The new book, A Bigger Picture, went on sale at bookstores and as an e-book on Monday but scores of people within the government and the Liberal Party, as well as journalists in contact with those people, received pirated copies of the e-book days before publication.
Publishers and booksellers have slammed those who shared the e-book when the publishing business is being hit hard by the coronavirus crisis, and when the government claims to support intellectual property rights.
Hardie Grant received an apology from Mr Louw on Sunday and reached a settlement with him on Tuesday and will now pursue those who received the book from him.
Mr Louw has declined to respond to repeated requests for comment. Asked if the Prime Minister believed the copyright breaches were unacceptable, Mr Morrison’s office said it would not comment on legal matters.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Sunday she “received and deleted” a pirated version of the book but she declined to say who it was from, while Agriculture Minister David Littleproud also said he was sent a copy. Several journalists including ABC presenter Patricia Karvelas have said they received the file.
Mr Grant said he and his legal adviser, Nicholas Pullen of HWL Ebsworth, had received responses from some of the 59 and intended to pursue any other people who had sent or been sent the pirated e-book.
“It feels like we’re in the same sort of business as the coronavirus hunters – we’re looking for spreaders and then super-spreaders,” he said.
“There are clearly some super-spreaders in the chain.”
Mr Grant said Mr Morrison should show leadership on the issue when so many people within the Prime Minister’s office and the wider ministerial offices shared the book with no respect for copyright law.
“I am certain the Prime Minister needs to do something about this,” he said.
“It’s out of his office – the people who [breach] copyright and there doesn’t seem to be any consequence.
“If the governing party has any integrity, are any of them going to actually help deal with our copyright problem?” he asked.
Mr Turnbull likened the mass distribution of his autobiography to the illegal file sharing of music by Napster.
He told the National Press Club of Australia he was taking the matter “very seriously” and the illegal distribution of books, music and films were “life and death” for the entertainment industry.
“In some respects, I think the illegal file sharing of music by platforms like Napster years ago, in many people’s minds, normalised this practice,” Mr Turnbull said.
“I mean … that’s like walking into Dymocks and nicking 59 copies of a book. No-one would ever contemplate doing that, I hope. But it’s very… it is very serious.
“It undermines Australian jobs, you know, particularly at a time like this when bookshops and publishers are struggling to survive, to have pirated copies of a book – any book – doesn’t have to… not just that it’s mine – any book being widely circulated, let alone by a senior adviser in the Prime Minister’s Office is appalling.
David Crowe is chief political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
Rob Harris is the National Affairs Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House in Canberra