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"Fears for the book industry": CAL dumps Dickens for the Little Shop of Horrors.

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the council of Australia's university presidents

Media Release

09/00 23 May 2000

“Fears for the Book Industry” CAL dumps Dickens for the Little Shop of Horrors

New claims made by the Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) that the Government’s Digital Agenda Bill will “decimate’ the Australian book market and “render Australia’s publishing and copyright trade a backwater” are just the latest in a long running series of tales from CAL designed to frighten the Government into making policy which benefits one section of the community at the expense of the greater national interest.

AVCC Deputy Executive Director, John Mullarvey said universities and libraries welcomed the prospect of the legislation ensuring that the existing balance of rights found in the hard copy arena between copyright owners and users of copyright would also apply in the digital arena. He dismissed CAL’s latest claim as its “most extravagant yet” but nonetheless one that needed to be seen as being “of a piece’ with a history of equally spurious forecasts of doom for copyright owners.

“It was inevitable that the CAL claims would become more and more Gothic as the date of the legislation approached.” Mr. Mullarvey said.

“With the Government progressively coming to a fuller understanding of the need to preserve the balance between private interests and the public good in digital copyright, CAL’s earlier characterisations of the Dickensian poverty awaiting copyright owners have been losing their impact. So Dickens has had to give way to the Little Shop of Horrors.”

“There is also an element of absurdist drama in this story too. How else is one to interpret CAL’s claim that libraries are a commercial threat to publishers?

“Let’s be very clear about this. Even leaving aside the whole question of our nation’s information needs as an open society in the digital age - if CAL really believes that fair dealing for scholarship and teaching purposes by libraries is an unconscionable infringement of authorial rights which will jeopardise Australian publishing, let it state on the public record what it proposes the Government should do to legislate against digital access in private homes which, on its argument, constitutes a far larger threat. Is it that CAL believes that it is more legitimate to view material for free, unregulated and unaudited in private homes than in the libraries where proper records are kept?

“CAL wants to extend its commercial licensing reach into libraries, yet there seems no logical reason why libraries should be singled-out. Either it is an illogical position or else CAL has some genuinely scary ideas for extending its reach into private viewing of digital material.” Mr. Mullarvey said.

Media inquiries: Greg Ellis 02 6285 8206; 0417 263 381