Call for clarity on copyright
May 25, 2016 — Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield stated that the Government believes, "Australian literature is vital to our cultural and intellectual life and the Coalition values the unique role that literature and books play in communicating Australian stories," in a media release on 24 May 2016.
Authors and publishers call on the Government to make this claim meaningful by guaranteeing it will support Australian territorial copyright — the exclusive licence to publish or distribute a book in Australia — and not remove the "equitable remuneration" that is a key part of Australia's fair dealing provisions.
Senator Fifield’s outright rejection of radical recommendations in the Productivity Commission’s recent Draft Report on Australia’s Intellectual Property Arrangements puts the spotlight on the agenda and validity of the report.
The recommendation to reduce the term of an author’s copyright to 15 to 25 years from creation, instead of 70 years after death contravenes free trade agreements and international standards.
The Minister’s statement calls into question why the Draft Report strayed so far beyond Australian law and international trade agreements. It also calls into question other recommendations in the report about changes to our “fair dealings” exceptions and territorial copyright – which together underpin the economic model of the Australian book publishing industry.
He says "copyright protection is an essential mechanism for ensuring the viability and success of creative industries by incentivising and rewarding creators." It would be inconsistent with this to repeal territorial copyright (otherwise known as parallel importation rules) that guarantee those incentives and rewards.
Currently publishers buy a "use-it-or-lose it" exclusive licence from an author to sell a book in Australia. The book must be readily available to Australians or they lose this licence. Holding the Australian licence to publish a book is the basis on which publishers invest $120m per annum into our economy by partnering with and paying authors, employing staff, printing and marketing books and reading.
On 24 November last year the Treasurer, Scott Morrison announced the Government's formal response to the Harper Review. The Government stated its support for Harper's recommendation to allow the parallel importation of books, circumventing licensed publishers or distributors. This would remove an author's ability to sell an exclusive licence to publish their work in Australia and reduce their income.
The government risks seriously damaging an Australian book market that generates $2b in revenue per annum – a healthy, competitive and unsubsidised creative industry — with its unproven plan to abolish the right to buy a licence to publish and market a book in Australia.
Australian writing is Australia’s greatest cultural and free trade success story, but Australian authors will be disadvantaged in international terms. We would give away intellectual property rights without gaining any reciprocal rights with the world’s biggest book-creating nations – the USA and the UK – that maintain their own home market rights.
We have the 14th largest publishing industry in the world and the book industry employs over 20,000 people. Why risk a successful and healthy market for an unproven economic model?
The Australian Publishers Association (APA) and Australian Society of Authors (ASA) unite to call on the government to offer the economic certainty that authors and publishers need to keep investing in the ideas and Australian innovations that will provide growth and jobs in the future.
The APA and ASA have requested a meeting with the Minister to discuss these issues. You can help us raise awareness by joining the #BooksCreate campaign. Visit and share the www.bookscreateaustralia.com.au website with your friends and supporters, and call on the Government to provide clarity on their statements about copyright.
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