For the first time in 26 years, the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organizations (IFRRO) held its annual meeting in the U.S., with more than 250 delegates from 50 nations convening in Boston, October 25–28, to discuss international licensing, rights, best practices, and copyright issues. Tracey Armstrong, CEO of the Copyright Clearance Center, which hosted the international meeting, called the event "a melting pot of licensing ideas" during a period of great change. "It was an opportunity to share updates on legislative and country-specific copyright issues that could have global effects," Armstrong told PW. Issues ranged from European copyright proposals and a pending copyright revision known as Bill C-32 in Canada, to the still pending Google settlement and the Padawan case in Spain, which has challenged a "digital copying tax" on consumer media.
A daylong program on October 27 featured a keynote from bestselling author Ken Auletta, author of Googled: The End of the World as We Know It, who talked about the ways that Google's vision, technology, and money might affect the future, and a lively publisher forum entitled "Solutions for a Changing World." The forum was moderated by consultant Mike Shatzkin and included Robert Staats of the German royalty collecting society VG Wort; Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild; Evan Schnittman, managing director of sales at Bloomsbury; literary agent and former editor Wendy Strothman, founder of the Strothman Agency; and IP attorney Lois Wasoff. After sketching the digital landscape, Aiken got things rolling when he took attendees on a stroll down "the boulevard of broken business models." He lamented the loss of Barnes & Noble bookstores and Tower Records in his New York neighborhood, blamed the travails of the music business on "rampant piracy," and criticized publishers for what he saw as tacit complicity in the slow demise of the book business. "Book publishers have been foolish in allowing a virtual bookshelf to compete with booksellers on the street," he suggested. While stressing he was not "anti" e-books, he said publishers should exercise much more control over their digital future. The other panelists, however, noted that Aiken's views factored out the consumer. Schnittman said the music industry's big problem was trying to force consumers to buy $20 albums when they wanted $1 songs. Strothman, meanwhile, suggested the traditional book publishing business—selling expensive hardcovers to middlemen at a 50% discount who could later return unsold copies—was "wildly broken" in the digital world.
In closing, panelists were asked to offer their opinions on the still undecided Google settlement. Schnittman and Aiken (an architect of the deal) support it—Schnittman for its ability to bring out-of-print books back to commercial life, and Aiken because it is better to bind Google to some kind of contractthan to roll the dice in a district court. Staats and Wasoff, however, were skeptical—Staats for the way the deal seems to overwrite copyright laws, and Wasoff for how the deal came to be. "It began as a cut-and-dried fair use case, went behind the curtain, and came out the other end a massive collective license structure."
As part of its official business, IFRRO delegates added a 128th member, the Zambia Reprographic Rights Organization, and authorized the group to join an international consortium to establish an International Standard Name Identifier, a tool that would universalize names and other terms for more efficient digital searches. (Other ISNI consortia members include OCLC, ProQuest, the Committee of European National Libraries, and the International Confederation of Authors and Composers Societies.) IFRRO members also re-elected Magdalena Vinent, CEO of CEDRO, the Spanish reproduction rights organization, for another two-year term as IFRRO president.