Pullman v. Casserly: The future of copyright
President of the Society of Authors Philip Pullman and Chief Executive of Creative Commons Cathy Casserly debate the future of copyright
Pullman, very clearly and succinctly, describes the basis of copyright, from an author’s point of view…
If I write a book, the right to make money from it belongs to me, and I make an agreement with a publisher who will print it and distribute it, collect the money it sells for, and pass on a small proportion to me. Anyone who wants to read it either has to buy it, in which case I get that small proportion of the money it sells for, or borrow it from a library, in which case the librarian counts the number of times that title is borrowed, passes on the details to the Public Lending Right administrators, and I’m paid a small sum for each borrowing.
Quite a number of people make money in the course of these processes. The editor, the jacket designer, the publicist, the printer, the library assistant, the bookshop manager, the PLR administrator, and others, all earn a living on the back of the fact that I and my fellow authors have written books that people want to read. And so do I, and that’s as it should be: we all contribute to the process of bringing my book to the public. Our rewards vary, of course: if my book sells a lot of copies I might make more money in a year than the bookshop manager, whereas if it sells very few I’ll make a great deal less. But that’s the risk I take, and on the whole this system is fair, and most authors see the justice of it.