Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What's wrong with the ABA's 7/7 compromise?

I've been asked this question, so let me go through it in a bit of detail.

Basically, it contravenes Berne.

The Berne Convention has a clear principle known as the National Treatment principle. The point of this principle is to ensure governments do not privilege their own nationally published titles against titles published by signatory countries overseas. Berne is a global copyright treaty which most governments who respect copyright around the world are party to, including Australia.

The current 30 day provision does not breach Berne, as it is possible to fly in titles published overseas and publish them 'simultaneously' in Australia within that time frame. Our Copyright Act, like those of Berne signatories, defines simultaneous publication as 'within 30 days', reflecting the commonly used and understood concept of the 'month of publication'.

No Australian government, or in fact the government of any signatory country, could adopt a seven day time frame, as this would effectively work against granting copyright protection to imported titles. It would favor titles printed within the country - originals and local editions of overseas titles - over titles first published overseas.

A seven day replenishment time frame just compounds the problem. Of course those titles published and printed by an Australian publisher, and sitting in the warehouse, are going to be able to meet the seven day benchmark (just!), but there is no way inventory can be brought in from overseas in that time frame if the title is out of stock on receipt of an order.

When the 30 day time frame was adopted by the Australian government almost twenty years ago, it was clearly explained to the APA and the ABA at the time, by the Attorney General's department (I was there), that the industry's preference to protect only 'the Australian edition' breached our treaty obligations and could therefore never be incorporated into Australian law.

The 90 days provision could, of course, be shortened to 30 days, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see the Rudd government adopt this. (It has that sort of engineered protection-plus-stretch modern industry policy flavor Rudd and his industry minister Kim Carr are attracted to).

It's just disappointing to see the ABA still banging on about protecting just an 'Australian edition'. They're not articulating it this way of course, but their 7/7 recommendation is a back door way of re-introducing it.

Move on please.

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