25 Sep 2008, 0541 hrs IST
Abhinav Garg & Dhananjay Mahapatra,TNN
NEW DELHI: The much-used guide books, the ubiquitous "kunjis", have survived a challenge to their existence with Delhi high court holding that books which offered "step-by-step" answers to questions contained in text books could not be seen to have violated copyright laws.
Often the last resort of students hurrying to catch up with curriculum ahead of exams or those considered "weak" at studies, the "kunji" has for long attracted the ire of authors who have felt it was a barely disguised attempt at plagiarism or an unedifying rendering of their works.
But now, guide books have emerged stronger, riding on a sympathetic ruling from the HC which dealt with a copyright challenge petition moved by 'The Chancellor Masters & Scholars of the University of Oxford', the well-known publisher of academic books.
Disposing of the attack, HC said guides had no pretentions, neither masquerading as text books nor containing theoretical or explanatory portions of them. They just provided a step-by-step, or easy to understand, solutions to questions, which were copied for "fair use" and hence could not be charged for copyright violation. They catered to a different category - students 'weak' in understanding the subject.
The publisher complained that one Narendra Publishing House, which brought out guide books, was in breach of copyright law as it had copied entire sets of questions from its mathematics text books for class XI and XII and solved them.
Counsel Rajiv Bansal said sequencing of chapters and questions at the end were identical as in the guide books, and said authors of the book as well as the publisher had a copyright over these queries as well. "Guides compete with original text books for market share and hence, hurt commercial interest of publishers of the text books," Bansal said.
Appearing for the guide book publisher, counsel Pratibha Singh said attempt to provide solution to the questions was based on the doctrine of fair use and was intended to help weak students. "Preparation of a guide book, which independently contains the working of every mathematical problem and steps for solving them, cannot be termed an infringement of the text book," she said.
Accepting her contention, Justice Ravindra Bhat ruled in favour of the guide books giving them a clean chit from the charge of copyright infringement. Justice Bhat said a careful analysis of guide books against text books showed the latter did not contain the step-by-step process of arriving at solutions or answers, while guide books did not refer to theoretical or explanatory content as in the text books.
The use of questions and answers by the guide book, which provided the process of reasoning, was for a different purpose, the judge said.