There is an interesting situation developing in Australia with potential to directly affect Australian authors, publishing, and readers. The Australian government is looking to possibly repeal the ‘parallel importation restrictions’. The PIRs are part of the country’s Copyright Act and prohibit imports by booksellers when an Australian publisher has acquired exclusive rights and publishes the title within 30 days of original overseas publication. After this time, a bookseller may import overseas editions, but only if the book is unavailable via a local publisher for longer than 90 days.
These restrictions were put in place to ensure that if an Australian publisher holds rights to a title –whether local or overseas–then they have the exclusive right to the title’s publication in Australia. Under current practice, readers have the freedom to order a book from anywhere in the world; whereas, commercial retailers cannot without permission from the Australian publisher.
With the PIRs in place, writers and publishers have been able to develop a flourishing industry in Australia. It is the fear of those working in the field that the abolishment of these restrictions will negate all that they’ve built. No restrictions means that the market can be flooded with overseas editions, or remainder copies, which would significantly reduce author royalties and sales for local publishers.
Globally, other countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States enforce similar restrictions.
How this discussion ties in to Intellectual Freedom is as follows. In a report published in April 2016, the Productivity Commission endorsed the elimination of the restrictions, as well as limiting an author’s term of copyright, and the amount of copyrighted material which could be used without payment or permission. At the end of the proposed 15 years, an author’s work is no longer their own.
Australian Publishers Association (2016). ‘ Copyright and Creativity.’ Retrieved from http://bookscreateaustralia.com.au/wp-content/themes/books-create2/images/BooksCreate_Creativity.pdf .
Australian Publishers Association (2016). ‘Parallel Importation and Australian Publishing. Retrieved from http://bookscreateaustralia.com.au/wp-content/themes/books-create2/images/BooksCreate_Publishing.pdf.
Australian Publishers Association (2016). ‘US-Style Fair-Use and Australian Publishing. Retrieved from http://bookscreateaustralia.com.au/wp-content/themes/books-create2/images/BooksCreate_Literature.pdf.
O’Mara, Kevin. (2015). Parallel importation and the Australian book industry: here we go again. The Conversation. Retrieved from http://theconversation.com/parallel-importation-and-australian-book-publishing-here-we-go-again-51249.
Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Australia_stub.svg
Linsey Milillo works in teen and adult reference services for the Lane Libraries in Fairfield, Ohio. She’s an avid blogger with interest in reviews, programming and discussing timely issues at the center of library and information services.