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Book & Print in New Zealand : A Guide to Print Culture in Aotearoa

Restrictions to publishing

Restrictions to publishing

Aside from the topic of censorship, little focus has been devoted to forces—apart from the market—which restrict the publisher's freedom of action. Factors discouraging publication may include emergency legislation, such as restrictions on paper or other supplies in wartime. Nancy M. Taylor discusses censorship for reasons of national security and other World War II issues in The Home Front (1986). Some grades of paper were not unduly restricted: some British publishers, for example Penguin Books, found it convenient to print some of their titles for the local market in New Zealand during wartime.

Legal restrictions, including libel and defamation laws, and, recently, privacy legislation, may restrict the publisher's actions. A controversial or sensitive text will be subjected to legal opinion and the author's contract will set out the parties' responsibilities. General guidance for authors and publishers to the libel, defamation and privacy legislation is found in some detail in Write, Edit, Print (1997).

In Censored (1989), Paul Christoffel gives a brief historical treatment of the issue, noting that censorship in application to publishing in New Zealand has largely related to imported material. Most publishers have practised self-censorship. Perry's The Indecent Publications Tribunal (1965) notes the lack of any New Zealand legal text on the topic of 'literary censorship on moral grounds' and describes New Zealand's experimental 'expert tribunal', listing its decisions from 1963. There is no general study of the suppression of publications for political reasons. Taylor discusses wartime censorship in some detail, and Rachel Barrowman describes the case of the left-wing periodical Tomorrow in A Popular Vision (1991).

The Copyright Act 1994 protects the holder's rights to the intellectual property contained in the creation of a literary work (in the broadest sense); the publisher's rights in the creation of an edition of a work are also protected. Plagiarism, if detected, may lead to legal proceedings and the destruction of the publication. The requirement that publishers must deposit three copies of each publication with the Legal Deposit Office of the National Library of New Zealand, although sometimes considered onerous, is unlikely in practice to affect the decision to publish. New Zealand is a signatory to the Berne Convention and is thus affected by any amendment to its provisions. Most recently the New Zealand book trade has been concerned about the effect of changes to the Convention allowing individual nations to determine their own policies on parallel importing. Australian legislation undermining publishers' traditional distribution monopolies was of particular concern. Submissions by book trade organisations on the Copyright Bill succeeded in having the status quo preserved for New Zealand in the 1994 Act. (A tacit agreement between publishers and booksellers enables a small number of books to evade restriction.)

In 1988 the Book Publishers Association of New Zealand set up Copyright Licensing Ltd to negotiate licences for reprographic rights with educational institutions on behalf of publishers and authors, to collect fees locally and distribute income from overseas rights organisations to New Zealand rights holders. In 1996 the company collected over $700,000 and received over $100,000 from overseas reproduction rights organisations for distribution to local rights holders.

Until the better-selling New Zealand authors could be persuaded that they might be equally well served by a local publisher as by their traditional London imprints, territorial rights were an issue affecting New Zealand writers rather than publishers. Publishers certainly did not expect their books to attain significant sales in other territories. For works for which an overseas market was conceivable, they might enter into a joint publishing arrangement with a British firm. Australasian or colonial rights might or might not be included, but from 1947 until the demise of the British Commonwealth Market Agreement in 1976, the carving up of the global trade in English language books between Britain and North America meant that a book by a New Zealand author published by an American publisher might never appear in bookshops in this country, and the opening up of the market has in effect made little difference to book distribution. The key effect of the closed market on New Zealand publishing is probably overall a positive one: multinational publishers operating in New Zealand who were taking advantage of their territorial monopolies may have felt philanthropic inclinations—or more likely discerned a marketing opportunity—and set up local publishing operations which have been critical to the development of the industry, and to New Zealand literature.