Friday 3 October 2008

Copyright still viable, at least for top authors

Announcements of the death of copyright may be premature, if the figures cited in an article in today's Daily Telegraph are any indication. In "Harry Potter author JK Rowling earns £3m a week", the paper reports that Harry Potter's creator, Scottish author JK Rowling, earned £3 million (US$5.3 million) a week over the past year.

Right: the one that got away -- Warner failed to stop India's Hari Puttar being screened, though the decision is believed to be under appeal.

The vast bulk of this sum would have been generated by royalty income from the sale of books, DVDs and Potter memorabilia. While Rowling's earnings are not typical in the sector (her weekly income is six times greater than that of the next highest-paid author in the world), they do demonstrate two things: (i) even in the digital age, paper-based products can still generate prodigious income and (ii) the expectation on the part of many young consumers that works should be both free and available on demand does not mean that they are not prepared to pay for works which they desire.

The article cites figures from Forbes magazine this week that list the top ten authors and their annual earnings between 1 June 2007, and 1 June 2008. They are as follows:
(1) JK Rowling £160 million
(2) James Patterson £26.7m
(3) Stephen King £24m
(4) Tom Clancy £18.7m
(5) Danielle Steel £16m
(6) John Grisham £13m
(6) Dean Koontz £13m
(8) Ken Follett £10.6m
(9) Janet Evanovich £9m
(10) Nicholas Sparks £8.5m
The article does not disclose how much was earned by publishers, film production companies and manufacturers of merchandise from the rights licensed to them but it is fair to say that, assuming these authors are on percentages, someone out there is doing very well.

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