Digital publishing makes territorial rights "obsolete", claims Charkin

Richard Charkin, executive director of Bloomsbury, said the publisher had moved to a global alignment and now try to buy world English rights in all cases, adding that the ability provided by digital to publish globally meant territorial restrictions based on countries were "obsolete". 

He said the restrictions were one of the reasons publishers struggled to be more profitable. "Our problem as an industry is not reach, it is margin, and one of the problems about our margins is that our overheads are very high, and the complexity that we have built into the system, which is partially down to territoriality, makes things much harder."

Charkin said the usefulness of territories was being eroded by digital. "Clearly selling digital products is much more an internet based activity, so you are going to be diluting your efforts if you try to promote on a territorial basis, and there's not a lot of point promoting on a territorial basis if you don't get the benefits. It's a commercial argument rather than a legal one."

But David Miller, agent at Rogers, Coleridge and White, and Toby Mundy, chief executive of Atlantic Books, both defended local approaches to publishing and continuing use of territories within the English-speaking world.

Miller said: "I don't buy that the world is going global, that there is just one market, and it seems to me there is still an argument that you grant rights to the publisher who can best exploit them in their territory." Miller added: "I worry if we simply rip up territories, and grant world rights with digital included, that we will lose some focus on how an author is published in each market."