COPYRIGHTED coursework prepared for London University's School of Oriental and African Studies has been photo-copied in a scam which the Copyright Licensing Agency claims may have cheated academic authors and publishers out of thousands of pounds in royalties and lost sales.
The agency found that the Store Street Press photocopying shop, which is very close to its headquarters, was photocopying SOAS course material in bulk. It claims that master copies of course packs, containing extracts from copyrighted work, were kept at the shop and students could request copies from a list.
The shop paid nothing for the privilege of copying extracts from other people's copyrighted work and has accepted that it was photocopying without a licence. It is thought that at least one SOAS academic was being deprived of royalties as a result.
CLA licensing manager Liz Bramwell said: "In this case we are going down the civil route while reserving our rights to pursue a criminal prosecution. We have brought this to the attention of SOAS and we are trying to get them to pay the copyright fees to legitimate the packs already received by students.
"We believe illegal photocopying to be a growing trend. Anecdotally, we have heard of students copying whole books and this has to be part of the decline in funding."
SOAS, which has a licence to reproduce copyright materials, says it knew nothing about the problem. School secretary Frank Dabell said that SOAS would be holding its own investigation to find out who was involved.
The CLA warned that copyright infringement may be on the increase as students and others in higher education try to save money by photocopying copyrighted works rather than buying them.
A shop spokesman said: "We felt we were helping students because we know they cannot afford to buy course books."