Jason Steger, Literary Editor, The Age
Photo: Matt Newton, http://www.matthewnewton.com.au/ . Recent Man Booker Booker Prize winner Richard Flanagan finds it “a despairing time to be an Australian writer”.

The book industry industry has reacted with horror to the Productivity Commission’s interim report into intellectual property, which recommends scrapping parallel-import restrictions on books and the adoption of the US system of “fair use” of copyright material. Authors, publishers and some booksellers are aghast at how the literary ecology would be damaged if the recommendations are enacted.

The situation now is that publishers with local rights must supply books within 14 days of publication or else shops may source books overseas. Advocates argue removal of restrictions will cut prices and accelerate supply. The so-called “fair use” system allows use of some material without payment to copyright holders

Two Australian winners of the Man Booker Prize, Richard Flanagan and Tom Keneally, are both appalled by the prospects of a stripping away of territorial copyright.

“It’s an exciting time to be Malcolm Turnbull but a despairing one to be an Australian writer,” Flanagan said. Expect to see what happened in New Zealand, the only other country credulous enough to adopt such a measure – a collapse in local publishing and the writing it supports.

“Writers receive a total of $2.1 million in federal grants. That’s all. Where’s the innovative economy in destroying your greatest cultural success story that costs the taxpayer a third of a Peter Dutton propaganda movie to deter refugees?”

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