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NSW tribunal to consider Judith Wright poetry case

An application has been made to the New South Wales Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal (CTTT) by publisher Gumquest/Editions Tom Thompson (ETT) Imprint regarding the publication of poems from Judith Wright’s A Human Pattern on the Australian Poetry Library website, a joint initiative of the Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) and the University of Sydney.

ETT Imprint proprietor and publisher Tom Thompson told Bookseller+Publisher that he is seeking ‘in-kind relief’ from CAL for the publication of the poems from Wright’s collection, for which he holds the rights. The collection was last reprinted by ETT Imprint in 2010 and a new UK edition was contracted in 2011. Thompson said that CAL has until 4 June to formally respond to his submission.

A spokesperson for CAL confirmed to Bookseller+Publisher that an ongoing hearing is currently taking place before the CTTT and said that CAL has spoken with Thompson and is ‘motivated to reach a fair resolution’ to the situation. The spokesperson said CAL had been acting on advice from Wright’s daughter Meredith McKinney, who the spokesperson said informed the agency several years ago that she was the owner of the copyright in the poems. The spokesperson said that CAL ‘regrets that there was an issue’ with the publication of the poems, and the agency instructed the university to immediately remove the poems as soon as it became aware of their publication.

Thompson said the poems were made freely available to users of the website without his permission in mid-2011. He first raised his concerns with CAL in June 2011 and in December 2011, CAL acknowledged that ETT Imprint does own copyright in the poems in question and removed the poems from the website. CAL also offered $5500 to compensate ETT Imprint for loss of income in relation to the publication of the poems, however, Thompson said that he declined the offer as he did not feel it was sufficient compensation.

Thompson said he applied to CTTT in March 2012, requesting ‘in-kind’ compensation from CAL and the tribunal felt there was sufficient need for a conciliation hearing, setting a hearing date of 7 May. On the day of the hearing, however, Thompson informed CAL that the poems had been re-published on the website, and CAL sought an adjournment of the case.

Thompson said he has been contacted by other publishers who have experienced similar issues with the Australian Poetry Library website, but said that protection of copyright in poetry that is published online is a wider problem. Thompson said that he has spent the past two years ‘defending’ the copyright of his authors’ work online by seeking the removal of their work from websites which have published the work without authorisation.



Category: Local news