The migration of the book across territorial borders: Copyright and cultural implications

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Cantatore, F. (2013, July). The migration of the book across territorial borders: Copyright and cultural implications. Paper presented at the 21st annual Conference of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading & Publishing (SHARP), Philadelphia, USA.

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Although the USA, Canada, UK and Australia currently retain territorial copyright laws, with commensurate restrictions on parallel importation of books, advances in technology and the advent of e-books have caused an involuntary migration of the book across these defined borders. This changing publishing sphere has impacted on authors’ copyright protection, with authors struggling to come to grips with breaches of copyright outside the protection of their own borders. Additionally, the extra-territorial publication of books are often in breach of authors’ copyright but difficult to address locally. A secondary consequence of the changing publishing environment is the loss of cultural essence of literary work, where books have been adapted to suit audiences in another country at publishers’ behest - e.g. Australian authored books published in the USA – only to find their way back to Australian readers via the internet.

This paper deals with the copyright issues faced by authors once their books enter the digital sphere, as well as the difficulties associated with overseas publications of their books, from a cultural perspective. It examines whether territorial copyright borders still afford book authors effective copyright protection in the digital sphere, and further, whether the culture of the book is being eroded through the prevalence of extra-territorial publications. In addressing these issues the paper incorporates recent qualitative and quantitative research conducted by the author (as part of her PhD thesis) through interviewing and surveying published Australian authors nationally.[1] The findings of the research show that, whilst publication in the digital sphere poses significant challenges for book authors, their responses to copyright challenges are varied and inconsistent, depending on their viewpoints. Furthermore, it concludes that territorial copyright borders in Australia have become blurred, and are ineffective in preserving authors’ copyright and the cultural dimensions of their books.

[1] Francina Cantatore, Negotiating a changing landscape: Authors, Copyright and the Digital Evolution (Bond University, Australia 2011).

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