Dispute over e-Book Royalties

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Dispute over e-Book Royalties

The Korean Publishing Association is having difficulties with the thorny issue of 'second copyright' (copyright for recreating an original work in a different format) before it can launch into the era of electronic books or 'e-books'.

The disagreement between authors and publishers over royalties is so big that it is causing major problems for Korean publishing houses. Usually the royalties do not amount to more than 10 percent of the cover price of a paperback, but as yet there is no common standard for e-books. Moreover, advanced countries, including the United States, have not launched e-book business yet either, so there is no overseas standard that can be applied to the case either.

In these circumstances Korean authors are demanding 40 percent of the selling price of e-books in royalties, while the publishers are insisting on 20 percent. Everbook.com (www.everbook.com), which will launch the first e-book business in Korea from April 27, is suggesting 20 percent of the selling price as the author's royalty.

Everbook.com is consortium Internet site set up by eight major publishing companies including Minumsa and JoongAng M&B and eight copyright agencies. It will initially start its e-book service by offering books already published by the eight companies from early June. However, Everbook.com also experienced major difficulties because authors had demanded high royalties before their official negotiations.

One of the authors is Korean novelist Lee Moon-yul. Lee has previously published his works through Minumsa, so the publishing company is hoping that Lee will also publish his e-books through Everbook.com. But Lee has demanded 40 percent of the selling price in royalty fees. He affirmed that although he had published his works through Minumsa so far, but he did not have to publish e-books with them too. He added that an e-book's price would be a quarter of that for a paperback so the publishing company had to raise the royalty four times for e-books to earn as much money for authors as paperbacks do.

In fact, Lee has been offered a royalty fee of over 50 percent by another e-book business company and he is considering making a contract with them. But Kim Young-bum, president of gimmyoung.com, which will open a charging Internet site from June 1, said that if a publishing company pays 40 percent of a book's price in royalty fees to the author, it will go bankrupt. He added that some new publishers were offering excessive royalties to attract popular authors, something which could cause a shrinkage of the publishing market.

If the current problems are not resolved, the launch of the Korean e-book market will undoubtedly have to be postponed.

by Oh Byung-sang

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