Throughout the 1980s Brian was president of the US Book Association and a principal actor of the Australian Book Publishers Association. He has worked with Australian book publishers to protect their rights and prevent the dumping of foreign books into Australia by foreign publishers.
He also played a key role in establishing the right of authors and publishers to be remunerated when their work has been photocopied for educational purposes. Copyright Agency Limited, of which he was director, sponsored a lawsuit against Australian universities that ultimately saw the High Court decide that those universities were responsible for photocopying.
This meant that they had to pay royalties to photocopy books. While those early struggles nearly sent CAL to the wall, Brian was a prominent supporter among publishers, and the High Court ruling paved the way for a claim to the Copyright Court that directly led to large payments to authors and artists for their copyright.
In 1989, following the acquisition of Harper by News Corporation, Brian moved – via a short stint at Melbourne University Press – to McGraw Hill as Managing Director, another leading global publisher in the field of news. ‘education. While distributing academic titles to Australian publishers has not been the most rewarding endeavor, he has frequented the United States often and made long-standing friendships across the publishing world. It also gave him a love for Brooks Brothers, always stating that “quality never goes out of style.”
In 1994 he joined Melbourne University Press and its imprint, The Miegunyah Press, which saw a return to book publishing rather than just running large multinationals. The Press’s mission has always been to publish as many Australian scholarly books as possible, a tradition it has dearly upheld, combined with an obvious passion for publishing beautiful books on our most important history. He tirelessly defended the press against attempts by the University to end its financial, and therefore editorial, independence.
Throughout his career he has always been viewed as a true leader of people, a mentor to many and much loved by everyone he has worked with. He was kind and stood up for his values, his principles and his people and always had time for anyone who needed it.
In retirement, Brian was heavily involved in the preservation of the Mosman Headland areas and many other local causes. He was a prolific writer of letters to the editor of the Herald put pressure on the causes that mattered most to him, including atheism, euthanasia and ethics. Whenever this correspondent met him, which was frequent, he liked nothing better than to bend over the two my ears on the big questions of the day, offering often wise advice and useful angles.
For him, Edmund Burke’s words were no more true “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing” and he always pursued with incredible passion and determination this that he thought was fair.
Brian was a prolific reader of non-fiction, with a house full of books particularly on Australian history and politics. He had read every book ever published on Captain Cook and William Bligh and counted Alfred Russel Wallace (of the Wallace Line) and Chris Hitchens among his heroes.
He loved classical music having sung for many years in the Sydney Philharmonic Society and never missed a performance at Handel’s Opera. Messiah or St Matthew Passion. He was a singularly dedicated family man, completely devoted to Helena with whom he had just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary, and immensely proud of his children and grandchildren.
During his life he had needed several heart surgeries and his surgeon, Dr Manu Mather, gave him 25 more years of life, making his death in 82 a life well lived.
He is survived by his wife Helena, his children Martijn, Kate and Anna; son and daughter-in-law Daniel and Jane; and grandchildren James, Tom, Nathalie, Reuben and Hannah.
Peter Fitz Simons