was written was a copy indeed, because every human creation is an imitation of an action. Copying is not always a violation of copyright since the original book can never be produced in that way. Copyright infringement is the stealth capability of a person. But by photocopying it is never possible to reproduce the original. For the learners, tt sometimes proves to be an alternative to publishing and printing. Suppose you go to a place where you have found a rare book and as usual a good book of your choice is always out of print. Copying is the only means for retaining it.
The publishers have never been able to ensure that none of their book is out of print and the reprinted books are cheaper because the initial cost is not required by the publishers for the reprinted or the books of the second edition. But how many publishers show their honesty in pricing their books? Very few indeed. Publishing is booming business and the copyright protects the right to do business at the cost of thousands of learners many of whom are poor and indigent. Even it is not sometimes possible to buy so costly books for a high price that the publishers demand. So the tendency flourishes over the years to copy costly books.
Which question is more important? Should a book be priced high without any valid ground and justification?Why should not a book be copyied if it is cheaper to copy than to buy it? Publishers should take care of these two questions before imposing the ban of copyright on copying. Copying is in no way an infringement of copyright because the original book is not produced anyway by Xeroxing or scanning.
At one time when printing press was not there, copying the Holy Quran was the means of livelihood for the honest muslims. King Hazrat Omar was famous for copying the Holy Quaran for earning his livelihood without using the exchequer which he regarded as public money. Copying books was a glorious profession in the olden days. Even ten years earlier, photocopying was not much there. But students used to take notes from the teachers. Copying prevailed even in the absence of photocopiers. Today students can get the lecture of the teachers rightly copied through the Photocopy shop.
The whole education system today is nothing but copying, as Tagore said that the difference is little if you copy things in your pocket and if you copy things in your brain. What Tagore laments is the inability to innovate.
Our teaching and learning process is hardly based on innovation. Copying is all important there. What the teachers say, copy. What the guide books say, copy. What the internet sites say, copy. Without that there will be a stalemate.
How many people are innovative? Very few. Are the engineers of Apple never copiers? They made a patent and that made them famous. It is their birthright now to dominate and bully others. It is like Marcony inventing radio by copying Jagadish Chandra Bose which cannot be supported. The numberless researchers in science and humanities are the worst kind of copiers. How many papers are to be published as original contributions except those of few? All are not Einstein or Satyendranath Bose. Most of them earned Ph.D. degrees in this way. But this is yet not to be supported. Those who are caught they are punished. Those who are detected, they get their thesis cancelled. But innovative research is very rare. This is far different from copying a rare book for the sake of reading.
Who will ensure that the publishing concerns will always keep their books in print and in normal prices? Who can ensure that they will not take recourse to monopoly taking advantage of the copyrights act? Mark Twain once wrote: “Only one thing is impossible for God: To find any sense in any copyright law on the planet.”
In our school and college days invigilators in the examination hall used to shout: "Boys, don’t use unfair means, don’t copy”. But these very teachers used to copy the words of their own teachers and provided information in the classroom. They advised us outside the classroom to copy the rare texts available in a bookseller’s shop or in a library. That time Oxford and Cambridge publishing house were not so noisy to raise hue and cry over copying.
When a renowned publishing company publishes anthology, it cannot demand a copyright for it because the texts they select are not their own property. But they do so by paying money to the authors. This is again a question of money and power. If the photocopying is banned, learning process will be hampered. Many poor students cannot afford to buy the books published by these renowned publishers. Then there should be monitoring over the prices fixed by them for a book. Why should they make such a large profit by publishing a book at such a high price? It should be less than photocopying since the book will be sold over the years.
Publishing a book and to hold a copyright over for years together and at the same time demand high price for it after the initial expenses are recovered is no less a crime. A book priced at 200 rupees at the first edition may be justified, but in the second edition it should not be increased. The reprinting is still cheaper and the copyright act should be including these questions into account. Copyright is now a flourishing business for the publishing concern. It should be monitored.
We all are concerned about the hike in the petrol price. But how many of us care about the soaring prices of books? In the name of copyright the renowned publishing concerns are emptying the pockets of the learners. Books are very costly now. The copyright is one reason for it. The idea of copyright did not exist in ancient times, when authors frequently copied other authors at length in works of non-fiction. This practice was useful, and is the only way many authors' works have survived even in part. A massive system of lawyers regulating creativity as copyright law has expanded in unrecognizable forms, going from a regulation of publishing to a regulation of copying.
Very recently it is clear from the court verdict ensuring Apple’s landmark victory in the patent case that Apple held many patents and some of these were infringed by the Samsung. Besides acknowledging that the Korean company acted like a copycat, the decision has raised hopes that patents would be protected more vigorously from now onwards. But with what benefit? It will only help the monopoly of Apple.
Copying is always illegal. There cannot be any legal copying. But the innovative ones copy and know how to make the copied thing their own. Tradition is modified by individual talent. This cannot be discouraged. If the photocopying of rare books is stopped, the process of learning and teaching will be hampered seriously. The libraries in the universities and research institutions survive on the photocopying of the reference books. These are practical problems. In the name of protecting copyright we should not run after myths of so called honesty. The publishers who are raising cry about the infringement of copyrights should ensure that books published by them are priced appropriately without an eye to great profiteering. Books should not be beyond the purchasing capacity of the students and teachers. If it goes, copying cannot be stopped.
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