The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved for legislation on Sunday the Law for Protection of Literature and Writers in Israel. The bill determines that the price of a newly published book may not be altered until 18 months have passed since its publication.
The bill is intended to protect the incomes of writers. It was co-authored by Minister of Culture and Sport Limor Livnat, the Ministry of Justice, the National Council on Economy in the Prime Minister's Office and the Federation of Writers and Publishers in Israel.
Before the ministerial committee's decision, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Minister Livnat met with three successful authors – Tzruya Shalev, Ram Oren and Haggai Linik. "As the People of the Book, we have an obligation to maintain the livelihood of the writers who create our cultural treasures," Netanyahu said at the meeting. "The Writers' Bill creates the right balance between wanting books to be affordable, thus allowing everyone to enjoy the experience of reading, and the need to protect writers and their creations."
Minister Livnat addressed the weekly cabinet session, in honor of Reading Month and Book Week. She presented research that shows an average 18.4% per annum rise in the percentage of book readers in the general population over the past four years.
Prime Minister Netanyahu added: "We are the People of the Book even in the Tablet age. And we are in the midst of a month of reading and literature. This is not self-evident. In the modern world in which we live, there is the possibility of unraveling and losing the ability to write and of authors to write and earn a decent living, and also the loss of the ability to read. When we were children, we read a lot. I think that many of us became used to our parents reading us a story. I would like to go back to this, but not just before bed, but to see to it that Israeli children actually read and that Israeli authors continue to write.
"We met this morning, Minister Livnat and I, with three authors and they are all in considerable distress," he explained. "They all complained that an author works, invests and it is simply impossible for most authors to earn a living off their work, and this is a problem that we must deal with.
"We want to work on a wide plane, in schools, in the educational system, and with the assistance that we give as the Government and as the Culture and Sports Ministry, so as to encourage reading and writing in Hebrew. This is a tough mission because the economic base of the national state of Hebrew-speakers is small, several million people. This creates self-evident economic problems. This is true in Norway, this is true in Sweden, it is true in Denmark and even in large countries such as France.
"France, which has approximately 60 million people, with a giant Francophone reservoir, is still not large enough to deal with this problem. The only place that, maybe, deals with this problem is the English-speaking world and perhaps the Chinese-speaking world as well. One thing is certain: If we want to have culture, even if it is the theater, or a culture of writing and the arts, or other cultural expressions, we must find solutions to the problem that the market, the normal market mechanism, cannot always solve."
Minister Livnat agreed. "We cannot live in a situation in which an author receives between NIS 0.80-2.00 per copy for a book he has worked on for three-four years," she said. "This is an impossible and intolerable situation and it needs to be corrected."