More Japanese book lending madness

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a future amendment of the copyright law, which would increase the prices for book rental, and possibly open the door for asking fees for library materials, too. A sad article in last Saturday’s Daily Yomiuri can be seen as a confirmation of this tendency: Libraries told ‘stop lending’.

Quoting a few paragraphs, that quite well define the tone of the discussion held between authors organizations and libraries:

The prolonged economic slump lies behind the sluggish book sales, but authors organizations and publishing houses feel public libraries are becoming a problem, too.

They also blame second-hand book stores that are selling relatively new used books, as well as coffee shops with libraries of comic books, which are increasing rapidly.

In last autumn’s symposium titled “Debate Between Authors and Libraries,” authors said that lending a large number of new books would lead to a violation of their copyrights.

But public libraries refuted this claim, saying that lending out new books would increase the number of readers and the public service did not undermine book sales.

Sadly enough, this is clearly another example of exaggerated and derailed author-centrism, mystifying the figure and role of the author as a transcendent genius, creating a masterpiece out of thin air. Needless to say that this is naive. Authors collect information from a wide range of sources, recombine and mix them and thus create something new. The authors from the future will do so, too. Future publications can only be assured if people have easy access to information. Hence, curtailing the availability of library materials is certainly not the way to go.

On top of that, and quoting the last paragraph of the abovementioned article, (u)nderstanding the needs of readers also will be indispensable in discussing this issue. It is important not only to look to the creation-by-the-author side of the publishing story, but also to its perception-by-the-public side, which deserves an equal (or even a bigger) share of attention, as the main goal of the (Japanese) copyright law is a public one: “to contribute to the development of culture” (Art. 1 Japanese Copyright Law).


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