Publishers Say Book Legislation Is Unfair

Law for the Protection of Literature and Authors has passed its first Knesset reading and is currently being prepared in a committee.

Publishers Kinneret Zmora-Bitan Dvir and Modan are seeking changes in the proposed "Book Law," saying the legislation unfairly targets their business.

Officially known as the Law for the Protection of Literature and Authors, the bill has passed its first Knesset reading and is being prepared for passage by the Education, Culture and Sports Committee.

"The proposed law has a number of unprecedented and unjustified requirements, whose only goal is to harm the Tzomet Sfarim [bookstore chain] and its owners," wrote the publishers to MKs. The firms sent the letter to MKs via their lobbyist Behira Bardugo.

Kinneret Zmora-Bitan said it supported the law in principle, but wants to remove three sections that harm competition between stores - and harm consumers. One bans bookstores from favoring any specific publisher.

A second clause bans publishers from pushing sales via the book stores,and a third bars publishers from refusing to sell books to stores.

The Israeli book store industry is a duopoly of Steimatzky and Tzomet Sfarim. Kinneret Zmora-Bitan and Modan are part owners of Tzomet Sfarim. They claim the new law would restrict their ability to offer better prices to consumers.

"If the law is passed with these sections, the competitive sector will become a cartel," the letter said.

Considerations of the quality of books displayed in the stores will be taken out of the hands of book store owners and customers and be transfered to lawmakers, and the management of book stores will be nationalized, the letter continued.

But others disagree. MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz ), sponsor of a separate but similar bill, said the sections the publishers object to are the heart of the proposed law, and that their demands would make the law impotent.

The committee will hold its first discussions of the bill in mid-October, said chairwoman MK Einat Wilf (Atzmaut ). She said she is still studying the bill and meeting with the various parties involved.

"Many of the parties in the [book] sector are acting irrationally, and the lawmaker must intervene to make them act rationally," Wilf said.