Ahead of BEA, World Copyright Issues: A Few Words With Michael Healy

In News by Porter Anderson

Content today is ‘born digital, transmitted digitally, used digitally, consumed digitally,’ and a leading player in the field plans his address at IDPF’s conference at BEA to highlight some of the hotspots in a world teeming with copyright issues.
Porous borders made digitally invisible create a new springtime for world copyright issues, some of which Michael Healy will touch on at IDPF's DigiCon. Image - iStockphoto: Amalia Ferreira-Espino

Porous borders made digitally invisible create a new springtime for world copyright issues, some of which Michael Healy will touch on at IDPF’s DigiCon. Image – iStockphoto: Amalia Ferreira-Espino

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

At IDPF’s DigiCon: A Global Update on ‘the State of Copyright’

digicon-bea-2016-logo“It’s because social media makes it so easy to share copyrighted content in the workplace or wherever. That doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.”

Michael Healy, executive director for international relations for Copyright Clearance Center (CCC), is one of the world’s most familiar figures in copyright issues. His talk at the International Digital Publishing Forum’s 2016 “DigiCon” conference on Tuesday (May 10), the eve of BookExpo America (BEA) in Chicago, is billed as a “Global Update: The State of Copyright.

In a preview conversation, as Healy pulls together notes for his comments, he’s remarking on the remarkable: We’re all talking about copyright these days.

“Everybody’s so much more engaged with the conversation about copyright than they were previously. Copyright, when you and I started in this game, Porter, was the domain of copyright lawyers and academics. It’s now front-page news, isn’t it?”

Yet another effect of the digital dynamic’s arrival in the publishing space, this unprecedented visibility of copyright issues “has been a transformation in our working careers, in the last few years.

Michael Healy

Michael Healy

“High-profile cases like Google Books and the Hathi Trust propel copyright into front-page news. But the point I always make is that every publishing executive, every rights-holder now has to engage with issues of copyright to a degree that they never would have done a few years ago…

“Obviously when content was purely physical, exclusively physical, it was an easier problem to put one’s arms around, so to speak.

“The fact that it’s born digital, transmitted digitally, used digitally, consumed digitally — but also copied illegally digitally — makes the whole thing so much more of an issue.”

What Healy will do at IDPF’s conference is offer “a cook’s tour,” he says, “of the globe, trying to highlight news of significance” in copyright. “Whether it’s news of governments and legislatures around the world, or news from courtrooms around the world, and trying to tease out the implications of that news for publishers and other types of rights-holders.

“For example, I might highlight the new copyright act that’s coming in South Africa. Or the imminent legislation in Brazil. Or reflections on what’s happened at Georgia State University or any other court decision that may have happened in recent times.”

A chat with Healy is not only bracingly informative but also gently satisfying in that there are so many moving parts today to the aggregate “copyright story” that even he can’t stay across all the developments and the paths they take at any given moment. In one instance during our conversation, he’s graciously quick to say, “I’d have to get back to you on that one,” both of us realizing that we’ve lost touch with an issue relative to news organizations.

In the EU: ‘So Much Going on There Now’
“There simply are so many technological tools that make it so easy to share content electronically. Think of how easy it is using the most popular social media platforms for us to link people to content.”Michael Healy

In speaking to the IDPF plenary, Healy says the task is to try “to draw out — if there are any — any unifying common themes that might be of significance to the publishing community.”

Especially for US-based members of the IDPF audience, some of the controversies being looked at in the European Community around copyright are particularly interesting because they are playing out in a context of international federation unfamiliar to many Americans.

“Any conversation about the state of copyright about the world that excluded what was going on in the European Commission,” Healy says, “would be incomplete, to say the least. There’s so much going on there just now.

“Let’s take cross-border portability of content and copyright exceptions. There’s a lot going on in the European Commission in that area because the Commission, itself, in December 2015 presented a series of documents which outlined the Commission’s plans for new content and copyright regulation.

“There’s a proposal for cross-border portability of online content services in the internal European Market. What that’s intended to address is that if you’re a European traveling within the EU today, you may be cut off from the online services that provide you with your films, your sports broadcasts, your ebooks, whatever, that you’ve paid for in your home country. You buy them in Britain and then you take a vacation in Spain, you’re not going to have access to them necessarily.

‘This proposed legislation on cross-border portability is intended to address those restrictions. But it’s not quite as simple as just looking at it from the consumer perspective. So there’s that area, as an example.

“In the area of exceptions and limitations — for access to knowledge, access to education, access to research — they certainly intend to clarify and adjust, for example, in text and data mining, what those exceptions and limitations might be. We know, for example, in text and data mining (TDM) that the UK introduced a TDM exception back in June of 2014. So the European Commission as a whole is looking at what further exceptions and limitations might be necessary for things like text and data mining.”

“Everybody’s so much more engaged with the conversation about copyright than they were previously…It’s now front-page news, isn’t it?”Michael Healy

Another area of keen interest in the European theater at the moment, Healy points out, is the response period just ending for member-states to present their input on issues around the CMO Directive, which relates to how collective management organizations work. Ireland, Healy says, has notified the Commission of full implementation of the CMO Directive. Other nations are making their reports, as well.

These and such interesting issues as the exception legislated in Canada (see our story with Copyright Clearance Center’s Roy Kaufman) are the stuff of what Healy studies and analyzes on a rolling basis.

“Part of my role,” Healy says, “is to watch” situations like the Canadian problem, and work to understand if and how such moves are being reflected in other cultures.

“There simply are so many technological tools,” Healy says, “that make it so easy to share content electronically.

“Think of how easy it is using the most popular social media platforms for us to link people to content. It’s so ubiquitous now. In the face of that, content users talk about their rights. And part of the conversation has to be what the responsibilities of the users are.”


Follow Publishing Perspectives for news from the IDPF DigiCon conference and from BookExpo America. For live coverage, your hashtags are #IDPFDigiCon and #BEA16.

Additional recent stories featuring Copyright Clearance Center include:

Copyright Clearance Center is one of two sponsors of Publishing Perspectives‘ rights conference — Rights and Content in the Digital Age — on June 13 in New York City, along with Ingenta.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. Prior to that he was Associate Editor for The FutureBook, a channel at The Bookseller focused on digital publishing. Anderson has also worked with CNN International, CNN.com, CNN USA, the Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and other media.