About Us

Our History

The ASA was formed in 1963 to promote and protect the rights of Australia's authors and illustrators. Our proud history boasts many successful campaigns to improve the working lives of authors and illustrators, but among our chief victories are the establishment of Public Lending Right (PLR) in 1975 and Educational Lending Right (ELR) in 2000. The ASA was also instrumental in setting up Copyright Agency, the Australian Copyright Council and the International Authors Forum.

How the ASA began

It all started with the then President of the NSW Federation of Australian Writers, Walter Stone, inviting delegates from all other writers' societies to a meeting in Sydney in October 1962 to discuss the formation of a national organisation to represent professional authors. A series of meetings followed culminating in the formation of the ASA on 15 May 1963, and the acceptance of a provisional constitution on 26 June 1963.

Much of the work in those early years was done by a largely unsung group of visionaries. Chief among them was the indefatigable, Miles Franklin Award winning author Dal Stivens, who became the founding President of the ASA in 1963 and who invested many hours of his productive life to making sure the organisation survived those early years.

Another of our founders, Jill Hellyer, became the ASA's first Secretary. Her home in Mt Colah became the ASA's first official address. The ASA, now boasting 3000 members around the country, is about a hundred times the size it was in 1963.

Campaigns

The ASA's first campaign was to abolish the "colonial royalty", by which Australian authors published by British publishers were paid a 10% royalty on book sales in the UK but only a 5% royalty on books sold in Australia, which were considered "export sales". There were also campaigns for an "open market" for books in Australia in an attempt to break the monopoly of British publishers.

The ASA also crusaded to convince a succession of governments that Public Lending Right (PLR) is legitimate recompense to authors for loss of sales when their books are held in Australian public libraries. In 1975, PLR was finally brought in. However, for another 25 years the ASA continued to cajole, argue and lobby for Educational Lending Right (ELR) to be introduced. Our efforts were finally rewarded in 2000 when ELR was included as part of the Howard Government's GST compensation package to the book industry. These days, the PLR scheme makes payments to eligible Australian creators and publishers whose books are held in public lending libraries, while the ELR scheme makes similar payments for books held in educational libraries.

The ASA was instrumental in setting up Copyright Agency, which pays creators whose work is copied under statutory licence. This work has resulted in payments of around $100 million distributed to Australian creators every year. The ASA also helped set up the Australian Copyright Council which provides information to the public on intellectual property issues.

The ASA has regularly defended authors against various governments' moves to remove territorial copyright on books. Known as "parallel importation", the repeal of territorial copyright would see a contraction of the Australian publishing industry and ultimately fewer opportunities for Australian authors to achieve publication and meaningful remuneration for their books.

Local industry boom

Forty years ago, the ASA was part of a cultural renaissance that saw Australian publishers, theatres, radio stations, film-makers and television broadcasters bloom and grow. We now boast a publishing industry that publishes more than 7000 titles every year, generating $2 billion in revenue, investing $120 million in Australian books and their promotion and employing 20,000 Australians across the industry. Australian authors, performers and film-makers are respected in their home country as well as in the global marketplace.

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© 2017 Australian Society of Authors (ASA)