Michael Healy, Executive Director, International Relations, Copyright Clearance Center, and Michiel Kolman, President of the International Publishers Association and Senior Vice President for Information Industry Relations, Elsevier, took the stage at the 2018 Frankfurt Book Fair to discuss the state of copyright.
Making copyright fit for purpose for the digital world is a popular undertaking for governments– though almost never so for publishers. So-called “reforms” are often little more than thinly-veiled attacks on the fundamental principles of intellectual property and the livelihoods of publishers and authors. Notions of balance seem to have vanished as the scales tip further away from rightsholders. What are publishers doing to ensure their voices are being heard in Europe, Asia, North America and elsewhere? Who is helping publishers to defend their business and creative interests? How can you make certain your voice gets heard?
Stream the Discussion
Michael Healy: …You touched on something that I was going to ask explicitly about, which is perhaps the primary difference in recent years is how well funded and well organized the opponents of copyright are. As you were saying, these are really significant, global, politically powerful interests. Can we succeed against them when they marshal all this power and all this money against us?
Michiel Kolman: First of all, we have no choice. We’ve shown in Strasbourg that we can. One of the things which I thought was very interesting when I met with the MEPs is that there was a bit of overkill of aggressive lobbying on the other side. The MEP I met said that he got so many messages – actually also phone calls – where they told him we know what you voted last time, and we are going to watch what you’re going to vote this time. This was almost bordering on unacceptable behavior. And I think we showed that we can make that difference and we can also lobby for copyright effectively.
I do feel that we should slowly change the narrative. I feel that copyright should be far more embraced in discussions as an enabler of creativity, an enabler of the diversity of what we publish, or an enabler of innovation. So what is it that copyright can bring to society, rather than just that copyright is something where we protect our assets and it’s important for publishers to do their job.
MH: You and I had lunch together in New York a couple of weeks ago, and you had just returned from a visit to Canada. Everybody in this audience, in this book fair, is aware of the enormously damaging legislation that was passed in Canada in 2012. That is now up for its five-year review. You and your successor Hugo and Jose were there. Any reasons to be cheerful, as they say, at the end of that?
MK: So when I travel around the world and I talk to leaders or government leaders or members of parliament, etc., they will always say why should we not have an exception for copyright for education? It’s so good that educational material will be more easily available for students, and it will help teachers as well. Of course, I understand how easily attractive that argument is.
We will always give this example of Canada. Five years ago, a blanket, broad exception for education was introduced in Canada, and we’ve seen devastating effects. We’ve seen publishing houses closing down. We’ve seen other publishing houses reducing their staff. If you are a Canadian author, you want to write a textbook, why would you do it in Canada, because you know that you’ll not get the financial reward you’re entitled to?
I think another important aspect there is that Canadian students will not have access to Canadian textbooks that reflect the heritage, as they say in Canada, in other country, the culture – of their own country? It could very well be, if we don’t do anything there, that it’s the Texas Board of Education who’s more or less determining what textbooks are going to be used in Canada. That’s something that should not happen.
Now, in the discussions there, which we had with high-ranking officials and members of Parliament, they were surprised when I told them that in the international perspective, what happened in Canada five years ago was – they’re a complete outlier. This is, I would say, the exception on exceptions… I cannot think of any other country which has such a broad exception for education, and they were not fully aware of that. It was actually very powerful that they heard it from Hugo Setzer, our vice president, who testified in Parliament there, or from Jose Borghino, my secretary general, or myself, because we’re not Canadians. We have this international perspective and could really show that what happens in Canada is an – they’re an outlier, and it’s really not a normal practice, as you would see in other countries, where they have small, well-defined exceptions with compensation, for instance.
MH: …There’s all the lobbying and government relations associated with this effort. There’s all the anti-infringement, anti-piracy work associated with it. What about the other pillars? The first one I want to talk about is copyright education. Do we invest enough in educating readers and students and teachers in their responsibilities as well as their rights as consumers of content?
MK: I think that’s a great opportunity. I am an STM publisher. We meet brilliant scientists, and they have very limited knowledge of copyright. As a result, they will do things with their articles which is in violation of copyright, and they’re – either they don’t know or they’re not aware. So there’s great opportunity there, absolutely.
But I would say overall in the copyright discussion, it’s linked to a much broader discussion, and that’s the value of publishing. If the value of publishing is more broadly appreciated and recognized, the copyright discussions are easier. And I think that is an area where we also should all invest in. Whether you’re a trade publisher or a literary publisher or an educational publisher or a science publisher, I mean, if the products that we deliver – our books and articles and databases – don’t have that appreciated value, then the copyright discussions are becoming much more complicated.