SC seeks Centre’s reply on whether publishing Acts by pvt parties infringes on govt copyright


The Supreme Court Friday sought the Centre’s response on a plea which has raised a legal question as to whether publication of bare Acts, an exact text of a particular law, by private parties amounted to infringement of the government’s copyright. A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde agreed to hear the appeal filed against the November last year order of the Delhi High Court which said that action would be taken by the government against “erring publishers” in accordance with law, rules, regulations and policies as and when there is any violation of the Copyright Act, 1957 and other provisions of the Constitution.

The appeal came up for hearing through video-conferencing before the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy, which issued notice and asked the Centre to file its response on it.

The petitioner, Arpit Bhargava, has claimed in his appeal that the high court did not consider that there is a “blatant laxity” on the part of the government in not giving effect to the fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution “by not publishing on its own and ensuring the availability of authentic, accurate and reasonably priced hard copies of central acts, rules, notifications, regulations etc and various amendments from time to time for the benefit of the public at large”.

The appeal, filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan, has alleged that the high court “failed to consider that the loss to public at large is not only due to high prices charged but due to inaccurate and non-authentic reproduction of Acts, rules, notifications, regulations etc”.

It alleged that the government is guilty of contravening and making provisions of The Copyright Act, 1957 “nugatory” by allowing the private publishers to publish mere central Acts without addition of any original matter or commentary.

“From the bare acts of various private publishers, it is amply clear that there is no originality involved in the work and mere ‘copy paste’ has been done of derivative work,” it said.

It said that the government departments concerned have failed to frame a policy or guidelines regarding publications and dissemination of knowledge relating to Acts of parliament, rules, notifications etc through a transparent and authentic mechanism aimed at benefitting the public at large.

“All this is necessary in order to ensure publication and availability of accurate, authentic and reasonably priced hard copies of central Acts, rules, notifications, regulations etc,” it said.

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Updated: May 22, 2020 — 2:54 pm

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