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Can a summary of book be considered as an alternative to compulsory license?

15 Feb 2023
#Company News

Russian book publishers are planning to launch the release of foreign bestsellers in Russia using the summary format – retelling of the main theses within the acceptable citation, without the use of excerpts.

Thus, the publishing house Eksmo-AST will publish Prince Harry's memoirs (“Spare”) in this format; according to the publisher, summary is considered as an alternative to a compulsory license. The book will be released on February 16 in audio and electronic formats and later in print. In addition, another audio variant of summary "Spare" will be released from Smart Reading publishing house in LitRes.

The copyright holder of Spare, Penguin Random House publishing house, stopped working with Russian publishing houses in 2022.

It is worth noting that not all publishers are ready to use the summary method. According to experts of the book market, the precedent may disrupt the already ambiguous relations of the Russian book market with foreign publishers. An unnamed interlocutor of Kommersant considers the release of books in the retelling to be "veiled piracy", capable of throwing the content market back years.

Lawyers note that this "innovative" approach looks controversial, as it violates the principles of Russian copyright law.

According to the law, citation can be carried out only for scientific, polemical, critical, informational, educational purposes: In the event of a dispute, the Russian publisher will have to prove that the goals are exactly such, and not entertaining, says Yulia Yarnykh, a partner at Semenov & Pevzner.

"If the volume of the summary is two or three pages, it can probably be considered a description of the book. If a book of 500 pages has a "retelling" of the same 500 pages, and even more so as close as possible to the original text, this is obviously already a copyright violation," says Sergey Zuykov, managing partner of Zuykov and Partners. In this case, the maximum amount of compensation for the illegal use of rights is double the value of the books sold.

Source: Kommersant Publishing House