Undercover officials have swooped on an unlicensed copyshop operating next to Nottingham University, seizing hundreds of copies of illegally produced material.
The compliance arm of the Copyright Licensing Agency was tipped off that Photocopier Maintenance Servicing, an independent photocopier shop, was running a piracy operation. When inspectors visited the premises they found copies of entire books on medicine, law, business management, marketing and computing. The copies were being offered for sale to students at bargain prices.
Inspectors confiscated more than 500 copies of some 100 titles. Under fair dealing in copyright, individuals can copy up to 5 per cent of a book, or one chapter or journal article. Copying a whole book is illegal, as is buying a copy.
Martin Delaney, legal adviser to the CLA, said that it was impossible to calculate how much money had been lost, both in photocopying licence fees and in the new book market, as it was unclear how long the operation had been going on.
He said: "All universities will have a clutch of copyshops and newsagents offering photocopying services to students. But this is the most blatant example I have seen."
The CLA has taken out a court order preventing the shop copying whole books.
A spokesman for Photocopier Maintenance Servicing said: "It was all a misunderstanding - we didn't know the law. Students were coming in and copying whole books."
He said the shop now had a licence, and that notices explaining copyright law were displayed above photocopying machines.
The swoop follows years of delicate discussion between Universities UK and the CLA on how much universities should pay in photocopying licence fees for each student. This culminated in a legal tribunal, costing £2 million, after negotiations broke down.
Universities now pay £4.06 per full-time student to cover photocopying royalties. This allows students to copy from books, periodicals and journals for personal use. It does not cover private copyshops.
UUK has contacted universities alerting them to the issue and asking them to ensure that licence agreements are not broken.
A Nottingham University spokesman said: "The university strongly disapproves of this sort of practice among students."