My Presentation to the Australian Productivity Commission

Well about now I’ll be delivering a five minute speech to the Australian productivity Commission’s public hearings into Intellectual Property Arrangement from the Mercure Hotel on 85-87 North Quay Street Brisbane QLD 4000, Leichhardt Room.

First of all I’d like to thank everyone who has contacted me or sent me encouraging messages. I wouldn’t have the confidence to pursue this if not for your support.

For anyone who is not quite sure what this is about, I’ve blogged on the issue of the proposal to reduce the duration of copyright here and here. I also made a nuisance of myself in comments here, which led to the very wonderful Di Morrissey giving me a kind mention here.

Fortunately, I won’t be alone. I’ll be on a panel with Melanie Hill and Christine Bongers. The lovely Louise Sherwin-Stark from Hachette will be there all day too. She has reached out to me and we’ve chatted via e-mail. I appreciate her kindness and support.

Special mention to Anderson Cheung from the Australian Productivity Commission who has been terrific in organising this opportunity. I’d like to thank him very much.

If time and opportunity permits I hope to have the opportunity to live Tweet my impressions. If so, you’ll find them here.

And so, here’s my presentation:

My name is Jacqui Carling-Rodgers.

I am ex-newspaper journalist, former director of an award-winning advertising agency, and under the name of Elizabeth Ellen Carter, an award-winning historical romance and historical fiction author.

First of all I would like to thank the Australian Productivity Commission for the opportunity to discuss my concerns with the findings of the Intellectual Property Arrangement report.

Specifically, Finding 4.2:

“While hard to pinpoint an optimal copyright term, a more reasonable estimate would be closer to 15 to 25 years after creation; considerably less than 70 years after death.”

The obvious question is, ‘reasonable to whom?’

Certainly not to me; certainly not to the United States, nor to the EU. Why Australia would want to be an outlier on this matter invites speculation worthy of a suspense novel.

I’ve read through the relevant section of the report.

The recommendation that copyright protection should be severely curtailed comes from two academic reports which start from an erroneous premise, and lack understanding of the arts and entertainment industry.

Creative works do have a commercial life after 20 years. Just listen to the radio or watch television commercials for proof of this.

The truth of the matter is, the opportunity to maximise a back catalogue is integral to an author’s earning capacity. Every title is important.

People who buy my latest book often go back and purchase previous titles. That’s how I earn my living.

The bulk of my sales are ebooks.

Limiting the length of copyright would give anyone with PDF or an .epub file the right to trade on an author’s name, reputation and product without compensation. I would be competing against myself for sales and receiving no income from it.

A book is unique. It is both intellectual property and a tangible asset that can be bought, sold and traded. Protection, even after the death of its creator, is not at all unreasonable.

Here is a personal example:

Philip Rodgers was an English musician and teacher who wrote arrangements on recorder, flute and guitar for music students.

After he passed away, royalties from those books helped support his widow and her young son.

According to my husband, the amount of money his mother received each month may have only been small — the equivalent of a week’s groceries — but its value was great when there was little money coming in to the home.

Copyright protection and duration matters for another very important reason: the preservation of natural rights.

To quote 17th century jurist John Locke: “every Man has a Property in his own Person. This, no Body has any Right to but himself. The Labour of his Body, and the Work of his Hands, we may say, are properly his“.

Locke did not come to this conclusion in a vacuum. The inviolability of property rights is one of the enduring principles in the 800 year old Magna Carter on which our common law is derived.
Any abridging of intellectual property rights with respect to copyright protection sets a dangerous precedent. It dictates how long you may own your own property.

If protection of intellectual property is eroded today, then ownership of physical property is at risk tomorrow.

And all because an erroneous premise based on demonstrably incorrect academic research has decided what you may own and for how long you may own it.

Thank you.

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