Parallel Importation Restrictions – the aftermath

It seems like a long, long time ago now, but from June to August last year, I spearheaded the genre author campaign against the Productivity Commission’s recommendation to scrap Parallel Importation Restrictions (which would have likely decimated the Australian publishing industry and resulted in the loss of Australian territorial copyright). I met with Federal politicians and lobbied others via phone and email. Mine was a battle on one front of a war that encompassed many fronts, many groups, and many businesses. Ultimately, we were successful.

It’s taken me six months to scan this, but the end result of my one-man, 1,500-authors-backed campaign (on behalf of the Australian Horror Writers Association, Sisters in Crime Australia, and Romance Writers of Australia) can be viewed here.



  1. That is indeed a good result, Shane.

    But you know, I can’t help thinking that other organisations might also have played a role in achieving this outcome. For example, I was on the committee of a couple at the time (the Australia Society of Authors, 2000+ members, and the SA Writers’ Centre, 1200+ members, both representing all genres of writing in Australia) and while I wasn’t directly involved in their campaigns, (I submitted my arguments to the commission as an individual author) I can speak to the enormous efforts invested by the industry as a whole in combatting this specious effort to deprive authors of their income.

    It may not be your intention, by calling it a “one-man…campaign”, to deride the efforts of the many others fighting the good fight, but it certainly doesn’t help to ignore them, either. We’re all in this together. Let’s pat each other on the back and hunker down for the next fight. (Because it’s coming. We might have one this battle, but I suspect we lost the war…)

  2. Shane Jiraiya Cummings says:

    Hi Sean,

    I thought “Mine was a battle on one front of a war that encompassed many fronts, many groups, and many businesses” explicitly emphasised that there were many groups and many brave-hearted people involved. At no point have I suggested otherwise and I certainly am not demeaning the efforts of others (some of whom would have gone to greater lengths than me to achieve the result that was achieved).

    But you know what? This particular battle in the PIR war was a one-man effort on behalf of AHWA, RWA, and SIC (in my role as VP of the AHWA). While others were writing blog posts no one in power would read and drawing post cards and fan art no one in power would see, I exploited every connection I had in my day job in the media to meet with Federal politicians, to get access to the ALP working group who were deciding the PIR matter, to correspond with the Opposition Leader, Shadow Arts Minister, and Arts Minister. I wrote an exhaustive pro-PIR policy statement on behalf of the genre groups that dealt with complex facets such as territorial copyright issues, the detrimental defining of ‘culturally significant’ – i.e. non-genre/non-commercial – works as worthy of extra grant funding, and the impact of remainder dumping and e-books, which the pollies used as a reference in their decision-making.

    I fought tooth-and-fucking-nail behind the scenes and gave up weeks of my time – and I did it without the need to publicly self-congratulate. Only now, twelve months on (and six months on from receiving Garrett’s letter), did I allow myself a moment to reflect and pat myself (and by defacto, AHWA, RWA, and SIC) on the back.

    The Australian Society of Authors, Australian Publishers Association, and the Save Aussie Books site were the three biggest public faces of the pro-PIR campaign, and they (plus some others) will go down in history as the people who preserved PIRs in 2009. Neither I, nor AHWA, RWA, or SIC will be factored into this because my efforts were entirely in private.

    Posting the letter was meant to be a validation of my behind the scenes efforts, but because I didn’t publicly share my progress with the world, now I can’t help but feel like some kind of fraud.

    As for the next fight, I’m done. I’m tired of being criticised despite the mountain of volunteer work I’ve put in.

    • Shane Jiraiya Cummings says:

      Actually, after stewing on this further, that ‘feel like a fraud’ comment sounds a bit too emo for my taste. I don’t feel like a fraud, I just don’t share that sense of community that you do, Sean. I’m frustrated because, despite what I consider to be considerable volunteer work and general support of Aussie publishing (particularly small press) – through the AHWA, HorrorScope, judging awards, publishing, mentoring writers, offering support and advice, and behind the scenes work like the PIR campaign etc. etc. etc. – I don’t feel my work has been appreciated by many people.

      I’m not looking for forced thanks, but when I attract criticism where I consider it undeserved, it makes me feel like the last six years have been a waste of my life. It’s debilitating and it’s frustrating.

  3. crankynick says:

    I don’t feel my work has been appreciated by many people.

    But that’s not what behind the scenes work gets you.

    What behind the scenes work gets you is influence – it buys you the ability to pick up the phone and say “I want to do this, and I need your help to get there.”

    It’s the way it works, dude – you don’t get recognition for one campaign, or ten. You get to twelve or fifteen and the best outcome is that more people come to you as the person to help them get shit done.

    Also – and I don’t want to be a prick in saying this, but it needs to be said – you’re aware that’s a form letter, right? Everyone that wrote to Garrett got pretty much the same one in reply.

  4. Shane Jiraiya Cummings says:

    Yeah, Nick, but I get what you’re saying about behind the scenes influence – and it’s true – but I guess after six years, it’s not getting my career any further advanced. Besides, there’s only so many times one can rig the Ditmars before it loses any meaning.

    And yeah, I’m well aware of the form nature of the letter. I worked as a journo, interviewed plenty of ministers and pollies, remember? It’s proof of the campaign fought, which is why I posted it.

  5. glenda larke says:

    Hi Shane, we don’t really know each other, but let me say thanks to you and everyone who worked on this issue. Believe me, all Oz writers are grateful whether they say so or not.

    As someone who has worked for 20 years as a volunteer for an environmental membership-based organisation, I have to say this too: if you look for appreciation, you rarely get it, and if that’s why, then you will end up embittered. You get flame wars or the equivalent instead, more often than not. The secret is to remember the REAL reason you do it. Not for kudos or the recognition or the behind the scenes influence or even for a direct boost to your career. You do it for the issue(s) at stake, because you feel passionate about it, and you do it because you like working with the few like-minded people around you.

    Keep that in mind, and everything falls into place, you pick yourself up off the floor and soldier on. There may be good things that come your way too, of course – for me, after 15 years of an unpaid labour of love, I got paying work in a field I feel passionate about, but that’s just icing on the cake. It’s the issue that counts.

  6. Shane Jiraiya Cummings says:

    Hi Glenda,

    Thanks for the affirmation and your perspective. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and not take a longer term view. You’re right. It’s the cause that counts.