The Productivity Commission's description of copyright protection terms as "excessive" in Australia has left Canberra authors concerned about the future of the system.
The commission's draft report on intellectual property found an optimal copyright term for works would be "closer to 15 to 25 years" after their creation, far less time than the current arrangements which provide protection for the author's life, plus 70 years.
Australia would require international co-operation and negotiation to lower its copyright terms, which the commission felt did not deserve "high-priority policy attention" but argued current arrangements were inconsistent with "an efficient and effective IP framework".
If the commission's draft finding was adopted, the author of a book published this weekend could lose their exclusive rights to their work by the early 2030s.
The 15 to 25-year period was justified using ABS figures showing some three-quarters of original literary works were retired after a year, with the commercial life of books ranging between 1.4 and five years on average.
"A commercial life of a couple of years suggests most works are granted protection for decades longer than necessary," the report said.
"Extensions of term mean where works are still commercially available, consumers can expect to pay higher prices for longer."
The finding sparked outrage from writers, publishers and the Australian Writers Guild, with Canberra Times columnist and award-winning children's author Jackie French penning an open letter condemning the proposals.
Submissions have since been made to the report from other authors criticising the report.
In her submission, crime writer Sandi Wallace said the copyright length finding was inadequate for authors who relied on the industry for a living.
"Writing is my livelihood, not a hobby," she said.
"How can it be fair that my ownership of my work be limited to a mere 15 years? Even 20 years is tremendously inadequate."
One of the report's main focus areas was on parallel import restrictions, which prevents sellers from importing books when an Australian publisher has exclusive rights to the title, provided the latter does so within 30 days of the original overseas publication.
Authors and publishers have criticised the commission's proposal to wind back the restrictions by the end of 2017, but the report described the practice as enabling "geographic price discrimination".
Queensland University of Technology Professor of Property and Intellectual Law Matthew Rimmer described the campaign against stopping parallel import restrictions as a scare campaign.
"Australia's parallel imports restrictions are out-of-date and anti-competitive, so this report will help modernise our intellectual property laws for the 21st century," he said.
"Current restrictions have largely benefited multinational publishing networks and foreign authors so it is a shame publishers and authors are running this scare campaign."
Written submissions about the draft report can be made before June 3. The commission is expected to hand the final report to the federal government in August.
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