The EU Commission will by no means discuss fixed book prices as part of negotiations relating to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), even if US negotiators bring up the matter themselves. Following the suggestion of the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels (German Publishers and Booksellers Association), EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström has now clarified this position in a written reply. According to Malmström, national book price-fixing systems – such as Germany’s Buchpreisbindungsgesetz (Fixed Book Price Law), which applies to both printed and electronic books – will in no way be affected by the planned TTIP trade agreement. This means, for example, that even US-American eBook platforms will be legally obliged to adhere to retail prices determined by German publishers when selling German-language eBooks to customers based in Germany. It also means that any non-compliance with this obligation can be prohibited in an effective manner.
As Börsenverein Managing Director Alexander Skipis noted, “For German and European book markets, the official confirmation from the EU Commission that fixed book prices will form no part of TTIP negotiations is a tremendous step forward. It means that we were successful in enforcing our central concern with regard to the ongoing trade-agreement negotiations. Our thanks go out to EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström as well as to Germany’s Minister of Economics Sigmar Gabriel and Monika Grütters, Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, all of whom supported the book industry on this point. The Börsenverein will continue to follow the further course of negotiations with great interest.”
Book price fixing in Germany has been regulated by law since 2002. This law acts as a guarantor of quality and diversity on the book market. Germany has the world’s second largest book market and – with its delicate book-trade structures and multifaceted publishing landscape – profits considerably from this law. Fixed book prices also result in the average price of books being clearly lower than in countries without such regulations.