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Thursday, 13 September 1973
Page: 1030

Mr Wilson asked the Minister for Overseas Trade, upon notice:

(1)   Can he say whether British and U.S.A. publishers have carved up the English-speaking world between them in a dual copyright monopoly under theterms of what is known as the Traditional Markets Agreement.

(2)   If so, does this course prevent Australians purchasing editions of books produced in the U.S.A. in cases where British publishers have taken up a copyright option for those books even though the British publishers do not publish the books.

(3)   What action can be taken to ensure the availability to the Australian consumer of books produced in the U.S.A. in cases where British publishers holding copyright options have refrained from making such books available to their traditional markets.

Br J. F. Cairns - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   I understand that there is an agreement called the British Traditional Markets Agreement. Under the terms of this Agreement, British publishers have agreed among themselves that they will not publish in the United Kingdom any book originating outside the British 'traditional' market (for example in the United States) unless they secure the rights to publish that book in the whole of the 'traditional' market, which includes Australia. The 'traditional' market includes virtually any country which was included in the former British Empire, except Canada.

(2)   It appears that under the operation of this Agreement, rights acquired from United States publishers by British publishers need not necessarily be exercised, i.e., the British publisher may not proceed to publication. In such cases, the books would not become available on the Australian market. Presumably, however, this would occur infrequently. However, other disadvantages to Australia are said to result from the Agreement. These include long delays between dates of publication in the United States and in Britain. It appears also that many American editions, which are not available on the Australian market, may be cheaper than the corresponding British editions. This would be the case, for example, when the American edition is in paperback and the British edition in hard cover.

(3)   The matter is currently under consideration by the Departments of Secondary Industry and Overseas Trade, and I understand that other Departments have the matter under examination also. I have been informed that discussions are to take place in London during September between representatives of the Australian Book Publishers Association and the corresponding British association, at which the representatives of the Australian Association will raise the matters I have mentioned above.

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