At Frankfurter Buchmesse: A Unique Year in Publishing and Copyright

In News by Porter Anderson

The year, says Copyright Clearance Center’s Michael Healy, has been punctuated by adjustments that collective management organizations and publishers made to support the pandemic’s impact on education.

The novel coronavirus pandemic disrupted education in many parts of the world, making home schooling a new norm and testing the agility and generosity of publishers and the copyright management organizations that support them. Image – iStockphoto: Romrodinka

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

See our complete guide to Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 here. It has our latest stories, event highlights, our free digital magazine, and more.

Collective Management, Legislation, and Education
As in so many areas of life and work—and in so many industries and professions—the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has impacted aspects of how copyright and licensing works in many markets this year.

As Publishing Perspectives readers know, the copyright landscape in many parts of world publishing has been shifting for years.

Despite the extraordinary reach the world of electronic media provides, many users now also look for ways around copyright protection—some “exceptions” are perfectly valid and others potentially damaging to rights holders.

And in the run-up to this week’s Frankfurter Buchmesse Special Edition, Publishing Perspectives had a chance to talk with Michael Healy—the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) executive director for international relations.

We recorded a conversation with him for CCC’s Beyond the Book podcast, hosted by Christopher Kenneally, as a prelude to the trade show’s opening. We focused in that discussion on issues of copyright and education during the pandemic, and also on key points relative to copyright in Europe this year.

That conversation had been released today (October 12) and you can hear it here.

As we’ve learned from our talks with Healy, the story on copyright in 2020 has to do with both a grand generosity among publishers and authors of the world in making content available to educators, families, and young people—and the correlating difficulties encountered by collective management agencies and reproduction rights organizations.

CMOs and RROs: ‘How They Can Best Help’

“We live in a world of acronyms when we talk about copyright and licensing,” Healy says. CMOs are collective management organizations, and RROs, reproduction rights organizations, are a specific type of collective management organization working in the text-publishing sector.

Michael Healy

“Collective management organizations, or CMOs,” Healy says, “are doing exactly what you’d expect, given the label, which is managing and operating collective licensing schemes of various kinds and various types around the world, depending on the local legal jurisdiction—but they’re operating collective licensing services on behalf of rights holders.

“Reproduction rights organizations around the world vary greatly, but many of them, of course, operate licensing services aimed at schools, colleges, universities, institutes of higher education. Of course, the pandemic has upended and disrupted teaching and learning everywhere. So unsurprisingly, the reproduction rights organizations themselves have seen to varying degrees their own operations disrupted.

“What’s really noticeable,” Healy says, “is how many of those collecting societies, how many of those RROs, have stepped forward to work with local stakeholders, with government, to see how they can best help facilitate access to educational resources, research resources, when teaching, learning, and research have been disrupted globally.

“They’ve moved remarkably quickly in many senses, in many places. And inevitably, the needs have been different from place to place. The imperatives have been different. Consequently, the approach and response of RROs to local circumstances have varied greatly.”

“The most immediate requirement” in the onset of the coronavirus pandemic “was to extend the copying limits for schools and universities.”Michael Healy, Copyright Clearance Center

As an example, Healy points to how education swiftly shifted to being remotely handled during the initial outbreaks and mitigation efforts. “The most immediate requirement,” he says, “was to extend the copying limits for schools and universities. So the RROs in places like the United Kingdom, in Ireland, in Denmark, in Canada, all increased, usually on a temporary basis, the limits of what could be copied so that remote learning, distance learning, hybrid learning, could continue relatively uninterrupted.”

In other markets, he says, the priority was changing the licensing terms to give easier access to digital content. In Scandinavia and Germany, he says, licenses were modified “very, very quickly and very flexibly” so schools could get lawful access to content digitally more easily.”

As Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, Copyright Clearance Center in the United States in March rolled out an “education continuity license” that ran for several months. “We had a couple hundred participating publishers opting into that,” Healy says about the license that authorized teachers and students to use and reuse materials at no cost for their remote learning environments.”

Healy credits CMOs and RROs with “wonderful pragmatism,” in quickly realizing that they had to make it easier for teachers and students to use the content they needed in what would normally be modes not permitted by standard agreements. The early months of the pathogen’s progress, after all, handed publishing’s markets “dramatically transformed circumstances.

“I think publishers have been remarkably proactive,” he says, “remarkably far-sighted, remarkably generous in their response to this.”

Vast Variations in Capabilities and Responses

Healy points to his own sons’ educational formats this autumn—one in high school in New York, another at university in the United Kingdom—and to the discrepancies between what can be accomplished in the contagion’s emergency in more advanced societies as compared to what’s possible in less technologically accomplished regions.

“We have reproduction rights organizations, RROs, operating in sub-Saharan Africa, in parts of Latin America, where schools, colleges, universities never had the resources to pivot on a dime to a new way of teaching.”Michael Healy, Copyright Clearance Center

“What we mustn’t lose sight of, of course,” he says, “is that we have RROs operating in sub-Saharan Africa, in parts of Latin America, where schools, colleges, universities never had the resources—technological, financial, economic—to pivot on a dime to a new way of teaching and a new way of learning.

“In those parts of the world,” Healy says, “you have reproduction rights organizations now in stasis, in limbo, because the universities locally, the schools locally, the colleges locally are all closed, and they haven’t been able to move to remote learning.”

In consulting with friends in Uganda, Zambia, and Kenya recently, he says, “The institutions are likely to stay closed for several months. That means collective licensing has stopped. That means the collection of royalties has stopped. And therefore, further down the creative value chain, publishers and authors don’t receive the royalties they would typically have expected to receive from this licensing activity.”

EU: ‘Harmonizing’ the Digital Single Market Legislation

The pandemic isn’t the only factor influencing copyright in some regions. Healy points to the two-year time frame—now about halfway done—in which member-states of the European Union must implement elements of the Digital Single Market directives in their own national legislative structures.

“This is a highly important and sensitive process,” Healy says, “because it will significantly shape copyright law in European Union countries going forward. The rights holder community—including RROs, as well as organizations willing to see copyright protections weakened—are engaging in discussions at the national level in the context of public consultation efforts. The legislative efforts are at different stages in every country.”

As an example, he points to Ireland, where a new education license becomes approved and enforceable during the autumn. “Pretty much wherever you shine a light in the European Union,” he says, “you’ll find the national legislatures now really busy getting this done ahead of the deadline.”

French and German Press Publishers: A New CMO?

“In other noteworthy news from Europe,” Healy says, “French and German press publishers have announced that they plan to set up a new licensing entity to collectively negotiate and enforce payment of revenues for the online uses of the new neighboring rights granted by Article 15 of the DSM Directive.” By “press publishers,” he’s referring primarily to publishers of news- and entertainment media, many of them long dissatisfied about major tech platforms’ use of their content.

“Their intention,” he says, “is that the new entity, which is open to all press publishers from other EU countries, will offer digital platforms a one-stop-shop for licensing online press uses, providing the collection of royalties and the distribution of royalties that come from this so-called ‘neighboring right’ created by the Digital Single Market directives.

The resulting entity may become an umbrella agency for media publishers throughout the union, a kind of super-agency created through cross-border cooperation.

Australia: ‘Newspapers and Tech Platforms

Healy says, “Newspapers and their relationship with large tech platforms have also been in the news in Australia.

“A high-profile announcement was made recently by the Australian competition and consumer commission, saying that it intends to introduce a mandatory code designed to address ‘acute bargaining power imbalances’ between Australian news publishers on the one hand and Google and Facebook on the other.

“A process of consultation with stakeholders was set to close on August 28.”

Legislative Change: Japan, Australia, China

Lastly, Healy points to this year’s copyright stories in Japan, Australia, and China, in terms of legislative actions. And some of it, he says, is attributable to the impact that the pandemic has had globally in education.

Japan: “The Japanese government decided to bring forward—a year earlier than planned—a statutory license covering specific reuses of copyrighted content. In recent weeks, Japan’s agency for cultural affairs has announced its intention to consult stakeholders about possible further copyright exceptions for libraries.”

Australia: Paul Fletcher, who is minister for communications, cyber safety, and the arts, “recently declared his intention to consider reforms to existing copyright laws,” Healy says, “saying, ‘The need for change has been further highlighted during COVID-19, with schools, universities, cultural institutions, and governments moving more services online.’

“The minister’s remarks were made after two years of industry consultation came to an end—a process that was originally launched after the productivity commission made a series of legislative recommendations in 2016.

“The creative sector in Australia, which organized itself very effectively to respond to many of the changes proposed by the productivity commission, is watching these developments, as is the local RRO, Copyright Agency Ltd. It’s likely we’ll see more governments reviewing their copyright legislation if traditional teaching and learning methods continue to be disrupted.

“If that’s the case,” Healy says, “RROs and others will be monitoring the developments closely for evidence of potential harm to the interests of publishers and authors.”

China: A long-awaited copyright law reform, Healy says, is moving ahead now, with two draft amendment bills from the National People’s Congress being put out for public consultation in recent months.

“The reform,” Healy says, “is intended to modernize the copyright framework in China, clarifying important concepts and increasing the level of protection for copyright owners. However, concerns have been expressed by some in the international rights holder community about the broadening of certain exceptions and limitations to exclusive rights.

“Rights holder groups have been actively participating in the consultation process,” he says.

Two Sessions During Frankfurt 2020

During Frankfurter Buchmesse’s digital programming, October 14 to 18, Copyright Clearance Center  will present two events for trade visitors to consider, as part of the US-based company’s sponsoring partnership with the trade show.

As with all of the Frankfurt programming, these sessions are cost-free.

In an introductory comment, Michael Healy–CCC’s executive director for international affairs–is quoted, saying, “As Frankfurt Book Fair is virtual this year, we’re adapting our programming to resonate with audiences worldwide, celebrating the innovative solutions being developed by the publishing industry. We look forward to engaging in valuable discussions on key issues and fully supporting the book fair’s 2020 theme, ‘Signals of Hope: New Perspectives for a Stronger Future.'”

And here are the company’s sessions.

“COVID-19, Copyright, and the Creative Economy”
October 13
5 p.m.  CEST
1500 GMT
4 p.m. BST
11 a.m. ET


  • Bodour Al Qasimi, vice-president, International Publishers Association; founding CEO of Kalimat Publishing Group
  • Tracey Armstrong, president and CEO, Copyright Clearance Center
  • Fathima Dada, managing director of Oxford Education, Oxford University Press
  • Michael Healy, executive director for international relations, Copyright Clearance Center

In this session, the speakers will look at how the global coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a shift toward digital media in some parts of the world.

“Where Publishing and the Pandemic Meet”
October 15
5 p.m.  CEST
1500 GMT
4 p.m. BST
11 a.m. ET


  • Tony Alves, director of product management, Aries Systems
  • Rachel Burley, president of Research Square
  • Tatiana Khayrullina, director and lead analyst of scientific and technical solutions with Outsell, Inc.
  • Jennifer Goodrich, director of product management in publisher solutions, CCC
  • Christopher Kenneally, director of content marketing, CCC

Those logging in for this session are to learn how stakeholders have stepped up to meet rigorous expectations of researchers in 2020.

More from Publishing Perspectives on international issues in copyright is here. More from us on Copyright Clearance Center is here, and more from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here and at the CORONAVIRUS tab at the top of each page of our site.

This is an article from our new magazine for the Frankfurter Buchmesse Special Edition, which has news and updates from international industry trends to curated guides to the online events during this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair.

Frankfurt Through a Screen offers you the information you need to make the most of the fair and the rest of 2020. 

Find information on international markets as well as trade, educational, and academic publishing, plus world reports from the International Publishers Association, and news of Frankfurt’s Guest of Honor nations. 

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About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.