25 Feb 2010

Copyright position with books to remain unchanged

by Mary Still, John Fairbairn

On 11 November 2009 the Government announced that it would not change the Australian Regulatory regime with respect to books. This was contrary to the recommendation of the Productivity Commission which recommended that the Government remove parallel importation restrictions on books contained in the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth).

Australian authors and publishers have campaigned vigorously against any proposal which would see parallel importation restrictions removed. The Productivity Commission Report, while it acknowledged that removing the parallel importation restrictions would have an adverse impact on Australian authors and publishers, nevertheless recommended that the restrictions be removed and that authors and publishers be provided with additional funding to compensate them for the loss.

Presently under the Act, booksellers are prevented from sourcing cheaper editions of books from markets overseas, as long as the Australian rights holder has released the book within 30 days of it being published elsewhere. This protection has benefited Australian publishers and authors who have been able to sell in the Australian market without being undercut by cheaper commercial imports. In addition, the parallel importation restrictions have operated to place a higher demand on local printing. While these costs are likely to be met by consumers through higher prices on book titles, there is an exception to the restriction with consumers able to purchase books directly from overseas via the internet through outlets such as Amazon, The Book Depository and DA Direct.

Ultimately the Government has determined that it will not remove the restrictions, believing instead that the book industry in Australia is under huge competitive pressure from these online book sellers and the availability of electronic books. The availability of such sources for literary material will inevitably increase the pressure on prices and the Government believes this will lead to a decrease in pricing. In view of this the Government considered that changing the provisions of the Act governing book imports was unlikely to have any material impact on the availability of books in Australia or their price.

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Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication. Persons listed may not be admitted in all States and Territories.