Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Australian book industry should be declared 'Demented'.

I would hazard a guess that only a handful of authors, publishers and their association representatives have actually read the Productivity Commission's draft report into Australia's intellectual property laws, or the Australian Law Reform Commission's 2013 report Copyright and the Digital Economy, or the Harper Review of our competition laws - much less any of the detailed and knowledgeable submissions that were lodged by numerous parties during the inquiry processes.

You can tell that by the dated and long-discredited rhetoric that's been continually spewed into the media condemning these highly regarded bodies' thoughtful and well-argued recommendations.

The book industry's arguments have been comprehensively dismissed time and again after careful and rigorous analysis, but the industry never learns and never adjusts. We get the same old, same old statements and arguments as if their demolition never took place.

The APA responded to the PC's draft report with this sort of familiar abuse: 'a radical manifesto'; 'one-sided analysis': 'an agenda for sabotage'.

Copyright Agency joined in: 'one of the greatest dangers to Australian-made content in a generation'; 'a wrecking ball'; 'it would lead to serious job losses throughout Australia's creative community'.

Author Tom Keneally couldn't help himself: '... the very medium through which ideas are disseminated in Australia, the publishing industry... eviscerated'; '... the ecology.. will wither'; 'the coming immolation'.

Author Jackie French pitched in: 'One in four Australian jobs are in the creative industries. This report will... abolish most of them'.

When the industry keeps coughing up this sort of anti-intellectual, vacuous bile, how on earth can it be expected to be taken seriously in the ongoing debate? The PC has called for input to help it frame its final report, due in August. How open could it possibly be to empty-headed abuse just restating delusional propositions that it and similar government inquiries have patiently dissected and rejected time and time again?

It's of course to be expected that industry bodies would voice lowest common denominator opinion. They always do - whatever the industry. Their representatives are paid to be shills.

But what I find profoundly disappointing is when our deeply respected and much loved authors indulge in the same sort of mindlessness. When we need intellectual rigour we get sentimentality. When we need calm and sober reflection on facts and evidence we get reckless, apocalyptic, doom and gloom melodrama.

The author community both in Australia and the US has, from day one, got it all wrong on Google's book scanning project. Time and again they've lost their legal battles over fair use. At every stage their arguments have been found wanting. But they adamantly refuse to learn, to acknowledge, to see sense, to respect the right of the wider public to embrace good public policy.

And most importantly, to comprehend what copyright law is actually all about - establishing the social and economic balances that make it work for everyone.

It's not only disappointing. It's shameful.

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