Leading authors sound the alarm on post-Brexit copyright changes | Editing


Best-selling writers including Philip Pullman and Kate Mosse warn of a ‘potentially devastating’ change in UK copyright laws that could hurt authors’ livelihoods by flooding the UK market with good foreign publications market.

The Intellectual Property Office launched a consultation this week in the UK’s post-Brexit copyright approach. One option under consideration would be to change the “exhaustion of copyright” rule, which governs the expiration of a rightsholder’s control over the distribution of their property. For example, if a customer purchases a book, then the copyright owner of the book will not be able to prevent the customer from selling that book to another person in the same territory.

As part of the EU’s single market, a first sale within the European Economic Area was the point at which the copyright owner can no longer control subsequent distribution, but Brexit means that the rules of the UK are in the process of being reconsidered. Authors and publishers fear that changing the rules could mean cheap international editions of a book would flow into the UK, eroding any money authors could make from a nationwide sale.

Pullman warned that after Brexit, “the rules that govern copyright are subject to change and authors could lose this valuable ability to sell their work overseas and get paid fairly for it.”

He urged the government to “realize the enormous importance of copyright law, not only for individual authors (the vast majority of whom are neither rich nor famous) but also for the global reputation of the author. ‘British writing and the book trade in general’.

“Copyright is easy to understand in principle: authors should have the right to make a living from their work. If people love their books and buy them, authors should benefit, and the law should support their right to do so, ”said the author of His Dark Materials. “We have to secure the future of the book as well as the past, and the way to do that is to firmly support the principle of copyright. Authors must be entitled to a fair reward.

Mosse, author of the bestselling Labyrinth and founder of the Women’s Prize, said: “If we don’t ensure that writers remain respected for their work, many will be forced to leave the industry and the British cultural landscape will suffer greatly. .

“It will become less diverse, less innovative, less inspiring,” Mosse said. “Copyright is the foundation of authors’ income and ensures that everyone – regardless of their background or genre of writing – is paid properly for their talent. “

The Publishers Association has warned that a change in copyright laws could “have a significant impact” on authors’ livelihoods, with royalties on export sales being much lower than on books. published for the UK market. He believes the changes could damage Britain’s Main Street as well, with online retail giants such as Amazon benefiting from cheap foreign editions imported to UK readers at the expense of brick-and-mortar bookstores .

“This is a critical time and the greatest threat to our industry after Brexit. The strength of UK copyright laws are essential to ensure that authors and publishers are paid for their work. these laws would be devastating for authors’ incomes and for the UK book industry as a whole, resulting in fewer books, by fewer authors, for fewer readers, ”said Managing Director Stephen Lotinga.

The government is currently seeking advice on future UK rules on the exhaustion of intellectual property rights. Secretary of State for Affairs Kwasi Kwarteng, announcing the consultation, said: “The UK now has the regulatory freedom to choose its own regime for the exhaustion of intellectual property rights and it is right to carefully consider whether current arrangements serve the best interests of the UK.


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