The 32nd International Publishers Association Congress, held in New Delhi from February 10 to 13, focused on the importance of traditional publishing values, such as respect for copyright, freedom to publish, and the need for publishers to maintain the veracity and reliability of their content.
Several hundred people attended three days of speeches and panel discussions, which took place at the Taj Hotel Diplomatic Center and were organized locally by the Federation of Indian Publishers. Attendees included members of the local Indian publishing community and a somewhat smaller group of international publishing professionals, including representatives from different national publishing associations. Some traveled from as far as Australia, Brazil, and Finland. Among delegates from the U.S. were Maria Pallante, CEO of the Association of American Publishers; Liu Simpson, executive director of enforcement and trade policy for AAP; Tracey Armstrong, president and CEO of Copyright Clearance Center; Paul Dota, general counsel, litigation, and compliance at Elsevier; and Peter Wiley, chairman of John Wiley & Sons.
The theme for this year’s event was “Where Innovation Meets Experience,” and it was touched upon numerous times throughout the congress. Pallante, for example, said publishers need to acknowledge the growing challenges to copyright, often resulting from technological advances that are outpacing publishers’ ability to respond. Publishers, she said, need to be fully engaged in the debates surrounding copyright law. The same message was echoed by Simpson, who pointed out that enforcing existing copyright law against pirates was like a game of Whac-a-Mole, and it was going to take cooperation among nations and new tools for enforcement to be truly effective in curbing piracy.
Richard Charkin, executive director of Bloomsbury and past president of the IPA, noted that today, the most innovative companies are also those that are the greatest threat to the book business. “Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and Google all pose a unique challenge to copyright,” he said.
Though there was little discussion of the tech giants overall, several representatives from European publishing associations noted that they fully expect those companies to begin laying legal siege to existing publishing practices that the companies see as thwarting competition, such as fixed-price laws for books. “Each of those companies has 10 lobbyists in Brussels for each of ours,” said one European executive, who requested anonymity. “But we are preparing for their attack.”
A variety of panels sought to educate participants on a range of practical topics, including the size and scope of the Indian print market (valued at roughly $8.1 billion), best practices for rights management, and efforts around the world to foster children’s reading habits and strengthen educational-publishing capacity in places where it is needed most.
Tying together the discussions was an underlying sense of a shared mission. In a talk on the social responsibility of publishers, Henrique Mota, president of the Federation of European Publishers and v-p of the IPA, defined it as being required “to work honestly, devotedly, and committedly on behalf of our readers and in favor of culture; always defending essential values of humankind; and shielding truth, protecting knowledge, and caring about wisdom.” He noted that the purpose of publishing was not just some romantic notion “out of a Bollywood movie.”
To this end, in recent years, IPA has been increasingly active in working on human rights issues involving the publishing community. Most notably, it elevated China and Saudi Arabia to full-member status in 2015, a controversial move that the IPA defended by saying that it put the organization in a better position to promote its core values in those countries. Its relationship with those countries has been strained by the decision of the IPA’s Freedom to Publish committee to present the 2017 Prix Voltaire, formerly known as the Freedom to Publish award, to Saudi Arabian blogger Raid Badawi, and to gave this year’s prize to Gui Minhai, a Hong Kong bookseller and publisher who is currently under arrest in China. The IPA delegates from China were notably absent from the award presentation to Minhai, which was accepted by his daughter in the U.K., via Skype. Two Prix Voltaires were also awarded posthumously: the first was to Bangladeshi publisher Faisal Arefin Dipon, who was killed by Islamic extremists in 2015, and a second to dissident Chinese author Liu Xiaobo, who died of cancer last year.
The next IPA Congress will take place in Lillehammer, Norway, in 2020.