Monthly Archives: April, 2013

Should photocopying of textbooks be banned?

Many of us must be aware of the surge by the publishers and few policemen against photocopying of textbooks. They intended to bring a copyright action against Delhi University and a tiny photocopy shop licensed by it, seeking to restrain them from supplying educational course packs to students.

The sudden action flummoxed many, but fueled up the intellects to discuss about the issue. Basically, for those not familiar with the term, course packs are compilations of limited excerpts from copyrighted books, put together painstakingly by faculty members in accordance with a carefully designed syllabus and teaching plan.

The publishers are seeking an outright ban on all course packs, even those that extract and use no more than 10 per cent of the copyrighted book. Under the United States of America law, reproducing up to 10 per cent of the copyrighted books is “fair use” of a copyrighted work, and therefore legal.

In contrast, India is a developing country, with poorer students and more severe educational access constraints. Our system is a vulnerable one which requires the technique of cheap priced good education.   

The section 52(1) (a) of the Indian constitution embodies the fair use exception and permits any fair dealing of a copyrighted work for the purpose of research and private study. Such exemptions reflect a clear intention to exempt core aspects of education from the private sphere of copyright infringement. Devitalizing these exceptions at the behest of publishers will strike at the very heart of our constitutional guarantee of a fundamental right to education for all.

The fact that majority of educational textbooks are priced above the affordability range of an average Indian student is well known. The claim by publishers that course packs would destroy their market for books and put them out of business is therefore highly questionable.

If a person needs only an extract from the whole book, he cannot afford to buy the whole book worth thousands. That would be foolish. Yes, there are libraries where books can be read. But, you never know that the same book is available at the time of need or not.

Slashing of rates may be a positive step in this direction. Let’s hope that the publishers will give a thought to it, apart from thinking of minting more money.  

Dadasaheb Phalke is not the Father of Indian Cinema?

The Indian film fraternity is busy gearing up for the 100 years’ celebration of Indian cinema. Amidst all the fanfare, Pune based brothers Vijay and Anil Torne have challenged its very foundation. According to them, it wasn’t Dadasaheb Phalke but their father Dadasaheb Torne who had produced the first film of Indian cinema, ‘Shree Pundalik’, thereby becoming the rightful claimant to the ‘Father of Indian Cinema’ title. 

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Pic: Newspaper Advertisement of Pundalik of 25th May 1912

“The play was shot in Mumbai at Lamington, Tribhuvan and Vitthalbhai Patel roads. By this time, my father had exhausted all his money. He again approached Bourne and Shepherd company which agreed to process the film in exchange for the Williamson camera. The film was shipped to London where a negative and positive were developed and the positive was sent back to my father for screening,” Anil said.

Ramchandra Gopal popularly known as Dadasaheb Torne had released it on 18th May 1912 at the Coronation Cinematograph, Girgaum, Mumbai. Experts believe that Torne had missed out on the recognition he deserved, because of a few technicalities. Firstly, the movie was a shooting of a popular Marathi play and secondly, it was shot by a British cameraman, Johnson who developed and kept the negatives of the film in London giving Torne only the positive print to bring back home.

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Pic: Dadasaheb Torne

The point I want to make is that William Bolts is considered to have made the first attempt in printing a newspaper in India, but James Augustus Hicky is considered the first one to run a paper. Similarly, Torne should also be given some recognition though that might be petite as compared to that of Phalke.

Recognizing the first attempts in any field, help in dissemination of correct information as well as it makes people inspired to focus their work in those directions. I support the effort by his sons. Do you?  

The curious case of Katju!

Accept it or not. Like it or dislike it. Justice Markandey Katju will end his term as the most controversial and outspoken Press Council of India Chairman. His single comment on an issue gives a lot of food for thought and airtime to television news channels who inadvertently say, “Today India is hearing. The people of India needs an answer!” Sigh! Even Ekta Kapoor’s serials were less dramatic!

Sometimes, I wonder that is every and any kind of publicity really the best publicity? Well, the likes of Rakhi Sawant, Sherlyn Chopra, Poonam Pandey might now see a lot of people joining their bandwagon driving the media persons around them. Latest yet unnoticed entry is Mr. Katju. First of all, I respect Mr. Katju a lot. He has shown the guts to come and speak in public sphere time and again against ill-practices in states against media and the wrongdoings by media itself.

ImagePic: Retired Supreme Court of India Justice Markandey Katju

But, some of his statements have been perplexing. The latest jaw-dropping statement made by the Retired Supreme Court Judge is that, “Pakistan is a fake country, and one day it will reunite with India along with Bangladesh.” At a time when both the neighbor countries are disturbed internally and India’s foreign policy has taken a beating, such statements won’t amuse many.

He may confuse you with his words many a times. When he sees that he is in danger then he says that he has made that particular statement as a citizen of India, and when he sees that he has to take decision, he asserts his authority as a retired judge. Swapping roles fast, eh?  

He further goes on to say, “A fake country was created in the name of Pakistan. It is an artificially created entity by the British to make Hindus and Muslims keep fighting with each other, to stop India from becoming a powerful industrialized nation,” he said, answering questions after a symposium on ‘Reporting Terror: How Sensitive is the media?’ on 07 April 2013.

I am not against his statement but I do not like the timing as well as the free publicity element behind it. Without digressing from the subject, I would say that unless the politicians stop mixing their profession with religion and avoid from calling for caste based voting, there shall not be any solution or occurrence of merger between countries.

Once he said, “Ninety per cent of Indians are idiots. You people don’t have brains in your heads.” Subsequently, a PIL was filed against him and he eventually said sorry.

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If that wasn’t enough, read his one more remarkable statement! On September 3, Justice Katju had written an article in The Hindu, in which he, inter alia, went on to say:

“The level of intellect of many teachers is low, because many of them have not been appointed on merit but on extraneous considerations. To give an example, when I was a judge of Allahabad High Court I had a case relating to a service matter of a mathematics lecturer in a university in Uttar Pradesh.

Since the teacher was present in court I asked him how much one divided by zero is equal to.

He replied, Infinity.

I told him that his answer was incorrect, and it was evident that he was not even fit to be a teacher in an intermediate college. I wondered how had he become a university lecturer.”

Justice Katju claims that anything divided by zero is indeterminate. He is wrong and the lecturer was right because any non-zero number divided by zero is infinity. It is zero divided by zero that is indeterminate.

While one can understand the plight of the poor lecturer who did not have the courage to correct the judge hearing his case, I am appalled at the timidity of “some of the top senior academicians” of Jawaharlal Nehru University, to whom Justice Katju narrated the incident.

Well there a many startling statement made by him, but they cannot be put in here.By the way another one was, when he said that, “Sanjay Dutt should be pardoned because he was part of Munnabhai film, spreading Mahatma Gandhi’s ideologies…” And the list goes on.