International Publishing Report: Frankfurt 2013

The Frankfurt Book Fair this year was, as it is for everybody, crammed with meetings. Unlike most others, though, my meetings were not with other publishers to review forthcoming title and negotiate rights, but with other publishing associations: primarily the International Publishers Association (IPA), but also the International Association of Science, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM) and the International Federation of Scholarly Publishers (IFSP). Some highlights.

The keynote speaker at the STM annual meeting on Tuesday, October 8, was Jim Griffin, a consultant to the music industry. Viewing what has happened to the music industry as a cautionary tale for publishers is a familiar trope, but Griffin's talk was refreshingly well-informed and at times clever. His conclusion was no surprise—that rights owners need to think more about building and sustaining a relationship with their readers—but in leading up to it he struck at least one chord that audibly hit home with this audience of publishers.

"It [the future] is far more about sharing the revenue and a fair way of dividing it up [than it is] about controlling it. While we love copyright, it is really copyrisk, because we lack the technology or will to enforce it. We need more robust registries of content [because] rights unenumerated are rights unprotected ... We spend much more time looking for the next piece of content, than for enumerating what we have." [1]

The proposal to build a large-scale Rights Registry was, of course, one of the key elements of the rejected Settlement Agreement in the publishers' suit against Google. In her call for revision of the Copyright Act, Maria Pallante noted the lack of a comprehensive registry for U.S. rights as a significant problem, and asked whether U.S. copyright registration could be improved by making registration mandatory (which could put the U.S. out of compliance with the Berne Convention's "no formalities" requirement), or, more realistically, a revised statute might create stronger incentives for voluntary registration.

However this issue is resolved, the ability—or inability—to readily access comprehensive rights information has become a foundational issue for publishers, authors and users.

IPA's Copyright Committee, which I chair, is a large one, with 39 representatives attending, and this year's two-hour meeting was largely devoted to a roundtable report on and discussion of national copyright reform initiatives in 15 countries and the European Union. [2]

While the details vary from country to country, there was a very clear pattern overall: the movement for what Jane Ginsburg has called "user's rights," as opposed to owner's rights, is finding traction in country after country, and it is most often expressed as a need for—and in some cases, implementation of—new exceptions to the exclusive rights of copyright owners.

The most worrying of these exceptions are for "educational use," which would allow the reproduction and unlimited distribution of copyrighted materials for any purpose deemed 'educational' by the authorizing statute. Further complicating the issue are various attempts to create this exception under color of 'fair use' in jurisdictions that have no common law tradition of fair use.

An educational exception is the next issue but one on the agenda of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights, which will provide an opportunity to negotiate an international framework for such exceptions. Since educational publishing is 85%-90% of the indigenous publishing is developing countries, educational exceptions can pose a serious threat to the growth of autonomous local publishing industries.

The Anti-Piracy Working Group (APWG), which I also chair, is a subcommittee of IPA's Copyright Committee. It was formed after the successful suit brought by a coalition of international publishers and publishing associations against the pirate websites and to help coordinate further international collaboration against major pirate websites trafficking in copyrighted material. The Group has raised money to hire a German law firm and do the preliminary investigation into another significant pirate website, and the investigation is proceeding. That's all that can be said publicly for now; more when I can.

IPA's Freedom to Publish Committee (FTP) oversees IPA's Freedom to Publish Prize, which has been awarded since 2006. There are a number of freedom of expression awards given to writers, but the Freedom to Publish Prize is the only international award given to recognize publishers who have courageously defended their right to publish against the threat of government censorship (although it has occasionally been given to writers; in 2007 a Special FTP Prize was awarded posthumously to the assassinated journalists Hrant Dink of Turkey and Anna Politkovskaia of Russia). [3]

Last year IPA undertook to raise money to increase the visibility of the Prize. A goal of $100,000 was set and that target was all but achieved by the time of Frankfurt. The next winner of the Prize will be announced early next spring.

The 30th biennial IPA Congress will be held March 25-27 next year in Bangkok (I chair the Program Committee, which also met in Frankfurt), and the Congress was publicly announced at a reception held on Publishers and Booksellers Association of Thailand (PUBAT) stand at the Fair. On the program, MoMA's Chris Hudson will be giving a repeating session on "Managing Image Rights;" the many other speakers include Scott Turow (you know him as a novelist; he is also President of the Authors Guild), Paul Goldstein (author of Copyright's Highway), and Supap Kirtsaeng (yes, that Kirtsaeng!). Full information about the Congress, including the program, registration, accommodations and pre- and post-Congress tours can be found here.

On Saturday, October 12, the Latin American University Press Association and the Frankfurt Book Fair jointly convened an all-day Convention of International University Presses. The program was largely organized by the Latin American UP Association, and its purpose was to explore how university press associations might collaborate internationally. Linda Cameron, Ken Wissoker, and I were on the program.

The Convention wasn't generally announced until about two months before Frankfurt and the program didn't come together until 3-4 weeks before the event. Nevertheless it was reasonably well-attended, with 50-60 delegates from Africa and Western Europe as well as the UK, Latin America, and the US, with simultaneous translations in Spanish and English. I gave a brief presentation in the morning session on what AAUP is and what it does, as did Linda on Canadian university presses. Ken led a discussion group on international collaboration in the afternoon, but because of other meetings I had to leave after lunch.

I think the general response was that, despite the late and somewhat loose organization, the Convention was an interesting and useful first step, and that it should be repeated next year. I made some suggestions for specific topics that might be covered, like finances, and encouraged the organizers to start planning a little earlier next year. I'll pass along whatever information I get as soon as I get it.

As to the Fair in general, this year I was able to spend almost no time on the floor of Hall 8, the main exhibition hall for US and UK book publishers and where all the members of AAUP who attend have their stands, so I have no overall impression of how the Fair went. I did hear a couple of reports that traffic in Hall 8 seemed a little slow on the opening day, Wednesday, October 9, but by Saturday the people I spoke with all said it had been a "good"—meaning productive—Fair.

One last note. If Bob Faherty had been able to go this year it would have been his 25th consecutive Fair, in honor of which the Fair was prepared to fête him with a chocolate cake. Sorry about that, Bob. Brookings was represented by their new Director, Valentina Kalk, who came to Brookings from the World Bank. Welcome to AAUP, Valentina!

Peter Givler
Special Advisor, AAUP


[1] Quotations taken from Paula Gantz's summary of Griffin's talk.

[2] The US, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Italy, the Philippines, Argentina, Japan, the UK, Finland, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, Brazil, and the Federation of European Publishers.

[3] All the winners are listed in the drop-down menu under "Freedom to Publish" on the IPA website.