Firms not violating govt copyright by publishing bare Acts: Centre to HC

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Publication of exact text of a particular central legislation by private publishers does not infringe upon the government's copyright in the enactment, the Centre has told the Delhi High Court.

The Legislative Department of the Law Ministry has said that under the Copyright Act, reproduction and publication of a central legislation along with any commentary or original matter would not be a violation.

In an affidavit placed before a bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao, the department has said it has been providing updated versions authentic and accurate copies of all central acts in electronic format and citizens are free to download and print them free of charge.

However, it "does not have any full-fledged publication house to cater to the needs of all the citizens of the country", the department said and added that it has not given permission to any private publisher to publish the enactments and therefore, has no control over pricing of the bare acts or the exact text of a particular law.

It also termed as false and baseless, the allegations levelled against it by lawyer, Arpit Bhargava, who in his PIL has contended that the Centre was allowing the public to suffer at the hands of private publishers by not publishing on its own and ensuring availability of authentic, accurate and reasonably priced hard copies of its acts, rules, notifications and various amendments from time to time.

He has said that the Acts of Parliament were in public domain and under copyright ownership of the government and, therefore, could not be used by a selected few for commercial gains.

The department, however, argued that Bhargava "misconstrued" the provisions of the Copyright Act according to which reproduction and publication of any Act of a Legislature would not be an infringement of copyright, if it was printed together with any commentary or other original matter.

It said the purpose of recognising the exception was "to enable the reproduction of the work for encouragement of private study and research and promotion of education".

The department, in its affidavit, also said that the Ministry or Urban Affairs has taken a policy decision to stop the physical printing of Government of India's gazette notifications and has introduced e-publishing of the same.

The department also said that it publishes the Central Acts on the basis of demand received and therefore, they were printed in limited numbers.

"Since the Act are being published on a limited number on the basis of the requisition received from sellers, price fixed by the government would be five to ten times higher than that of the publication by private publishers," it said and added that publication of an Act of Parliament by the Legislative Department was "time consuming" as it goes through several stages of approval and verification.

"Therefore, reproduction or publication of any rules, notifications, regulations, etc. by a private publisher does not violate any of the provisions of the Copyright Act," the department said.

The PIL on the other hand has claimed that the bare acts by private publishers were priced high and some were also inaccurate and has sought civil and criminal action against the private business houses or publishers and others for infringing the copyright of the government.

According to the petition, some prominent private business entities which are involved in publication and distribution of bare acts are Universal Publications, Lexis Nexis, Taxmann Publications, Professional Publications and CCH-Wolters Kluwer.


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