Why on earth do authors think they should have a say on matters like book prices and copyright?

How about:

  • Copyright is property, we create it, just as…a company that invents a drug owns the fruit of their labour … No-one would think it was reasonable if the government…told drug companies they would no longer enjoy the protection of patents. Why is it okay when the Productivity Commission recommends doing the same thing to writers and publishers?

That’s one answer the author James Bradley has put up on his blog, City of Tongues.

Here’s another:

  • The license I grant my various publishers is exclusive. That means the American publisher can’t try and sell the book into Australia or the UK, [and vice versa] …The reason for this is obvious. Imagine I take my book to an Australian publisher and ask them if they’d like to publish it. They say they would, but then I tell them I’ve already sold the rights to an American and a British publisher, and because the restrictions on parallel importation have been lifted, those publishers are likely to be importing books into Australia as well. Odds are the Australian publisher would laugh in my face, but even if they didn’t, my capacity to commercialize my work has obviously been severely diminished.

Which means:

  • As the example above demonstrates, the exclusivity created by territorial copyright (or, to describe it as the Productivity Commission does, the restriction on parallel importation) is not trivial, it’s the basis of the market. Without exclusivity the rights are, if not quite worthless, then certainly much less valuable … the abolition of territorial copyright will mean I lose not only that portion of my income I derive from selling Australian rights, but that the economic benefit of my work will end up offshore, in the hands of a foreign publisher… [my emphasis]

And as well:

  • It would also decimate the local industry, which, like the British and American industries, derives much of its income from managing rights to books written elsewhere. Independent publishers would either go under, or shift their focus to publishing work with absolutely no international potential, while the larger multinationals would become little more than clearing houses for books written elsewhere.

It’s a lucid and nuanced post and I could keep extracting,
but why not read it all there.

Update: I had meant to say that the first extract above is taken from Bradley’s reply to a reader’s comment – the comment thread is well worth reading too.

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