Thursday, March 27, 2008

Territorial Rights Aren't Fair (Dinkum)

Henry Rosenbloom is an Australian publisher as well as well known commentator on media and publishing matters impacting the Australian publishing market. As a publisher in a market which has traditionally represented the icing on the cake for many UK based publishers he has a perspective on the manner in which territorial rights are auctioned. The entire system is an anachronism based on the pseudo-political "commonwealth" but finally leaks are starting to appear in the edifice.

It is an interesting post and perhaps his most interesting point is that he blames the current territorial rights framework for harming the Australian publishing market. No doubt the real changes will occur when e-Book versions are universally available; that will make traditional 'territorial' right hard to sustain. From his post:
In recent years, despite the continuation of neo-colonial rule from London, an insurgency has emerged: Australian publishing has developed a rights-buying culture. Many houses, large and small, now look to acquire local rights in US titles. (Our own company has been prominent in this area.) Often, the books they’re interested in are of relatively little interest to UK houses; but, equally often, the UK refuses to abandon its hard-line position, because it doesn’t want to set an unwelcome precedent.

The galling thing is that Australia often understands US books better than UK publishers do — and that, when Australian houses do manage to acquire local rights, they often publish the books with verve and commercial success. They print substantial quantities, publicise the books professionally (sometimes bringing the author out for a publicity tour), and often create a market for an author that would otherwise never have existed. And they do this while paying a market price for the rights, and higher, domestic royalties to the US publishers and their authors.

(Thanks to my Australian Stringer for the lead).

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