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Did Sibal just get arm-twisted by book publishers?

by Prasad Krishna last modified May 28, 2012 06:08 AM
The publishing industry seems to have got the better of the Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal. Pranesh Prakash's article on parallel importation of books is referred in this article published in FirstPost on May 25, 2012.
Did Sibal just get arm-twisted by book publishers?

Allowing parallel imports, argues the author, will dismantle distribution monopoly rights. PIB

The move to open up the market for distribution of international books to competition has been successfully thwarted with the removal of an amendment allowing parallel imports from the Copyright (Amendment) Bill, 2012 that was passed by the Lok Sabha on 22 May.

This despite the Parliamentary Standing Committee supporting the amendment on the grounds that it will increase student access to books.

But it could well only be a temporary victory for the publishing giants with Sibal promising to restore the amendment if the National Council of Applied Economic Research – to which the matter has been referred – should in its report (expected in August) recommend parallel imports.

The draft bill (which included the amendment) had created a furore in publishing circles last year. Parallel imports, claimed leading publishing houses, would destroy the industry. Read Thomas Abraham’s Death of Books published last year in The Hindustan Times.

While that remains open for debate, there is no denying the larger common good of faster and cheaper availability of books to millions of students that parallel imports will make possible. Ordering books may no longer be a click away if Flipkart had to take permission from the Indian copyright owner every time you ordered an international title.

In an article titled Why Parallel Importation of Books should be Allowed published by The Centre for Internet and Society Pranesh Prakash makes a compelling case for ending the distribution monopoly.

Underlying the huge benefit to students, the author says “Currently a large percentage of educational books in India are imported, but with different companies having monopoly rights in importation of different books. If this was opened up to competition, the prices of books would drop, since one would not need to get an authorisation to import books—the licence raj that currently exists would be dismantled—and Indian students will benefit.

“This is especially important for students and for libraries because even when low-priced editions are available, they are often of older editions.”

The article also argues how the business model of hugely popular site such as Flipkart depends on parallel imports to deliver books to its customers at great bargains.

Allowing parallel imports, argues the author, will dismantle distribution monopoly rights and help book publishers, libraries, the print-disabled and consumers in general. He also makes the important distinction between the black market and parallel imports, which is legal.

Offering a point-by-point rebuttal of the publishing industry’s claims of the destructive impact of parallel imports, the author observes “It seems to us that the publishing industry – especially foreign publishers with distributorship in India – don’t want to open themselves up to competition in the distribution market and are opposing this most commendable move.”

He concludes that allowing parallel imports will, in fact, result in an expansion of the reading market.

“It is mainly foreign publishers’ monopoly rights over distribution which will be harmed by this amendment, while Indian publishers, Indian authors, and Indian readers, especially students, will stand to gain. Furthermore, in the long run, even foreign publishers will stand to gain due to market expansion. Any legitimate worries that publishers may have are better dealt with under other laws (such as the Customs Act) and not the Copyright Act.”

Read the original from FirstPost.India

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