Thursday, July 23, 2009

PIR Abolition in Australia

I have no intention of weighing into this debate with my reasoning as to why I am pissed at the suggestion of the Australian Government Productivity Commissions (AGPC) findings that the government abolish Parallel Importation Restrictions - effectively wiping out Australia as a separate copyright market, turning us into a dumping ground for other countries unwanted leftovers, and placing the kiss of death on Australian culture's literary voice.

In short, we become a part of the Commonwealth publishing scene all over again. No longer will you be able to sell your debut novel to by dividing up US Rights, UK rights, Australian rights, and the rest of the world rights, and then move onto languages and hopefully the blockbuster film rights. Now it will be US, UK (which will include OZ), other markets.

And the overall factor behind this decision: to enable cheaper books to be sold to the Australian consumer. Excuse me while I say 'WTF?'

Hand up every time you've heard a business say 'if we make this change, then prices will go down - trust me.'

Now everyone put down there hand who remember when, after the change was implemented, a business reduced the cost of the items to lower their profit margin and benefit the consumer.

Has anyone put their hand down? Anyone seen a huge reduction in the price of petrol when the cost of a barrel drops on the world market. It can go up and down like a yo-yo, $10-$20 a barrel and yet weeks later we may see a minimal drop at the pump. Or the same day we will see a price rise depending on the direction of the yo-yo...

So much for me not commenting on this.

What I wanted was to point out something I found a little funny/ironic. The very first paragraph of the AGPCs report is the standard spiel on Australian Copyright, the very thing the report is advising our government to tear down in an effort to make our literary voice weaker and the big publishing chains and book stores that much richer. Okay, that's not why they're advising this course of action, at least not publically.

Like most Australian's on most topics, I showed a fair bit of apathy when I first heard of this, but now that I've read (or in the process of reading) all the documentation available to me, either someone is getting some huge kickbacks from the big boys in the publishing industry, or others within government just don't have their eyes open. Or both.

I'm currently reading the whole report the link above points to, so it may be in there, but it seems to me that "The Coalition for Cheaper Books" (aka Dymocks, Coles, Woolies) and the publishing industry (Australian publishers, editors, agents, writers, associations, etc) are the two sides providing the opposing arguments - has anybody surveyed the public?

**Edit** Appendix A to the report covers public consultation, that is where there announcement of the study was advertised and submissions of interested parties were called for. So the initial spur for the report was obviously not a growing ground swell of disgruntlement from the consumer. Unfortunately it doesn't list off the general content of each submission in so far as the number of submissions for and against, but it seems that most were from associations, authors, and other interested parties opposed to the removal of PIRs - so how did they come to the conclusion that it was the stance they should take? **End Edit**

Australian's as a whole aren't overly 'artsy' in nature. Most regular families in the 'burbs don't attend art galleries or the ballet on a semi-regular basis. I guarantee you that they all know the importance of reading, and they would all place an emphasis on their kids reading something either about Australia, or by an Australian author, while at school. The preference would be a book meeting both criteria.

The bottom line for this recommended change seems to be greater opportunity for competition resulting in lower book prices for consumers.

I don't remember the last news report I read concerning consumers complaining about being ripped off due to the high price of books. Nor do I remember hearing anything about a sharp decline in sales, or the Australian market being in a bigger slump than the rest of the world - actually the general feeling seems to be Australia is doing pretty well, and the Australian genre sphere is actually on the trend upwards (particularly dark fiction). So if the end beneficiary of this dismantling of the Australian copyright territory is the consumer, why haven't they been asked? And if they're not complaining, if they're actually starting to return toward pre-economic crisis sales points, why would we want to change anything?

Again I ask the AGPC - WTF?

So much for not weighing in...


  1. (I'm from the UK!) It seems to me that Australia has been aligning itself with the US on things like the DMCA, copyright extension and pervasive media DRM, so this is hardly a surprise. It sounds like a land grab by US interests to absorb Australian publishing.

  2. I've been reading up on this all day and getting more pissed by the second.

    Imagine if UK rights suddenly included all of Europe so you lost the ability to negotiate separate deals for all the different countries in the EU.

    If this goes through, it won't be Oz becoming part of US publishing, Oz will become part of Commonwealth rights so if you strike a deal in the UK, you can't strike another deal for Oz because it'll already be included.

    The stupidity of it all is that part of the report is based on case studies of major English speaking countries like the UK, US, Canada and NZ. All of them except NZ still retain PIRs, but instead of going with the majority, we're going to go with NZ, whose PIR status is based on combined ANZ conditions. In the end, we repeal our PIR and drag NZ into whole of commonwealth rights deals as well weakening both countries publishing industry.

    It's ludicrous.

    Fingers crossed this gets rejected again like it has been numerous times over the last 20 years, even though quite a few 'independent' reports have advised to remove them.

  3. I agree that removing Australian copyright protection for Australian work is ludicrous. I also don't see how that will significantly lower the price of books in OZ.

    Given all the other factors (paper, printing, shipping, storage, etc.), I just don't see how this copyright change could possibly affect the cost by more than a few cents per book--even if it were passed on to the consumer.

    But I will say that the price of books is Australia is uncommonly high, at least compared to the US. When I was there in 2004, I was shocked at the price of books in the shops.

  4. We seem to pay a little more for everything. I'm guessing a lot of that has to do with the tax system we have and our didtance from everyone else.

    Shipping adds a large slice onto every book. When taken into account, buying a book on Amazon and then shipping it here makes the price fairly comparable.

    How hard is it to get a green card in the US?

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