Despite a vote by IDPF membership overwhelmingly in favor of a merger with the W3C, the internet standards organization, OverDrive CEO Steve Potash continues to object to the merger and to aggressively organize opposition to it.
In an interview with Potash, who is also founder of the Open E-book forum, the predecessor organization to the International Digital Publishing Forum, he continued to raise many of the same objections to the now-approved merger he first cited at the IDPF Conference at BookExpo America in Chicago last summer.
Among his objections: the IDPF will disappear as a standalone organization after the merger and it’s Intellectual Property—principally the EPUB e-book standard developed by the IDPF—will become property of the W3C. Potash also complains that without a standalone organization like IDPF to support the EPUB standard, book publishing priorities will be overlooked by the W3C.
More recently, he has complained that the IDPF executive board has declined to discuss an alternative plan to the merger and, Potash claimed, refused his request for the email addresses of IDPF members.
Potash said he has organized an “alternative to the merger and designed a 10-point plan to recapitalize IDPF and bring in new companies that will join the organization and work to support EPUB.” He told PW he has recruited companies" that will commit $100,000 to the IDPF and staff its committees." He also continued to say that the planned “merger is not a merging of the IDPF and the W3C: it’s a transfer of assets, an objection he first cited last summer.
In addition, Potash is now calling on IDPF members who contributed to the work on the EPUB standard to withhold turning over their individual IP rights to the IDPF.
Most of Potash’s objections have been aired before and presented to IDPF members. Indeed, in November 2016, the organization’s membership voted 72 in favor (88% in favor) of the merger with 10 members opposed and 4 abstentions. The vote will allow the IDPF to begin negotiating “definitive agreements” with the W3C that could lead to the final merger.
Despite the vote, Potash remains implacably opposed to the proposed merger. He has organized an open conference call Friday morning (January 13) that will be focused on blocking the merger. In addition he has created a website organized around opposition to the merger.
“I’m not anti-W3C,” Potash insisted. “We have worked closely with them in the past and we want to continue to work with them, but not give them ownership of the [EPUB] spec and dissolve the organization that advocates for e-book publishing.”
Potash also plans to voice his complaints about the merger at the IDPF meeting at next week’s Digital Book World conference, to be held January 17-18 at the New York Hilton Midtown. “We’re inviting people to show up to the open meeting and we expect to garner more support [to oppose the merger],” Potash said.
IDPF executive director Bill McCoy rebutted claims that the board would not talk with Potash, claiming instead that Potash had recently declined an invitation from the board for discussions over these issues.
McCoy also said the public request for contributors to the EPUB standard to turn over their IP rights began in 2015, long before the merger was proposed. McCoy described it as an unrelated effort to move EPUB from a conventional patent basis (with the possibility of claiming royalties from anyone that used it) to a royalty-free standard, open to anyone who wished to use it. McCoy also said that IDPF has a long-running policy of not releasing individual member's email addresses to anyone.
In discussion with PW, McCoy was quick to emphasize the overwhelming vote by IDPF members in favor of the merger. “At some point Steve has to realize that he is in the minority,” McCoy said, adding that now Potash is trying “to scare people about IP rights.”
“This merger is the right thing to do for book publishing,’ he said. “EPUB is not just books, it’s for reports, and documents. Companies like IBM and CISCO use it. Book publishing will benefit from this, rather than having EPUB stuck in a silo. Steve feels otherwise.”
Addition: the mention of the IDPF meeting at DBW 2017 was not in an earlier version of this story.