On the shelf

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 March, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 March, 1995, 12:00am

I am responding to letters from Mr Arthur Poon (South China Morning Post, March 23) and D.A. Taylor (SCMP, March 25).

It is annoying to hear that not paying royalties on books lent is theft of intellectual property. Who stole? The public libraries? How? We need a definition of theft.

I agree with D. A. Taylor that it is not matter of cost but whether we should pay authors for borrowing their books.

When the public libraries purchase a book, the authors get what they should have got for their effort. The more a copy is purchased, the more they get.

When books are put up on the shelves for public access, the libraries, are in fact, advertising the authors' work. Names of authors are made known to the public, but the libraries do not charge them anything. This is an extra reward.

To compensate the authors is practically impossible because that would mean compensating writers of magazines, journals, newspapers and reference books for material not normally on loan and a record of how many times these materials are accessed would be hard to be kept correctly, if not impossible.

Even if a small token sum were paid to these writers, it would be a burden for the Government and the public when considering the amount of material available and the number of people who use the libraries. When the work of songwriters and performers are is in public, they are compensated because it is usually profit-oriented, likewise for the rental of a video. When the work of authors is used in libraries, the Government does not gain much profit. Perhaps let us institute an ordinance whereby it is illegal to put reading material in a public library without the authors' consent.