Publishers “at risk of losing social licence <br>to be in business”

Publishers “at risk of losing social licence
to be in business”

-    London Book Fair Lecture sparks new debate
-    Copyright balance a “false dichotomy”
-    Practical measures suggested to support creativity

At last week’s London Book Fair, Professor Michael Fraser delivered the latest Charles Clark Memorial Lecture and in doing so sparked a new debate about the role of publishers and the perception of copyright.

Speaking to an audience of over 200 leading publishers, writers and copyright practitioners and academics, Fraser’s talk, ‘What are Publishers for?’ offered a fresh perspective on some established positions.

The lecture challenged the long-held view that copyright exists to balance owners’ rights with access for users, with Fraser labelling it a “false dichotomy”.

Instead Fraser posited that copyright is the legal expression of the human right of authors to protection of moral and material interests in their works and  of authors and publishers ‘to participate in the cultural life of the community’ by giving access to their works, which he described as their vocation.

He added that copyright is a pillar of freedom of expression, supporting quality writing and publishing. He made clear that original works of high quality require long and continual, professional dedication by authors and publishers, who should be paid for their efforts.

He supported this by arguing that the ideology behind free content is flawed, and that pirates and anti-copyright campaigners are authoritarian rather than freedom fighters, quoting the human right to copyright.

Fraser also warned that publishers are losing their social licence to be in business, and that once this is lost no amount of enforcement can protect intellectual property from being appropriated. He reiterated that publishers are producers, much like other media owners, and so there should be increased awareness of their value and corresponding rights.

Fraser ended by offering a practical prescription for the industry, including:

  • continuing to advocate for strong, secure copyright protection
  • focussing on quality when delivering innovative new services to meet the market demand for multi-media, multi-format, multi-channel, multi-licensing services
  • and for publishers to build and strengthen direct relationships with readers through value adding features and personalisation.

Read the transcript of the full lecture.

About Professor Michael Fraser
Professor Michael Fraser, Faculty of Law at the University of Technology, Sydney, is a founder and previous CEO of the Copyright Agency Limited in Australia, where he worked for twenty one years.  He is currently Chairman of the Australian Copyright Council, Chairman of the Stolen Generations Testimonies Foundation, and Director of the Dictionary of Sydney Inc.

About the Charles Clark Lecture
The Charles Clark Lecture, which focuses on key developments in the world of copyright, has been running since 2008 and has grown to be one of London Book Fair’s largest lectures. The lecture is held annually to celebrate the achievements of Charles Clark (1933-2006); British publisher and lawyer who was an authority on the law of copyright.

The Charles Clark Lecture is sponsored by the:

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Joanna Waters
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Paul Rollins
Communications Manager, CLA      020 7400 3140