• 프린트
  • 메일
  • 스크랩
  • 목록
  • 글자크기
  • 크게
  • 작게

363. Unfairness Behind the Book’s Price Tag

Lee, Yu-jeang 기자2016.11.07 12:25:41

It seems that the Korean book industry has become more successful internationally, since Han Kang‘s novel The Vegetarian won the 2016 Man Booker International Prize. However, the low payments provided to Korean authors for their work are causing concern. This is because some well-known Korean authors still receive low copyright fees despite their books’ huge financial success and critical acclaim. This has had serious implications for the publishing industry as well as the writers themselves.

The children’s storybook Cloud Bread recently became a bestseller, but the author, Baek, Hee-na, is seeing little financial reward. The book is about a cat family which floats into the air after eating bread made of clouds. It is famous for its unique illustration style, and because of this book, Baek, Hee-na was named illustrator of the year at the 2005 Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy, which is the most influential children’s book fair. Cloud Bread has been translated into 8 different languages and more than 4 billion copies have been sold internationally. Its success has led to various commercial offshoots, ranging from toys to a musical and an animated TV series. Cloud Bread’’s book sales revenue is 3.3 billion won and the book’s added value derived from offshoots is estimated to be over 400 billion won. However, the author of this book has only received 18.5 million won in royalties. If she had received just 10% of the book’s price in the way other authors usually do, she could have earned 350 million won from book sales alone.

This is because she signed an “outright purchase” contract with the publisher, in which the publisher made an upfront payment in return for retaining the full copyright, a decades-old practice in Korea’s publishing industry. Unfortunately, new writers have no choice but to accept this unfair contract to publish their writings. Authors cannot avoid this, especially when their book is for children. This is because children’s books are often a result of collaboration with the publisher, and accordingly, publishing companies can claim their rights more. Ms. Baek’s case is often compared to J. K. Rowling’s, the writer of the Harry Potter series, who became one of the top 100 richest people in Britain. Both of them were new writers when their first books secured an unexpected success.

           The Korean government has implemented some policies to regulate outright purchase practice in the book industry. In August 2014, the Fair Trade Commission rectified twenty unfair publishers’ clauses which demanded outright purchase as a part of their contracts. Now, authors can choose not to sell their copyright of derivative works and they can have more control over their original products. In June 2014, the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism presented 7 standard contract forms for publication. These contract forms aim to minimize abuses of outright contract agreements and clarify the range and duration of transferring copyright. The weak point of these standard contract forms is that they have no force of law.

           To find a solution to this problem, we can examine some other countries which are protecting authors’ rights. In Germany, for instance, creators can require change of the contracts if their profit according to the original contract is unfair. When the writer’s own works obtain unexpected financial success, France and Germany let them demand changes in their contract to compensate it. 

In 2015, a member of the Korean national assembly proposed amendments to Korean copyright laws, similar to those of German copyright clauses. This proposal would prohibit selling copyrights before a work is created or for unknown usage, and give the creator legal rights to demand a fair payment when the creation achieved unexpected financial success. Unfortunately, this proposed amendment failed to produce new laws that would protect writers.

Writers deserve to be rewarded for their hard work and creativity. A system which does not protect their rights will have a negative impact on both the writers and the publishing industry. Additionally, unfairness could lessen a writer’s passion to create. What we need in order to further develop the Korean publishing industry is social awareness about creators’ copyrights, and active policies to protect artists’ rights.

  • 이 기사를 공유해보세요  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •    
  • 맨 위로