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September 11, 2021 Saturday 03:27:43 PM IST

Use of Copyrighted Works in Online Education

Is the use of copyrighted material for online teaching liable to attract the provisions of Copyright laws in the country? The landmark Delhi University Photocopying case gave an opportunity to Delhi High Court to consider the issue in detail.   Do the video recorded classes that use copyrighted material have the same protection as offline classes? Will college and school libraries uploading a digital copy of the textbooks available in the physical library have protection ?

Section 52 (1) of the Copyright Act lists out acts that do not constitute copyright infringement. Sections 52(1)(h) to 52(1)(j) contain exceptions for use of copyright material for educational purposes. In particular, the judgement has given an elaborate exposition on what falls under the educational exception and how the exception is to be understood within the larger context of the goal it seeks to achieve. Section 52(1)(i) permits reproduction of any work by a teacher or student in the course of instruction (among other purposes) . 

In determining the permissibility of use of copyrighted work under this exception, the Court held that the extent or quantity of the material used does not matter as long as it is reasonably necessary to use the same for the purpose of educational instruction. It is held that the scope of the words 'in the course of instruction' isn't merely limited to classroom lectures but includes any activity that falls within the ambit of providing educational instruction both prior and after the actual act of teaching.

Copyright Act Amendment 2012


The 2012 Amendment to the Indian Copyright Act allows for scanned copies of paid books to be shared by institutions for the purpose of education if the institution already possesses a hard copy of the book in its library.

Measures to prevent copyright infringement:

 a) Share the website link of the material rather than download and share the material with students. This helps the original authors get due credit for their publicly shared works. Further, the content should have been posted publicly by the original author.

b) Schools and colleges can also purchase software through their institutional credentials, thus allowing students to use the material available on such platforms for their studies.


c) The use of open-access platforms where the material is shared for free should be promoted. Such platforms grant the free use of the uploaded material, provided it is only used for educational purposes.

d) Obtain permission from the original copyright holder for the use of the work for teaching and imparting education.

e) Discourage further sharing of the copyrighted material by students by informing them about the copyright law and the legal consequences which follow from such unauthorized sharing of material.

f) Teachers should also try to create their own original content which they can easily share with their students without worries of infringing another's copyright.




P S Antony

P.S ANTONY ,District Judge (Retd.) & Senior Faculty Bharata  Mata School of Legal Studies , Aluva

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