How is it that the cost of pirated text books can be as low as one-fifth of the cost of original and copyrighted texts? How is it that pirated text books can compete with the originals which are mass produced in countries where the cost of printing is supposed to be far cheaper than in Guyana where the books are effectively photocopied?
True, the originals are printed with some colour features, but the pirated copies are also printed through a much more expensive method than mass printing. To what extent is the extra cost of the original a result of the type of paper used or of the colour features used?
To what extent is the significant price discrepancy between an original text and a pirated text the result of royalties that must be paid to authors and publishers? And to what extent is the differential in price due to overpricing?
In the present discussions that are taking place between the government and the publishers of copyrighted text books, the issue of over-pricing should be examined. It seems mind-boggling that you can photocopy an original text book at a copy centre for under one fifth of its price. Something is wrong here and needs to be examined.
The discussions should take place and should take place in good faith, but in the end it is not likely to yield any agreement, because it will be hard to see how the publishers will be able to match the prices of the pirated texts, for which there is the use of technology which ought to be more expensive to reproduce and despite the fact that the publishers enjoy economies of scale.
Pirated text books are a multi-million-dollar industry in Guyana, but original texts are in Guyana dollars a multibillion dollar industry, since publishers mass produce books not just for Guyana but for many other countries.
There are three other factors which are likely to result in the breakdown of the negotiations with the publishers. The first is that there are vested interests involved in the publication of pirated text books and they have political reach. It is not going to be easy for the government to abandon these interests.
There is nothing like a neutral government; governments act in the interest of the economic class that they represent.
It should also be noted that invitations for tenders have already been invited. And therefore books are going to be purchased at least for this year.
With a better system of ensuring that students return their text books which are distributed within the schools, the need for large orders in the future is not going to be guaranteed. In fact this past year, the Ministry of Education withheld regional exam results until such time as the children who sat those examinations returned the texts that were issued to them.
The second reason why agreement is not likely to be reached is because Guyanese are simply not yet ready for copyright protection. Piracy of literary and musical works is so pronounced in Guyana that there is not going to be any outrage here. Those who are ranting and raving about the government’s proposed procurement of pirated books are insignificant in terms of numbers and economic power.
This means that their only recourse is through litigation. And this brings us to the third reason why talks between the government and the publishers will not go anywhere.
The bargaining chip that the publishers can bring to the negotiating table is the threat of legal action. But that is not going to deter the government, because the government is not printing the books; they are simply purchasing the books.
Even if they can be accused of being complicit or encouraging copyright violations, by the time any challenge goes through the various courts where it has to be heard, by the time the appeals are heard, ten years would have elapsed and as was mentioned someplace, within ten years all new books will be electronic books.
The publishers know therefore that the market for printed books in Guyana is a limited one and therefore they are not going to want to engage in a protracted legal battle with the government, especially when there is not widespread support for copyright protection in Guyana and where printed books are in any event not going to be around for much longer.
They risk hurting their trademarks and they know that in the long run it may be best to simply abandon the negotiations with the government if progress is not made.
And this is exactly what is going to happen.
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