Claims Of Demise Of Local Book Market Are Nonsense

Claims by copyright owner interests that the proposed Digital Agenda Copyright Bill would result in the 'decimation of the local book market' are simply wrong.

Australian policy makers must ignore such misleading claims and continue to work for copyright reform in the interests of all Australians.

“Contrary to these claims, libraries, educational institutions, scientific and research organisations and others are firmly of the view that balanced copyright law is in the best interests of Australia’s burgeoning information economy.” said Mr Steve Heptonstall, Chair of the Australian Digital Alliance.

Copyright Agency Limited (CAL), a book industry ‘middle-man’ threatened by the rise of new technologies, and the publishing sector continue to denounce the Bill because it does not meet their demands. They have demanded that all uses of electronic copyright material, no matter how small or how private be licensed. This includes the basic act of actually reading, something all Australians take for granted. They have further demanded that the rights of students, libraries and researchers be stripped away in the digital environment, and the Government said no.

“These latest statements from certain proprietary interests are about a grab for more money. They grossly misrepresent non-profit libraries as ‘free riders’ which will compete with commercial publishing ventures. This never has and never will be true.” said Mr Tom Cochrane, Chair of the Australian Libraries Copyright Committee. “No matter how many times this story is repeated, it bears little resemblance to the reality: non-profit libraries are not and never will be a threat to the publishers’.”

The Digital Agenda Bill simply allows libraries to utilise new technology in providing the same services to the same limited user group that they have always existed to serve. The Bill does not increase the range of activities that libraries will be able to carry out under the Copyright Act.

‘The idea that these provisions harm Australian authors is just nonsense. Australian libraries are filled with authors researching their next great work.’ Ms Jan Fullerton, Director General of the National Library of Australia said. ‘Harming Australian libraries will only harm Australian authors and make us dependent on overseas content.’

“Put simply, the Bill will allow a library to email a 
document to a user rather than fax it.”

“Libraries have had tightly regulated rights to copy limited amounts of copyright material for their users for a long time. Despite this the scientific, technical and medical publishing sector continues to make record profits out of its ‘captive markets’. Nevertheless, the publishers wanted the chance to make even more money out of a sector that already forks out tens of millions of dollars buying their product. They didn’t get it.” said Mr Nick Smith, Executive Officer of the Australian Digital Alliance.

“CAL’s interest in this is simple,” said Mr Charles Britton, Senior Policy Officer of the Australian Consumers’ Association “CAL wants fewer rights for libraries so that it can extend its licensing reach. It’s complaints about the Bill have nothing to do with the interests of consumers or the future of the information economy. It’s terrified that its traditional role based on shifting pieces of paper around will disappear with the rise of new technologies and it wants to carve out something for itself while it can.’

To its credit, the Government has made balanced policy decisions after careful consultations with all interests. There is nothing of substance in this latest round of complaints to merit a change in the current policy.