The book publishing industry in Iran is suffering from “a lethal disease,” branded as the Publishers’ Cancer, the head of Iran’s Publishers and Booksellers Union (IPBU) has lamented.
Mahmoud Amouzgar, who is also the spokesman for the Taskforce to Combat Illegal Printing and Circulating Books, maintains that “necessary seriousness” has yet to be seen in fighting the so-called disease.
The self-appointed task force was recently launched after IPBU and Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry signed an agreement to stop the copying, printing, and publishing of books already produced and circulated by the publishers.
As an example, Amouzgar cited a publisher who illegally reprinted books already owned and published by 40 different publishers.
Whenever a publisher decides to legally sue those behind illegal reprintings, they are threatened, he said.
Under [Ahmadinejad's] policies, many books already published by our house were listed as unlicensed. Therefore, these books were illegally reprinted, circulated and helped book smugglers to grow.
However, he stopped short in his interview with Iran Labor News Agency (ILNA) of elaborating on the identity of “book smugglers” or the type and the nature of the alleged threats.
Meanwhile, the IBPU’s head insisted, “Hopefully soon, after completing our discussions on different aspects of the publishing industry’s problems, the number of publishers willing to seriously sue book smugglers will grow.”
“Another main concern of the publishers in Iran roots in the fact that their products are illegally circulated on the Internet, as well,” Amouzgar said on September 21.
One of the reasons behind the success of book smugglers is that they present other publishers’ products much cheaper since they pay no copyright to the authors or translators.
Meanwhile, the manager of Qoqnous Publishing House, Amir Hosseizadegan, said that the “supervisory policies” of former President Mahmud Ahmadinejad’s government have led to the spread of the book-smuggling business in Iran.
“Under those policies, many books already published by our house were listed as unlicensed. Therefore, these books were illegally reprinted, circulated and helped book smugglers to grow,” Hosseinzadegan said. “We did not protest illegal reprinting of our products because we did not want to deprive the people of reading our banned books.”
“Many books banned under Ahmadinejad were reviewed and licensed again under Hassan Rouhani, but the greedy book smugglers have reaped a fortune that encourages them to stay in and carry on their illegal business,” he said.
In a note for Iran’s Books News Agency (IBNA), prominent translator Assadollah Amraei also complained, “Illegally circulating a book amounts to selling stolen property,” calling upon the authorities to “seriously step in.”
Iranian publishers are unhappy with what they deem a cancer at a time when foreign authors have long objected to their works being translated into Persian, published, and sold in Iran and Afghanistan without their consent or respecting their copyrights.
Iran is not a party to Berne Convention, an international agreement governing copyright, which was first accepted in Berne, Switzerland, in 1886.
Iran has long attempted to join the World Trade Organization but one prerequisite for its membership is accession to the Berne Convention.
Reportedly, there are currently more than 12,000 licensed publishers in Iran.