At a photocopy shop at Churchgate, copies of BR Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste and Gloria Mayer’s Men of Brewster Place are whizzing out of the photocopy machine.
“We see a lot of college crowd coming here, as students are very dependent on photocopying,” said the shop owner.
Yet, this is a way of life that is now potentially under siege. Last week, after three publishing houses – Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor and Francis – initiated proceedings against a Delhi University photocopy shop for copyright violations, many students protested.
In the city too, across colleges, departments and courses, students cannot imagine a life without photocopies.
“Our student lives practically run on photocopying, and it would be a big blow to us if it was taken away,” said Radhika Agarwal, 20, a third year BMM student at St Xavier’s College, Dhobi Talao.
Agarwal said that students from economically weaker sections of society rely heavily on photocopies. Books are hard to find, and often you only need a chapter or two for reference. The other alternative, which is printing material off the internet, is more costly.
“Many books are not easily available in India and have to be imported, hence are expensive,” said Chubita Tari, 22, a fourth year student at Bombay Veterinary College, Parel.
Photocopying is an integral part of the higher education system, with photocopy machines housed within libraries, teachers circulating readings and reproduction of lecture notes on a routine basis.
“It is not feasible to buy every book,” said PG Jogdand, dean of the faculty of arts at Mumbai University. “Students don’t always have to read the entire book.” Often teachers prescribe select readings or sections from particular books as there aren’t always set textbooks to follow.
In some colleges, teachers encourage students to avoid photocopying given the ethical violations involved. “We have been strictly told by our teachers to avoid photocopying,” said Gayatri Gulvady, 19, a third year BA Psychology student at SIES College, Sion. “It’s unethical to photocopy material without taking permission. That’s taking something for granted, which is just not fair.”
Yet, several photocopy shops, which sell photocopies of entire text books and guides at lower costs than the original, continue to do brisk business.