Friday, March 20, 2009

Australian Parallel Importation

In a story line we have been following from a distance, the Australian government has been attempting to address the impact of their protected market for books. Does it help indigenous publishing or cause consumers to pay higher prices? The commission has taken testimony from all sectors of the market (submissions are published on their web site) and have now published their preliminary findings.

There is no formal policy change at this point but they appear to be recommending only minor changes to the existing policy.

Here are the summary findings: (Report)

Key points
  • The Commission has been asked to assess the benefits and costs of Parallel Import Restrictions (PIRs) on the importation of books that are published in Australia, and to examine the merits of options for reform.
  1. The PIRs are contained within the Copyright Act, although they are additional to its core protections.
  2. Changes to the PIRs in 1991 have overcome previous concerns about the timely availability of books in Australia.
  • PIRs, by restricting competition, place upwards pressure on book prices in parts of the market:
  1. most of the benefits of these higher prices accrue to publishers and authors, with demand for local printing also increased most of the costs are met by consumers.
  • While these benefits and costs are largely offsetting, there are some resource costs for Australia, including a leakage of income to overseas authors and publishers.

  • At the same time, the PIRs help to support the ‘cultural externalities’ associated with Australian publishing. These are assessed as policy relevant, but unlikely to be large.

  • An explicit subsidy to support the cultural externalities would avoid a leakage of support overseas, but the approach would have practical drawbacks.

  • Abolition of the PIRs and reliance on consumer demand for Australian stories to deliver a sufficient level of local writing and publishing activity, while having some merit, would not be prudent at this time.

  • Changes should be made to the current PIR regime to increase competition in those parts of the market where the restrictions put most upward pressure on book prices and/or where the cultural externalities are likely to be smallest. To this end:
  1. PIR protection should only apply for 12 months from the date of first publication of a book in Australia (while retaining the 30 day release rule) the 7/90 day resupply rule should be abolished booksellers should be allowed to overtly offer an aggregation service for individual import orders under the single use provisions.
  • A further review should be held five years after implementation of the changes arising from this study.
Find more information including the submission from Leading Edge which has some good background information here: Delicious Bookmarks

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