Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Australian Territorial Copyright

The Globe and Mail has the text of a speech given by Australian novelist Richard Flanagan (Sound of One Hand Clapping) during the Sydney Writers Festival two weeks ago. In this speech he makes and impassioned call to the Australian government to abandon their review of the policy of territorial copyright retention of which Flanagan believes is essential to the continued vibrancy and health of the nations written word.

Here are several samples from this long speech:

The battle to understand this world in our own tongue that Tyndale's Bible represents, to make the universal particular, the sacred secular, and the secular in its turn sacred, is a battle that has strangely resurfaced here in Australia this year.

For it falls to us to once more to defend the right – our right and our deepest need – to our own stories in our own voice, which is also, historically and perhaps inevitably, that same battle between truth and power.

At this moment, as many of you would be aware, the Australian government is giving serious consideration to a proposal that would see the ending of territorial copyright for Australian writers.

This dullest and dreariest of phrases – territorial copyright – is the drab motley thrown over a measure which will do untold damage to Australian culture. I cannot begin to convey to you the destructive stupidity of what is being proposed, nor the intense sadness and great anger that so many Australian writers feel about this proposal.


But Australian publishing over the last four decades is an extraordinary cultural achievement. In an era when national cultures suffered greatly from globalization, ours grew stronger, in no small part because of our book industry. We read Australian stories from cradle to grave, and the best of our writing is judged around the world as globally significant.


Writers and books that matter will become like an endangered species with no habitat left to support them. The fate of most of them in the large chain and discount mega-store culture will be that of marsupials in new outer suburbs, dicing with death on freeways, not knowing until that short moment of blinding light dazzle that this is no longer their home.

That is but a small sample.

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