The Australian book industry publishes more than 7000 titles every year,
generating $2 billion in revenue,
investing $120 million in Australian books and their promotion,
employing 20,000 Australians across the industry.
The Australian book industry does not depend on tariffs or subsidies. This is the largest cultural success story in the country.
It is now at risk
Today the Australian Government Productivity Commission has released its draft report into Intellectual Property Arrangements. Among the recommendations of the Commission has been to lift Australia’s parallel importation rules (PIRs) on books.
What are PIRs?
Currently the parallel importation of books into Australia is regulated, which means that retailers can only buy bulk copies of a book from the publisher who holds Australian rights. That publisher has to make that book available in Australia very quickly in order to retain their exclusivity, however, and both booksellers and consumers are free to purchase single copies of any book direct from the overseas supplier at any time.
Pro removal argument
Advocates hope that if the rules changed, local booksellers would become more competitive with lower retail prices and timelier availability of titles.
The reality is, however, that Australia is a highly competitive book market with bookshops, book chains, discounters, department stores and local and international internet retailers all slugging it out with the result that book prices have dropped in real terms by 30% in the last 10 years. In addition, many popular titles are routinely sold at 35% discount in major retail chains.
The real effects of removing PIRs
The removal of PIRs would essentially dismantle the concept of territorial copyright for Australian authors and their publishers, a benefit that would still be enjoyed by their colleagues in the UK and USA. This would have the effect of:
- Significantly reducing the value of international rights trading, which is how Australian authors and their publishers manage financial risk and increase income.
- Reducing local print runs because of the risk of overseas stock flooding the local market.
- Reducing author income because of this potential shift from local retail royalties to the lower net receipt royalties of overseas editions.
- Reducing purchasing of international rights by Australian publishers, a practice which has allowed the local industry to generate income to invest in Australian authors.
This is why the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) strongly supports the retention of PIRs. It is NOT because we are against healthy competition. NOR is it because we don’t care about providing the best possible service to the reader.
We simply want to maintain a healthy Australian book industry by allowing our authors to retain the same level of copyright benefits enjoyed by their fellow writers in the UK and the USA; a level of copyright that ensures that an author or illustrator in Australia can control their own destiny and remuneration by retaining the capability to licence their creative endeavours in both Australia and throughout the world.
The ASA represents 3000 professional writers and illustrators across Australia, who are not only innovative and creative, but are also the people who spend their working lives building Australia’s cultural identity.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said, “the Australia of the future has to be a nation that is agile, that is innovative, that is creative.” Australian authors epitomise innovation and creativity.
Don’t allow unproven free market ideology reduce their voices to a whisper. Retain territorial copyright. Sign our petition.