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Petitioning and British government

Amazon, E-bay and British Government: Pay Authors Royalties on Secondhand book sales

At present authors get nothing when their books are sold multiple times. The practice of selling secondhand books on the same page as new copies reduces book sales and reduces the already tiny amount of royalties that most authors get. By re-selling a book as soon as it is read the purchaser can regain half or all of the price paid. It is fair that the author benefits from the system as without authors there would be no books.

Several European countries have already adopted this idea as law. Article 14b of the Berne convention asserts that that authors of literary works have got a legal claim to a share in the profits when their original works are resold or performed by any means.  According to the EU Ressale Rights directive of 2001 all member states should bring their laws into line in order to create uniform market conditions.

We demand that this law is now adopted in the UK and applied to British authors. We think that in a computerized system such as Amazon or E-bay such payment would be feasible and hope that internet booksellers will implement it voluntarily.

The price of secondhand books would not be greatly affected by this measure. The problem for authors is that immediately re-selling books makes it difficult to sell new copies. Royalties go on a sliding scale, with usually nothing for the first thousand copies (to cover the production costs) then
only a small amount such as 2% on the next thousand or two, so that the publisher
can make a profit. Only after that does the author start to get any return. If websites like Amazon allow people to re-sell books immediately they are read, it is difficult to sell the first few thousand. So the author may get nothing.

If rich authors think this is unnecessary, they need not register with the websites to get their percentage of the proceeds.


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