Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Book Marks: Copyright vs Right To Copy, East M'sian Publishing

The Delhi High Court rejected a plea by publishers against the photocopying of books by a copy shop inside Delhi University. I find parts of the ruling problematic, because it seems to suggest that restrictions based on copyright can be disregarded for a greater good, like making knowledge more accessible to a population that can't afford the more expensive original print copies and it's pointless to restrict because technology (Google's book digitisation project comes to mind).

A bookshop owner hailed the ruling, saying that "photocopying like making generic drugs". I don't know if that's valid, as formulas for most generic drugs come from previously patented products that are protected from any sort of "copying" for a period, and print is much easier to steal than chemical formulae.

Students will be happy with this, but this decision might legalise book piracy in India, as someone pointed out in the Business Insider India.

Okay, copyrights for books do expire. Textbooks are expensive like heck and inconveniences students, and something needs to be done to address this. But the work that goes into publishing these books isn't cheap, and not enough appears to be done to make people realise that. Photocopying and taking pictures of pages with smartphones is still piracy. More awareness and more enforcement is required.

"...the publishing scene in Pakistan is pathetic to non-existent. [Oxford University Press] Pakistan is the only reputed publishing house in the country and they work with specific kinds of books. There is no scope for fiction writers, literary and commercial.

"Pakistani writers have almost no option but to publish in India, or in the UK or the US. Most top Indian publishers have an excellent distribution network in Pakistan and books published here can be made available within a few weeks of publishing."

A Q&A with Indian literary agent Kanishka Gupta. I wonder what he thinks of the Delhi High Court ruling over photocopying books.


  • The Star looked at the state of publishing in East Malaysia, and explores whether more can come out of Sabah and Sarawak than just folk tales. The answer, one gathers, is yes, but why was there no mention of Bangkit?
  • "...when I said I quit my day job, it wasn't because I could live on the publisher's advance indefinitely. It was because I opted to become a financial dependent for the first time in my adult life, which has proven stressful for my relatively young marriage and even more stressful for my writing. I haven't been able to write since the moment I started thinking I could or should be making money as a writer." This writer had some serious delusions. Remember: no matter how much you love words, words don't love you back.
  • Why are Irish publishers shut out of the Man Booker prize, asks Sarah Davis-Goff in The Guardian. "Let’s be clear: the Man Booker prize is a British award and they can make up whatever rules about inclusivity – or exclusivity – they like." If it's true that the prize is only eligible for books published in the UK, then the unknown complainer I wrote about several years ago - unless he had a UK publisher - never had a chance to begin with.
  • "Aiyah, saw that Ah Beng give a hongbao to an Oompa-Loompa at a kopitiam!" Just some of the scrumdiddlyumptious words that entered the Oxford English Dictionary. Southeast Asians seem particularly delighted at the recognition given to certain words.
  • Sure, algorithms that crunch data could save book publishing - but where's the fun in that?
  • A US author published her first Japanese manga-style storybook, a years-long endeavour. Yes, good work takes time and what are you watiing for? But isn't hers the storyline of, say, one out of two or three Japanese manga?

    Meanwhile, there appears to be a rise in the popularity of manga-style history books in Japan, and major Western publishers seem to be getting more into manga and graphic novels as well.

I know, we need to talk about Lionel Shriver and her defense of white people writing whatever the hell they want, political correctness be damned. However, so many have weighed in on the issue - pretty well, too - since it emerged, I don't have anything to add. Some of the better arguments took place on my Facebook threads, which I don't think can be linked or feasibly reproduced elsewhere.

TL;DR: Just because you can doesn't mean you must. If you do, dig deep, fact-check and respect the subjects. Some will still be upset anyway, so roll with it. Some have suggested that this be debated during the upcoming George Town Literary Festival and the programme has yet to be finalised, so, fingers crossed.


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