Time to Tame Iran’s Lawless Publishing Sector?

By Zahra Alipour, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.

Foreign authors objecting to their books being translated and published in Iran without their consent is nothing new. Even before Atiq Rahimi, authors such as John Barth, J. M. Coetzee, Gabriel García Márquez and even Sir Alex Ferguson had raised similar objections.

Common to these objections is an expressed hope for Iran to join the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. The convention was established in 1886 to guarantee copyright protection for artists and writers. Today, Iran is one of only 25 countries that have yet to sign on.

At present, more than 12,000 licensed publishers are active in Iran. Given that the Islamic Republic does not adhere to international copyright law, these publishers are free to republish any foreign book without paying any attention to copyright.

“In one of my first trips to book fairs abroad, after coming to contact with foreign publishers, I realized that buying books from them and then translating and publishing them without their permission is a very strange thing to do. Ethical considerations prevented me from doing this,” Reza Hasheminejad, manager of the Iran-based Ofoq Publishing, told Al-Monitor. His company, which publishes children’s and young adult literature, was first licensed to operate in Iran in 1990 and bought its first reprint rights to a foreign work in 1997, even though it is not legally required to do so under Iranian law.

Indeed, Ofoq has been taking the issue of copyright seriously in past years. It has released quite a few works in the Iranian market that clearly indicate that the right to reprint the work has been purchased, including books authored by prominent American author Paul Auster. This indication of respect for copyright is not customary in Iran.

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