Some textbooks are too expensive! Is it illegal to photocopy textbooks and to create a duplicate copy for my personal use?

Last updated on May 13, 2011

God knows that textbook prices simply rise and rise and the penniless student faces a moral dilemma between piracy and flunking his exams. The answer to the legality of reproducing textbooks depends. Works such as books are protected by copyright laws such as the Copyright Act. This means that a person can be sued if he infringes the copyright of the author, by using or reproducing his work without his permission.

According to section 35 of the Copyright Act, up to 10% of a textbook may be photocopied for educational purposes. This is measured in pages. Alternatively, an entire chapter of the book may also be reproduced for educational purposes. This means that a student would get into trouble if he reproduces more than 10% or a chapter of the textbook. Similarly, a photocopying shop which probably offers their services, such as photocopying and binding, for the sole purpose of profit, is also liable to a lawsuit.

According to section 119 of the Copyright Act, the author can sue the infringer for compensation. However, because the costs of a textbook is relatively meager compared to the possible litigation fees, individual infringers are rarely sued. According to an article published by UCLA, in 2004, the Association of American Publishers took legal action against Singaporean photocopying shops which conducted large-scale photocopying of entire textbooks instead.