From The Guardian:
It may seem at the moment that the only thing that will save the Australian book industry is moving every publisher and writer into Christopher Pyne’s electorate, and making them all wear hi-vis jackets and safety helmets.
For we have in recent weeks discovered that the Turnbull government is considering proposals for a writer to not have any rights in their work 15 to 25 years after it’s first published. So Mem Fox has no rights in Possum Magic. Stephanie Alexander has no rights in A Cook’s Companion. Elizabeth Harrower has no rights in The Watch Tower. John Coetzee has no rights in his Booker winning Life and Times of Michael K. Nor Peter Carey to The Kelly Gang, nor Tim Winton to Cloudstreet. Anyone can make money from these books except the one who wrote it.
The Abbott and now Turnbull governments’ record drips with a contempt for writers and writing that leaves me in despair. They want to thieve our past work, and, by ending parallel importation restrictions and territorial copyright, destroy any future for Australian writers.
That contempt has been made concrete in the report of the Orwellian titled Productivity Commission. The Productivity Commission doesn’t dare call books books. Instead they are called – in a flourish not unworthy of Don de Lillo –cultural externalities.
In their perverted world view, the book industry’s very success is a key argument in their need to destroy the book industry, and this determination to destroy an industry is revealed in their reports as the real aim of these proposals.
Just one highly revealing quote from the Productivity Commission:
The expansion of the books production industries over recent decades has attracted and held productive resources, notably skilled labour and capital, that have thereby been unavailable for use in other industries. The upshot will have been reduced growth in employment and output in other parts of the economy.”
Replace the clumsy phrase “book production industries” with the word “kulak”, and you would have ideological cant worthy of Stalin.
. . . .
Where is prime minister Turnbull’s much vaunted innovative economy in this decision? Where exactly, prime minister, are the jobs and innovation in destroying jobs and innovation? We employ people, some 25,000 by last count. We make billions, we pay tax, we make things and we sell them here and we sell them around the world. And all at no cost to the taxpayer. And now prime minister Turnbull would destroy it all.
We are not a subsidised industry. The fossil fuel industry gets $18bn of subsidies. A single South Australian submarine worker gets $17.9m. And writers? The total direct subsidy for all Australian writers is just $2.4m. That’s it. And that’s all.
. . . .
This is a speech given to the Australian Book Industry Awards in Sydney on 19 May
Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Celine for the tip.
PG is not at all familiar with Australian politics, so many nuances underlying this article will be imperceptible to him.
In the US, the foundation for copyright law is found in Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the Constitution which grants congress the power:
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.
The “limited Times” part of copyright law has bounced all over the place.
The Copyright Act of 1790 set the duration of copyright protection as a term of 14 years from the recording of the copyright registration, with the right to renew for one additional 14 year term should the copyright holder still be alive. This structure mirrored the provisions of the Statute of Anne in Britain.
Today, the duration of copyright protection is for the life of the creator plus 70 years in the US.
As far as changes in the Australian law are concerned, Australia is a signatory to the The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works which requires that copyright protection last for at least 50 years after the author’s death for any work except for photographic and cinematographic works.
PG is not certain whether The Berne Convention is a bulwark or a speed bump for the supposed intention of the Australian government to substantially reduce the term of Australian copyrights.