The woeful state of American educational policy as well as that of our politically gridlocked Congress were the themes on display at the Association of American Publishers annual meeting held February 28 in New York City, in speeches by educator and author Diane Ravitch and former Republican U.S. Senator from Maine Olympia Snowe. The annual meeting also featured Richard Mollet, chief executive of the U.K. Publishers Association, and Michele Woods, director of copyright law division, WIPO, who gave presentations on different aspects of global copyright.
In the AAP annual business meeting Ron Dunn, executive chairman of Cengage Learning and outgoing Chair of the AAP board welcomed Simon & Schuster CEO and president Carolyn Reidy, who takes over as the new board chair. W.W. Norton chairman and president Drake McFeely, newly appointed treasurer of the AAP succeeding Macmillan CEO John Sargent, reported an AAP budget of $10 million, which was quickly passed by the assembled AAP membership.
Based at the World Intellectual Property Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, Woods gave an especially detailed recap of her work overseeing multilaterial discussions on copyright treaties and the intricacies and glacial pace of international negotiations—“a short multilaterial discussion takes about 5 years,” she said, “a long one could take 10 or 20 years.” Mollet heads up the Publishers Association, the AAP’s U.K. counterpart, and he outlined plans around creating a “global digital copyright exchange,” essentially a “copyright hub” that would make licensing global rights for all manner of digital media—from books and music to films-- more efficient and drive economic growth. Similar in some aspects to the Copyright Clearance Center and RightsLink in the U.S. (CCC is a partner)—the DCE is more ambitious than CCC but aspires to the transactional functionality of the CCC’s RightsLink marketplace—the Digital Copyright Exchange is more concept than reality. Mollet said that most of its capabilities, such as online search for rights holders, a business model and an online transactional rights marketplace, are under discussion and “still to come.”
Ravitch, a distinguished professor and author of more than 20 books including the controversial bestseller The Death and Life of the Great American School System, former assistant education secretary in the Bush Administration and formerly conservative supporter of the No Child Left Behind law, wasted little time issuing a withering disparagement of excessive testing and charter schools in general and voucher programs and the NCLB in particular. Although she started out as a conservative believer in NCLB, Ravitch outlined her transformation into a “dissenter” and an implacable foe of the legislation and of its successor program under the Obama administration’s Race to the Top. “Charter schools, excessive testing and choice are not working,” she said, “NCLB is an insane law.”
Snowe, former U.S. Senator (R-Maine), retired in 2013 after 40 years of public service in both houses of Congress. She outlined a familiar and depressing narrative of the U.S. Congress—highlighted this time by the “sequestration” and looming draconian budget cuts set to go into effect on March 1—a congress utterly paralyzed by increasingly self-destructive partisanship. Snowe said she retired from Congress because “it can’t be fixed from the inside,” and plans to work to engage the public and organize the public to address issues of extreme partisanship and force Congress to change. Of course she’s also got a new book coming, a memoir/call to arms, Fighting for Common Ground: How We Can Fix the Stalemate in Congress, to be published by Perseus Books. She said the book's purpose is “to give voice to the 93% of the American electorate who think Congress has become too partisan.”