Indian Reprographic Rights Organisation: protecting values of works and sustaining creativity!


Indian Reprographic Rights Organisation (IRRO) is a copyright society authorised by the Ministry of Commerce and Industries, Government of India, to work towards the protection of published literary works.

Pranav Gupta, Secretary General, Indian Reprographic Rights Organization


Here, Pranav Gupta, Secretary-General, IRRO; Joint Secretary, FIP & Executive Committee Member of the International Publishers Association (IPA), shares how the organisation has been the mouth piece for the publishers to prevent copyright infringement.

AABPWhat is Copyright? When does Copyright arise?
Pranav: Copyright touches our lives daily. Whether you read a book, watch a film, transfer music, or take a photo – copyright issues are ever-present. Our civilization has been enriched, preserved, interpreted and handed down to us, mainly by writers. Our future, too, is in their hands. Copyright is the sine qua non of their survival. It is one of the main types of Intellectual Property – others include designs, patents and trademarks.

Copyright arises automatically when a work that qualifies for protection is created. The work must be original in that it needs to originate with the author who will have used some judgment or skill to create the work. There is no need to register copyright in India. When an idea is committed to paper or another ‘fixed’ form, it can be protected by copyright. It is the expression of the idea that is protected and not the idea itself. People cannot be stopped from borrowing an idea or producing something similar but can be stopped from copying.

In the digital world, there is enormous content available at the click of the mouse. However, even the great, undifferentiated mass of content made possible by digitization requires protection, for who knows in advance when other Shakespeare will emerge from the digital chaos?

The copyright law aims to balance the interests of those who create content, with the public interest in having the widest possible access to that content. Copyright laws enable authors to benefit financially from their creative work and foster innovation.

AABPShare a brief history of IRRO?
PranavIRRO is a copyright society established in the year 2000 under Section 33 of the Copyright Act, 1957. It represents the rights of authors and publishers of literary works, and has global affiliations with international organisations like IFRRO. Registered by the Ministry of Commerce and Industries, Government of India, IRRO is exclusively permitted to commence and carry on the copyright business of “reprographic rights in the field of literary works” in India. It is the sole licensing authority to issue licenses to users of copyrighted works of its members, collect royalties on the behalf of rights owners and distribute them. This includes magazines, books, and journals supplied by a licensed third party. The licenses provide a cost effective way to manage the risk associated with using and reproducing copyright materials.

IRRO issues blanket licenses to organisations – the licenses are issued on an annual basis, subject to an annual fee, and includes an indemnity from IRRO for all copying done within the terms and conditions of the license. Thus IRRO provides users a one window for giving licenses for photocopying thereby avoiding the need for the users to run from pillar to post to get such licenses to copy on an individual basis.

IRRO also collects data from various surveys or other data collecting technique and then prepares a distribution scheme based on collected data.

IRRO has already signed bilateral agreements with 22 major Reprographic Rights Organisation (RROS) of the world including UK, New Zealand, Russia, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Argentina, South Africa and others. IRRO is also in the process of signing bilateral agreements with many more RROs.

In a nutshell, IRRO aims to obtain fair rewards for authors, creators and publishers for the copying of their works. By supporting them in this way, IRRO maintains the value of their works and helps sustain creativity.

AABPWhat is IFRRO and how does it affect the Indian literary boundaries?
Pranav: The International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations (IFRRO) began in 1980 as a working group of the Copyright Committee of the International Publishers Association (IPA) and the International Group of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers (STM). In 1984, this working group became an informal consortium called the International Forum for Reproduction Rights Organisations. In 1988, IFRRO became a formal federation, eligible to speak on behalf of its constituents, before various international bodies such as WIPO, UNESCO, the European Community, and the Council of Europe. The IFFRO Secretariat was established in Belgium in 1998.

IFFRO’s mission is to develop and promote effective collective rights management to ensure that the copyrights of authors and publishers are valued through the lawful and remunerated use of text and image-based works. IFRRO has two key objectives in its Strategic Plan 2021–2023 which are underpinned by a series of strategic priorities, that guide IFRRO’s activities, in the areas. These objectives are: Advocacy: Advocate for copyright, collective management and the remunerated use of text and image based works and Capacity Building: Enable authors and publishers to explore and benefit from new opportunities through effective collective management.

Today, IFRRO is an independent non-profit membership association, with over 150 members, drawn from more than 85 countries around the world. Its members represent many millions of authors, visual artists, and publishers of books, journals, newspapers, magazines and printed music. There are 51 Creator or Publisher Association Members.

AABP: What has been your role in taking IRRO forward, in terms of not only digital establishment and growth, but also taking it global?
PranavIt has been a great honour to work with experienced members of the organisation. As Secretary General of IRRO, I have been instrumental in getting the renewal of ‘IRRO society registrations’ with the Govt. of India and presented it to Mr Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industries, Govt. of India. I am also responsible for maintaining healthy relationships with national and international stakeholders and take care of any associated issues.

As a digital entrepreneur, we have taken IRRO to a next level by successfully curating a world-class website and actively creating social media collateral on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

AABPWhat have been some key judgements in the copyright cases in India?
PranavI would like to recall the judgement of the Delhi High Court in the University of Oxford and Others V. Rameshwari Photocopy Services and Others case. The primary question posed to the bench was regarding the legality of the act of reproduction and distribution of photocopies of concerned publishers. The Delhi High Court ruled in favour of the defendant, opining that reprography of course would fall within reproduction by a teacher individually or as a part of an educational institution in the course of instruction. The act therefore was protected under Section 52 (1)(i) of the Copyrights Act, 1957. Further, since the principle of fair dealing does not qualify only on a general principle of fairness, it was read vis-a-vis purpose of use, overlooking the qualitative and quantitative extent of the usage.

I am pleased to share that the highest level of governance – ‘Parliamentary standing committee on Commerce’ in India, has been accepted after much scrutiny and engagement with the relevant stakeholders and this is what they have recommended. The Committee notes with distress that the conflict arising between copyright holders and educational institutions due to exceptions contained in Section 52(1)(i) which intends to ensure access to literary works for educational purposes does not bode well for the overall literary culture and image of the country. Protecting copyrights of publishers and authors encourages enrichment of quality books and works which should be counterbalanced with public accessibility of such works at an affordable rate. The Committee recommends the Department facilitate a fair and equitable ecosystem of literary culture in the country by bringing in necessary changes in Section 51(1) of the Act such as permitting reprographic works in Government-owned educational institutions and storing them in libraries for their easy access to students as well as stipulating limitations to unrestricted commercial grants to copy books and literary works and storage of copied works in digital formats.

AABPYou were the panelist at WIPO 42nd SCCR for the session on Impact of the Covid – 19 Pandemic on the Creative Industries. Share your experience and your take at the same?
PranavWorld Intellectual Property Organization organized 42nd SCCR (Standing Committee On Copyright And Related Rights) and I was truly honoured to be invited as a panellist for the session on ‘Impact of the Covid – 19 Pandemic on the Creative Industries,’ the only publisher on the panel for this session.

Covid-19 had a huge impact on the Indian publishing industry as going digital was the only option available; it was no longer a choice. Almost 20 percent of the small and medium enterprise in the publishing industry did not publish anything in the first half of 2020, which also resulted in very tight cash flows for them. Many right holders across the world took steps to provide free content to their consumers, educational institutes, researchers, libraries and the general public as well, to an extent. Another major challenge we faced was the disruption in the supply chain of raw materials like paper, printing, shipping, etc. Small and medium enterprises who were primarily print-dependent lost business as a result.

Yet another challenge was the closure of bookshops and cancellation or postponement of events and book fairs. Many publishers depend on such book fairs for networking, buying and selling of rights and author signings, which became impossible during 2020-2021.

Besides, even though there was a rise in the digital consumption of content but revenue was much smaller as compared to physical sales of the books. Publishers gave deep discounts to educational institutes and readers to use their digital content but it could not compensate the sales at all.

Another challenge was that due to digital, lot to copyright content started flowing on social media platforms and piracy became rampant. The role of intermediaries and their accountability and responsibilities needs to be looked into. Digital is the way forward and publishers need to collaborate with the technology companies to bring out solutions. Copyright law is the asset for creative industry and under no circumstances, should it be compromised. Authors and publishers should be respected as creators of culture and economic growth of the country. It was truly an honour to represent India and the global publishing industry at an international platform for intellectual property.

AABP: Why Copyright is essential in today’s times?
Pranav: According to me, the answer lies in the importance of the publishing industry as it plays a vital role in national development, culture connects local to global, the lifeline of the education system, it drives domestic & foreign economy, the engine of progress, encourages creativity & innovation. Thus publishing industry is the engine of progress, which cannot exist without the existence of copyright.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, widespread and unchecked circulation of copyrighted content has taken place on social media apps and platforms, leading to a large quantum of unrealised revenue for publishers and authors.

Further,  development of technology and digital media has led to the advent of new, creative, and sophisticated methods of pirating copyrighted material and committing infringements. Suitable changesare thus required in the act to enhance deterrence under law.

The Berne Convention is the most comprehensive and largely subscribed to treaty in this field and almost all major jurisdictions are a part of this treaty. The treaty clearly states that if there is an exception, it should not come in the way of removing from scope of right of the right holder. The industry upholds the convention and is not opposed to fair use, but the fair use should be in line with the letter and spirit of the Berne Convention. The right of the right holder mentioned above, in normal course of business, is to be able to commercialise and benefit from their copyright. Owners of literary works are entitled to commercialise and receive benefits from their rights.

AABP: How can we prevent copyright infringement?
ranavWe need to inculcate the value of IP laws at the school level education. Campaigns should be run around copyright awareness on the lines of Swachh Bharat MissionJaago Grahak Jaago and others in which issues concerning the vicious cycle of piracy should be highlighted.

Since, the piracy of literary work is well influenced by socioeconomic status – majorly confined to low income and middle-income group. The awareness campaign needs to be focused around this target population. This segment can be encouraged to buy photocopied books from the licensed photocopy shops through the reward system. Concept of a reward system for getting your books photocopied from licensed centers will create a win-win situation for the buyer as well as photocopier. Photocopier will get assured market and competitive edge over the unlicensed photocopier whereas the buyer of books will get credit points for every equivalent unit of book purchased from licensed shop. These credit points can be utilized in buying books/stationery/newspaper subscription from empaneled store and service provider.

Various subscription models can also be introduced to have more assured and repeated consumer. Institutional libraries can be encouraged to increase the copies of the book – hardcopy and subscriptions to digital copies – this will help in restricting the students from educational institute to opt for photocopy of books. Bulk buying from libraries can make sales and cashflow more centralized, assured and recurring in nature.

Last but not the least, the immediate requirement is to amend the law comprehensively and ensure it is balanced for the creators and ensure its enforcement as well.

AABP: What is IRRO doing in this direction?
Pranav: We, at IRRO, have made multiple representations before the competent authorities in the Govt. of India for certain amendments under the Copyright Act, 1957.

IRRO is also continuously and passionately making efforts to educate professionals from the literary industry about their Intellectual Property Rights. More recently, at the ‘World Book and Copyright Day’ 2022, IRRO organised a virtual event that was open to all with back-to-back informative sessions based on Copyrights and their global societies, Intellectual Property Law, and New Technological Developments that have enabled better protection against copyright infringement.

AABP: Share your experience in authoring the ‘Handbook on Intellectual Property and Reprographic Rights’ published by IRRO?
Pranav: Authoring ‘Handbook of Intellectual Property and Reprographic Rights’  has been a great learning experience. It is a comprehensive book curated through a lot of efforts. The book is useful for people in educational institutions as well as in the trade. The book is also for every individual and organisation that falls within the boundaries of Intellectual Property Law and Copyright while securing all essential definitions of IP and divisions handy with them. It also stresses the current scenario concerning the imposition of IP law in India, hoping to spread awareness about the need to uphold the law in letter and spirit.

I am honoured to receive Foreword, each by Kevin Fitzgerald CMG, Director, World Intellectual Property Organisation, Geneva and veteran IP lawyer Ajay Sahni.

The book is designed to portray a comprehensive assessment of IP’s role in our daily lives and its importance in various industries.

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