Carving up the English-speaking world

by Matt Ruff on January 5, 2007

This week I signed and sent off the contract for the U.K. edition of Bad Monkeys, which will be published by Bloomsbury. The most interesting part of the document, as usual, is the territory schedule listing every place in the world where English-language novels are or conceivably could be sold, and specifying which ones are reserved for Bloomsbury, which are reserved for HarperCollins, and which ones are open to competition. Some of it is obvious—the American publisher gets exclusive marketing rights in the U.S., Canada, Guam, and American Samoa, while the Brits get the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand—but some of it is eye-opening or amusing, at least to me.

Markets reserved exclusively for sales of the U.K. edition:
Iraq
Somalia
British Antarctic Territory

Markets open, at least in principle, to both the American and U.K. editions:
Iran
Saudi Arabia
Afghanistan
Cuba
North Korea
“Ex-Yugoslavia” (Yes, that’s literally what it says)

One big change from previous contracts is that India is now open territory. It used to be the exclusive domain of the Brits, but apparently the market got juicy enough that the Americans demanded in (the Brits still have a lock on Pakistan, though—we’re hoping for double-digit sales in Islamabad).

Oh, and if you’re wondering how we can divvy up the marketplace like this without violating anti-trust statutes, the answer, of course, is that copyright is a legal form of monopoly. Remember that the next time you hear a professional writer complaining about Big Oil or the De Beers cartel.

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