Copyright and Freedom to Publish: the two pillars of the IPA


The IPA was founded in 1896 by the largest publishing houses of the time, to promote and protect publishing worldwide, and to act as a watchdog of copyright and freedom to publish. Today it is still pursuing the same important mission. Dr Michiel Kolman, president, International Publishers Association at his opening address at Moscow International Book Fair shared his views on piracy and freedom of speech. Excerpts. Russia has a rich culture and history, both of which are immortalized by the immense canon of literature for which Russia is so admired. The list is enormous, from the mighty classics of Pushkin, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky to the modern yet just as potent output of Pasternak, Solzhenitsyn and Nabokov.

Russia is an old nation that has undergone great changes but never lost sight of its identity – and this is a quality that the IPA shares. Underpinning the IPA’s mission are the pillars of copyright and freedom to publish – both indispensable principles that are facing unprecedented challenges today.

On copyright…

In the copyright arena, the IPA’s international lobbying focus is on the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva. The IPA is the first line of defence in the supranational IP treaty process, advancing the interests of publishers and the IP industries at WIPO’s most important decision-making fora. WIPO is the key battleground where the competing interests of copyright holders and opponents of copyright are fought out. Combat metaphors may be crude, but they are nonetheless applicable. The international copyright frameworks that safeguard creativity have never been under a more determined, sustained, and well-funded attack.

Powerful technology companies are bankrolling and waging a strategic campaign to weaken copyright worldwide by, among other things, evangelizing for increased ‘Fair Use’ exceptions. It is no accident that, in recent years, a succession of countries has launched copyright law reviews that include expanded fair use provisions.

The IPA is meeting this challenge head-on, weighing in to these national processes and flagging the potential long-term damage to creativity, literacy, education and employment done by undermining copyright.

We continue to work with our members and partners to ensure decision-makers are in possession of facts when they consider legal changes whose effects may be major, wide-reaching and long term. One such effect is the impairment of publishers and authors from making a proper return on their creativity, be it through inadequate copyright laws, or through deliberate violations and piracy.

Piracy in Russia…

And at this point I’d like to applaud the resolute steps being taken in Russia to tackle the book piracy epidemic. According to the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, between 25 and 30 percent of Russia’s overall book market is counterfeit – including schoolbooks.

Inferior quality counterfeit books in classrooms mean pupils get an inferior quality education. Not only that, but counterfeiting and piracy mean publishers do not benefit from the return on their investments, which curtails their ability to take risks and innovate, and to better prepare Russian children for the knowledge economies of the future.

We’re encouraged that the State is starting to take the matter seriously, and mounting a legal response. As a side note, some of the problems may be addressed by the removal of the high 18% VAT levy currently imposed on e-books in Russia, which would bring them into line with the zero rate applied to print books. After all, a book is a book whatever its format.

But we can be certain that without consistently applied proactive counter measures and communications campaigns to sensitize a Russian population that’s largely unconcerned about this crime – then the problem will get steadily worse.

Piracy comes in many forms, some of which may even lend it a veneer of acceptability. In the science domain, Sci-Hub is a source of global concern, and one that I’m sure publishers and governments everywhere want to address together.

Such platforms undermine the science publishing ecosystem that researchers and universities worldwide rely on for communication, validation and quality assurance.

Sci-Hub’s voluntary withdrawal from Russia this week was welcomed by many in the scientific publishing community, but further proactive action is needed to properly address the problem.

On freedom to publish…

The second pillar of the IPA is the freedom to publish. Violations of this right around the world are commonplace, with daily reports of writers and publishers coming under pressure. It is the IPA’s duty to challenge censorship wherever it occurs – as we did recently in China, when Beijing asked for the removal of a selection of online academic publications by Cambridge University Press. At first CUP felt it had no choice but to comply, but then it reinstated the articles, which we believe was the right thing to do.

The IPA criticized the Chinese authorities for attempting to impose academic censorship, and undermine freedom to publish and academic freedom, which are essential for the advancement of the science. We wait to see what Beijing will do next.

Another example is in Russia, where the IPA has been debating the problematic anti-gay propaganda law, which is compelling publishers to censor texts to avoid criminal liability. The law poses many questions beyond the immediate issue it seeks to address – questions about freedom of expression, commercial sensitivities, the sacred bond of trust between authors and publishers. We believe this law needs to be reviewed, because its good intentions to protect minors may in reality be doing more harm than good.

Fifth Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair reflects continuing growth in children’s market

The dynamism of the fast-growing children’s book market in China will be very evident at the fifth Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair (CCBF) (November 17-19, 2017, Shanghai World Expo Exhibition Centre) with over 350 exhibitors attending from 35 countries or regions. The show is dedicated to the publishing, printing and distribution of content for 0 to 16 year-olds, including books, magazines, audio-visual material, educational and recreational products – (comics, cartoons, animations, music, film and games). CCBF 2017 is fully supported by Shanghai Press & Administration, and approved by China State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.

Over 60,000 new titles from all over the world will be on display in 25,000 sq metres of exhibition space, over a third of which is devoted to overseas publishers. This year’s fair will include many first-time exhibitors such as Sweden’s Bonnier, Tohan from Japan, and Penguin Random House.

The Fair is promoting illustrated children’s books through the Golden Pinwheel Young Illustrators Competition, which returns for its third year. The competition is designed to showcase new talent from around the world, and this year a record 3,655 entries have been received from artists in 37 countries. The winning entries will once again be announced during the Fair and displayed at a special exhibition.

While, an Authors’ Festival will bring overseas authors and illustrators to tour bookshops and other venues in Shanghai to meet young fans as well as attending events at the Fair itself.

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