The advantage UK publishing companies have in terms of exclusive rights in the European market will be over when the country leaves the European Union, according to Simon & Schuster president and chief executive officer Carolyn Reidy, who called the issue “a principle thing”.
Speaking at an interview at the “C.e.o. Panel” at the Frankfurt Book Fair yesterday (11th October) with members of the trade press, including The Bookseller editor Philip Jones, Reidy said the arguments used by UK publishers to gain exclusive rights to publish in Europe will be redundant after the UK exits the EU. The statement is the clearest indication yet of how territorial rights could come under strain for British publishers in the years ahead, and follows agent Andrew Wylie’s criticism of those publishers attempting to buy global rights, as reported in The Bookseller Daily yesterday.
“You asked me about Brexit: I will say, to my mind at least, the argument the British have used to grab Europe as an exclusive market will then be over,” said Reidy. “They will try [to make other arguments],” she continued. “There are a lot of different issues as to the question of competitiveness in Europe and I don’t think there is necessarily a case to be made. If someone made a case that they could do better if they had it exclusively than if it’s an open market, agents will listen to them. If they can’t make the argument, they won’t. So, we’ll have our arguments too.”
She added: “It’s a principle thing rather than a financial one. I still don’t understand why the British think they have India.”
The Bookseller understands Reidy has privately made the same statements to agents in New York. But the opinion will raise concern among UK publishers, who have long benefited from being able to supply English-language editions of their titles into European markets under exclusive arrangements with agents. The comment has echoes of the so-called turf war arguments of Frankfurt Book Fairs in the mid-Noughties, during which Reidy was a vocal proponent of an open Europe. She was eventually forced to back down because of EU rules that would have meant US editions would have had to be made legally available in the UK in addition to other European territories.
During the panel discussion, Reidy also warned that calls to censor authors that were “bubbling up from the public” were becoming dangerous. Following the social media storm over Simon & Schuster’s since-scrapped publishing deal with controversial right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos, Reidy said there was still a place for “books that don’t make us so comfortable”, arguing that it was “essential we defend the right of expression against mob rule”.