Maria Pallante, CEO of the Association of American Publishers, was among the keynote speakers at the 32nd International Publishers Congress, taking place in New Delhi, India this week. The topic of her talk was “Shaping the Future of IP in Publishing” and she was later joined in a panel discussion with Francis Gurry, director general of the World Intellectual Property Organization, and Michiel Kolman, president of the International Publishers Association.

Pallante opened by embracing the motto of this year’s congress, which is “innovation meets experience,” telling the audience of several hundred gathered at the Hotel Taj Diplomatic Enclave that when it comes to intellectual property, “what’s past is prologue.” Publishers, she said, were responsible for developing the very concept of intellectual property, and have a significant role to play in how intellectual property is treated by the law going forward.

Publishers, in her estimation, have two opportunities to help shape the future of IP law. “One is about engaging strategically with policymakers, courts, and intergovernmental organizations,” she said. “The other is about the power of publishers to shape the law by continuing to do what publishers do best: develop new voices, new readers, new business models, and new markets.”

Regarding the latter opportunity, Pallante noted, perhaps in deference of her audience, the growing opportunities in international markets. “Today, there are significant English-speaking markets outside of the U.K. and USA,” she said. “Half the world’s population lives in Asia. Five hundred million people speak Spanish. In many markets, the demographic is very young, with a majority of the population under the age of 30 or even younger.” This statement was particularly apt in the context of India, which has a population of 1.3 billion people, of which 47.1% are under the age of 25, and where 55% of the books sold are in English, according to data from Nielsen.

Echoing the AAP’s newly approved mission statement, Pallante underscored that the IPA's aim is “to advance a rational legal landscape that incentivizes the publication of books, journals, and educational solutions and recognizes the essential role that publishers play in both local markets and the global economy.”

She then went on to warn publishers to be skeptical of those who seek to weaken copyright law by claiming that doing so would be good for the public. “They frame the public interest as though it is separate from the rights of copyright owners or worse yet, that publishers and other copyright owners are an obstacle to progress,” said Pallante, adding, “This is false.”

As such she encouraged the publishers gathered in the conference room to safeguard copyright protections. (This point was reinforced the following day in speech given by Pallante’s colleague Lui Simpson, the AAP’s executive director of international enforcement and trade policy, on responding to copyright challenges.)

In responding to a question about whether the United States would sign the Marrakesh Treaty, which is the general treaty that creates a copyright exception to provide access to published works for the blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled, Pallante said: “We’re working hard to reach a resolution on that.”

Another questioner asked how publishers should address their relationship with the technology platforms, which have had a growing influence on the book business. “They are part of the disruption, part of the challenge, part of the innovation and they are also partners with publishers," she said. "But when it comes down to it, they are competitors at heart.” Pallante pointed out that the power of technology companies has evolved beyond the scope of existing laws, noting that, “If you are fearing the big players, it brings in the question of whether there should be more government oversight, if not regulation. You do that, if you are not on a level playing field.”