The Federal Government has announced that there will be no change to the current parallel importation provisions for books under the Copyright Act 1968 and has decided not to commit to a new spending program for Australian authors and publishers, as proposed by the Productivity Commission.
A media release issued by the Minister for Innovation, the Hon Dr Craig Emerson MP, stated, “[i]n the circumstances of intense competition from online books and e-books, the Government judged that changing the regulations governing book imports is unlikely to have any material effect on the availability of books in Australia. If books cannot be made available in a timely fashion and at a competitive price, customers will opt for online sales and e-books. The Australian book printing and publishing industries will need to respond to the increasing competition from imports without relying on additional government assistance”.
In July 2009, the Productivity Commission had recommended that the parallel importation restrictions on books be removed, to allow booksellers to source cheaper editions of titles from overseas and thereby reduce book prices, increase distribution and their ability to compete with online bookstores. The Commission acknowledged however that such a course would adversely affect Australian authors, publishers and culture.
UPDATE: Mallesons Partner Natalie Hickey discusses the implications of the government’s decision on Sky Business Channel’s Law TV program here.