With governments across the globe racing to make revisions to copyright laws to keep up with changes brought on by new technology, the Association of American Publishers engaged in a host of activities in 2015 aimed at protecting intellectual property in the U.S. Tom Allen, president and CEO of the organization, said defending copyright is one of several issues all members of the AAP are invested in, even though the interests of trade and educational publishers diverge in other areas. Allen pointed out that some educational publishers prefer to be seen as digital learning companies, since many are working on developing interactive educational platforms. “It is a very different model than trade publishing,” Allen observed.

Allen said he is especially proud of AAP’s work helping to head off efforts to establish a digital first-sale doctrine that could have created a huge used e-book market, which would have done “enormous damage to anyone” involved in publishing. He is also happy with the outcome of hearings on copyright issues held by the Department of Commerce and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that culminated in the release of a white paper in January, which AAP believes provides collaborative solutions for various parties (including publishers) to reconcile copyright disputes on major issues, including digital first sale.

AAP representatives were also actively engaged in 20 months of hearings on copyright held by the House Judiciary Committee that wrapped up at the end of 2015. The bottom line, Allen said, is that the AAP’s interaction with Congress was successful in helping protect intellectual property, which Allen believes underpins the 21st century’s knowledge-based economy. “If you don’t protect copyright, you won’t have much of a knowledge economy,” Allen said.

The importance of protecting copyright extends overseas, where the AAP continued to fight digital piracy last year. One of the association’s goals is to close down sites that illegally post copyrighted material. To that end, the AAP coordinated legal action against LibGen, a website that has a repository of nearly 38 million pirated articles. But the AAP is also monitoring “surprising changes to copyright law,” Allen said, such as in 2012, when revisions to copyright law in Canada permitted educational institutions to copy 10% of a book, or one chapter, to create their own course packs without paying rights holders. The new law has led to a dramatic decline in licensing fees to Canadian publishers and authors.

The AAP also weighed in on the need to modernize the U.S. Copyright Office and on the Obama Administration’s search for a new Librarian of Congress to replace the retired James Billington. Just after Allen was interviewed by PW, President Obama nominated Carla Hayden, CEO of Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library, as Billington’s replacement. Allen said a key for the AAP is that the nominee be someone who “has not been engaged in the copyright wars.” Upon hearing of Hayden’s nomination, the AAP issued a statement praising Hayden as a champion of freedom of expression and reader privacy, adding that the association looks forward to learning more during the confirmation process about Hayden’s views on the future of the Library of the Congress and on the “importance of copyright and the need to modernize the Copyright Office.”

More Members

Ever since the AAP absorbed the Association of Educational Publishers in 2013, education companies have constituted the largest portion of AAP’s membership, which, after adding 52 new members in the last year, now stands at 394. During 2015, its lobbying efforts helped bring in $3.5 billion in new funding for educational materials. The association also worked to correct what it maintains is misinformation about the continuing rise in the price of college textbooks. According to surveys from the National Association of College Stores, college students spent an average of $563 on course materials in the 2014–2015 school year, down about 20% from the $701 spent in 2007–2008. One reason for the decline is that college publishers are making more materials available in different formats, which are often cheaper than traditional hardcover textbooks.

The AAP has also renewed its attention to increasing racial diversity in publishing. In January, the association teamed with the United Negro College Fund in a move to offer paid internships for African-American students from historically black colleges. Allen is hopeful the initiative will be one step in helping publishers diversify their staffs and expand the diversity of books released by the industry.

With AAP’s annual meeting set for March 1, Allen said he expects the association’s priorities to remain much the same as last year, and that he doesn’t expect the presidential election to be a big factor in AAP’s 2016 agenda. “Fortunately, intellectual property and educational funding are not as divisive as some other issues,” Allen said, adding that the AAP knows if it wants to get something accomplished in Congress, “it better be done by July, or forget about it.”