Toothless copyright laws a bane for publishers in Pakistan | Pakistan Today

Toothless copyright laws a bane for publishers in Pakistan

Oxford University Press MD Ameena Saiyid says those violating intellectual property rights only face a Rs 500-1,000 fine

OUP to organise Literature Festival in Islamabad from April 15

Oxford University Press Pakistan (OUP) Managing Director Ameena Saiyid has said that piracy – violation of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) – is promoted through non-implementation of law against those who are involved in such activities.

In an exclusive interview with Pakistan Today, she expressed astonishment at the sentence of Rs 500-1,000 for those who violate Copyright Act of Pakistan.

“The government is doing nothing for the publishers, which means that publishing houses like OUP have to bear losses worth millions of rupees every year.”

“Whenever our publishing house prints a high profile book in the country, other publishers and printers copy and release a pirated book, which affects the sales of our book directly in the market.” She said that many people purchase these books as they are cheaper compared to the actual release.

In this connection, she said, when her publishing house complained to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the agency booked the culprits, the local magistrates and courts released them after a fine of Rs 500-1,000.

“Recently, the FIA took action to prevent the sale of some pirated medical books, which were copied by some of the publishers in Karachi. FIA did a great job in this regard and arrested them, confiscating books worth millions of rupees.”

“Publishers spend millions of rupees compiling a book, pay royalty to writers on every edition and then someone just makes copies of the book,” she said.

The government should take strict action against those who are involved in this trade in Pakistan and implement the Copyright Act if it really wants to promote a book culture in Pakistan, she said.

After taking over as head of OUP Pakistan in 1988, Ameena became the first woman in Pakistan to head a multi-national. She rapidly built OUP Pakistan’s educational, academic, and reference publishing programme.

She said that the OUP recruited and trained editors, designers and illustrators, sales and marketing staff, and expanded OUP operations from Karachi and Lahore to the rest of the country, opening offices in Islamabad, Peshawar, Multan, Faisalabad, and Abbotabad.

She established a network of 25 bookshops in various cities of the country, and organised the first nationwide book fair held simultaneously in 20 towns and cities in Pakistan. Today there is hardly a school in the private sector in Pakistan which does not use an Oxford book. Ameena grew the Urdu publishing programme exponentially. In 1997, OUP Pakistan published 37 books in the Jubilee Series, most of them about Pakistan, to celebrate 50 years of Pakistan’s independence.


On April 15, Oxford University Press is going to organise Islamabad Literature Festival in which talk shows, interviews, panel discussions, readings, book launches, English and an Urdu Mushaira will be held. The OUP has tailored the event for book lovers and will shine a light on the local and international writers and promote their works.

Amit Choudhri, prominent Indian novelist, Anatol Lieven, a renowned British writer who wrote a book ‘Pakistan A Hard Country, Basharat Peer Indian journalist author of ‘Curfew Night’ in Kashmir, Zara Nighat, Masood Azhar, Kishwar Naheed, Mustansar Hussain Tarrar and many others will participate in the festival, she said and added that the event will also feature English poetry for the first time in Pakistan.

Ameena said that the OUP’s festival in Karachi last year attracted more than 175,000 visitors. “The way the educated people of Karachi responded to the festival was amazing. We’re expecting a similar response in Islamabad,” she said.

Replying to a question regarding the best-selling-books in Pakistan, she said that ‘A Journey to Disillusionment’ by Sherbaz Khan Mazari, who is a prominent Pakistani politician, has sold over 10,000 copies since its publishing 10 years ago.

She said that ‘Taboo’ written by Fauzia Saeed has sold over 6,000 copies in the country. The book is about the women of the Red Light area of Lahore.

‘Neither a Hawk nor a Dove’ written by former foreign minister Mahmood Khan Kasuri and Hamid Khan’s ‘Constitution and Political History of Pakistan’ are also among the top selling books in Pakistan.

“The main focus of the OUP is education. We have printed quality dictionaries in Pakistan including Oxford English to Urdu dictionary. Recently we have also launched our English to Sindhi dictionary in Hyderabad, which has become very popular in Sindh. She said that OUP has also published dictionaries with hand drawn pictures for children.

The OUP has bought a two-acre plot in the Korangi Industrial Area and built a 40,000 sq ft office along with a 20,000 sq ft warehouse. Ameena has put in place global best practices and benchmarks to enable OUP Pakistan to operate at a high level of efficiency. She said the new office building is a celebration of Pakistani art, crafts and culture.

In 2005, Ameena became the first woman in Pakistan to be awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in recognition of her services to women’s rights, education, democracy, intellectual property rights and Anglo-Pakistan relations. In April 2010, she became the first woman elected to be president of the 150-year-old Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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