For long, a couple of firms had a virtual monopoly over printing judgments of the Supreme Court in book format and selling it to advocates, institutions and others. So much so that one of them claimed copyright over the manner in which it edited and published the judgments.
But on Wednesday, a Supreme Court bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and N V Ramana ruled that no one could have copyright over judgments delivered by the apex court. It could be reproduced in its raw form by anyone without the risk of being accused of infringing copyright, the bench said, settling a long-standing dispute.
The question before the bench was whether the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court was correct in restraining Reed Elsevier India Pvt Ltd from reproducing judgments reported in ‘Supreme Court Cases’ (SCC) published by Eastern Book Company.
Eastern Book Company had argued that the SCC was based on its editors reading the entire judgment, understanding the questions of law and facts involved and then labelling it as ‘concurring’, ‘partly concurring’, ‘dissenting’, ‘partly dissenting’ or ‘supplementing’.
The bench did not enter into the dispute. It refused to determine whether the words used to qualify the nature of a judgment could be claimed as copyright. It merely clarified that there was no copyright over judgments uploaded on the judgment section of the Supreme Court’s website and that all were free to use it as a raw source.