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Should India Allow Parallel Book Imports?

By maintaining copyright protections and preventing parallel imports, is India merely delaying the inevitable?

By Edward Nawotka

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One of the issues raised in today’s feature story about the growing international exposure of the Indian book market is whether or not the country should allow parallel imports, an issue which is currently being discussed by the Indian government. If allowed by law, this means any book published anywhere in the world could be sold in India, negating any market advantages of an exclusive Indian edition –- published or imported.

Thomas Abraham of Hachette India has lamented that this might well be the death-knell for the publishing industry in India.

To understand this, one needs to realize that authors own copyright to their works and then assign publishing rights to different territories, so that the book and readers are best served. Vikram Seth, for example, is published in Britain by Hachette, in the US by HarperCollins, in Canada by McArthur and by Penguin in India. Each territory is protected by law to best publish the work. Without this legal shield, any of the four editions could infringe on each other. “

Others, such as IP attorney Shamnad Basheer believes that territorial restrictions for copyright not only limit consumer choice, but are “also hamper competition and curb the growth of newer and more creative forms of distributorship” — namely e-books. And given the advent of e-publishing, “it is only a matter of time before the firmly etched principle of territoriality begins to yield,” he says.

So, by maintaining copyright protections and preventing parallel imports, is India merely delaying the inevitable or offering essential market protections to vulnerable publishers not yet in a position to compete globally on equal terms with their larger peers abroad?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

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