Eight leading book publishers, attempting to halt what they called the widespread unauthorized reproduction of copyright materials at the nation's colleges and universities, yesterday sued New York University, nine of its faculty members and a New York photocopy store.

Their complaint, the print equivalent of the struggle by film and rized taping, charges that the teachers instructed the photocopy shop to duplicate portions of books and articles and sell the material to students who were required to read it.

Townsend Hoopes, president of the Association of American Publishers, the trade association which conducted an investigation of the alleged unlawful copying, said the publishers went to court after extensive attempts to persuade universities to change their practices failed to halt "indiscriminate and wide-spread copying of a range of copyrighted materials."

Other AAP officials said they have received confirmed reports of the alleged unlawful copying from many universities and could have sued any one of several. NYU and its faculty members and a photocopy shop near NYU's Greenwich Village campus were chosen as "appropriate defendants" for a test case, according to Jon Baumgarten, Washington attorney for the publishers.

The suit, filed in federal court in New York, asks for a variety of remedies under the Copyright Act, including an injunction against the alleged unlawful copying, and an unspecified amount of money damages.

NYU's attorney, Andrew Schaffer, said he had not been served with a copy of the complaint and could not comment.

The book publishers who sued are among the most prominent firms in the industry: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co.; Alfred A. Knopf; Basic Books; Houghton Mifflin; Little, Brown & Co.; Macmillan; Random House, and Simon & Schuster. They were joined by the National Association of Social Workers, which publishes the professional journal Social Work.

Among the books allegedly photocopied without the publishers' permission were textbooks such as "Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviants" and popular works such as Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" and "The Final Days" by Bob Wood-ward and Carl Bernstein.

Parker Ladd, director of the trade association's college division, said the court action was an attempt to halt "the increasing incidences of copyright infringment which have escalated over the last few years. Off-campus copy mills illegally copy material from textbooks at the request of college faculty. The copy shop then sells the copied material to students."

"This practice is hurting authors, who are not getting their royalties, and publishers, who are not receiving their royalties, and publishers, who are not receiving their copyright fees. College publishers are not willing to stand by passively while their market is eroded by copyright infringement."

Allan Wittman, chairman of the association's copyright committee and president of a Macmillan division, said in a statement that "universities must recognize that they have a responsibility for what their employes and faculty members do, and faculty members must recognize their own responsibilities. The Association of American Publishers will continue to enforce copyright compliance."

Most of the alleged copyright infringements, publishing industry officials said, involve not entire books, but chapters, excerpts and magazine articles which are frequently assigned as course material year after year without permission of the copyright holders.

According to Carol Risher, copyright director for the publishers association, the publishers do permit reproduction of short excerpts without written permission or payment of royalties under certain clearly defined circumstances, such as when a professor discovers new material that would help students on an imminent examination.

"But you can't do it semester after semester," she said, "and you can't make up anthologies. You have to get permission."

Risher said the association had received reports of unauthorized copying from "all over the country. The father of a law student sent us a package. A bookstore sent in some stuff, faculty members told us about their colleagues. One history professor told us about a chemistry professor at his school who was copying an entire lab manual," she said.