Parallel Import Restrictions being retained!

Posted on November 11, 2009


In the face of strenuous opposition around the country, the Australian Productivity Commission had recommended to the government some time back that Parallel Import Restrictions on books be lifted. The whole slew of recommendations were, in my opinion, a poorly considered short-term view. The justification was that books would become cheaper. The income base of existing authors would supposedly be protected by recommended introduction of government grants. Tough luck for those who were not already published authors and faced an even steeper uphill climb under the Fels scenario. There were other means of making books cheaper, such as lifting tax on them. Instead, Professor Allan Fels and his cohorts argued strongly that the only means of making books cheaper was to allow excess production from other countries to be dumped on the Australian market. Significantly, countries such as the UK and USA, while being in a position to shift more product onto the market outside of current Australian publishing channels, flatly refused to lift their own restrictions.

This morning, the Australian Competition Minister announced that the government would not be implementing the recommendations. This is a victory for the entire Australian publishing industry. Significantly, about the only voices in favour of the Fels recommendations were a narrow coterie of big business interests.

Following is a press release from the Australian Society of Authors. While it is rather gratuitous as there were definitely more than just the ASA campaigning against these recommendations, nonetheless it does reflect wide-spread pleasure and relief at this morning’s announcement. Ironically, Prof Fels was due to be debating this very subject at 12:30pm today at the National Press Club, with the CEO of Melbourne University Publishing. The topic? What price cheaper books? I wonder what dear Prof Fels had to say?

From: Jeremy Fisher []
Sent: Wednesday, 11 November 2009 11:24 AM
To: Jeremy Fisher
Subject: PRESS RELEASE: ASA Members Victors in Parallel Importation Debate!

PRESS RELEASE: ASA Members Victors in Parallel Importation Debate

The ASA congratulates its members and our colleagues in the Australian publishing industry in their united, sustained and ultimately successful campaign to retain territorial copyright.

“The ASA membership has once again demonstrated its quiet strength,” ASA Executive Director Dr Jeremy Fisher declared. “Our members have been constantly telephoning and writing to their parliamentary representatives pointing out how the removal of territorial copyright would destroy Australia’s literary culture and publishing industry. Their persistence has been rewarded. Our leaders have listened. Today’s announcement by Competition Minister Craig Emerson that the parallel importation restrictions in our Copyright Act will remain unchanged is a clear victory for Australia’s literary creators.”

Dr Fisher also acknowledged that the Australian publishing industry was facing significant pressures and authors needed to bear these in mind.

“Minister Emerson correctly highlights the fact that e-books and digital technology are having an impact on the Australian publishing industry,” Dr Fisher said. “The ASA welcomes change. We constantly seek new means to increase authors’ incomes. We are currently in discussions relating to fair contracts for authors with regard to e-books and products such as Kindle. We have also taken an active role in the US-based Google Book Settlement, which will see authors being able to pursue income streams for out-of-print works. The ASA will always seek improved income streams for its members in both print and digital forms.”

Dr Fisher has announced that he will leave the ASA on December 11 to take up the position of Senior Lecturer in Writing at the University of New England.

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