At London Book Fair Tuesday: Copyright Under Attack

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The scale of threats to crucial copyright protections, publishing leaders at London Book Fair will say today, is as international as the Internet.

Speaking on London Book Fair’s Main Stage at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 18, on some of the major international threats to copyright are, clockwise from upper left, the Publishers Association’s Dan Conway; the Association of Authors’ Agents’ Isobel Dixon; the Association of American Publishers’ Maria A. Pallante; and the Publishers Association of South Africa’s Brian Wafawarowa

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

Standing Up to Worldwide Challenges
As the 2023 London Book Fair opens today (April 18) with a series of timely industry-focused issues in its Main Stage series of Seminar Program events, one of the most forthrightly titled is Copyright in a Global Context: Current Threats and Emerging Issues.

The alarm is not misplaced or overstated.

From the spectacle of 94 Canadian school boards suing the nation’s federally mandated copyright collection agency to the challenge of “free text and data-mining of any content accessible on subscription for commercial use” that has engaged the Publishers Association, and a resounding rebuke of the so-called “controlled digital lending” concept with worldwide implications, there seem to be few “small stories” around copyright today.

“Copyright in a Global Context: Current Threats and Emerging Issues”2:30 p.m. April 18, London Book Fair Main Stage

Well before “artificial intelligence” models alerted copyright advocates to fast-rising new questions about copyright on the misty horizons of AI, intellectual property specialists were warning the publishing industry about dangers to the book business’ utterly indispensable protections enshrined in international copyright treaties and national markets’ laws.

And yet, even publishing colleagues whose own livelihoods rest entirely on the promise of IP protection are unclear about how it works; uncertain about what’s required to sustain it; and unaware of the severity of the forays being made against copyright.

Too many times, the best-intended publishing stalwarts—you may know some, yourself—have consoled themselves and others that no one in nearby industries (education, entertainment, communications) could possibly be willing to do anything that might undermine the essential value of copyright protection.

What’s more, it’s easy to think that one market’s struggles with a rewritten piece of legislation or a foray into popular misconceptions about copyright will stay in that market.

In Tuesday’s 45-minute session at 1:30 p.m. on the Main Stage, it will be impossible for each of four aptly positioned speakers to give you a full picture. But the session is designed to have each of them deliver quick opening talking points, and then to engage in a discussion about these threats to illuminate the critically international reach of these dangerous digital-era dynamics.

What’s clear is that various efforts to upend and degrade the protection of intellectual property for publishers and authors are being replicated in many markets of the world—a rolling energy that exposes vulnerabilities and frequently appeals to widespread ignorance of copyright’s importance to gain traction.

London’s trade visitors will hear from:

An important point here is that powerful protection of copyright is attainable in many cases. And it frequently is falling to the world’s publishers’ associations to lead the way in making sure these efforts succeed.

Pallante: ‘A Forceful Validation’ of Copyright

At the entrance to London Book Fair, 2019, at Olympia London. Image: LBF

Ahead of the program today, Pallante has written Reflections from the Association of American Publishers on Hachette Book Group v. Internet Archive: An Affirmation of Publishing (PDF), an analytical reflection that captures and explains one of the most potent and far-reaching anti-copyright efforts mounted yet.

“In rejecting both the theory and operation of Internet Archive’s ‘Controlled Digital Lending’ defense, the court recognized that digital books are inherently different from physical books, including in the ease of distributing them worldwide in an instant.”MariaA. Pallante, Association of American Publishers

On March 24, the court action she reviews resulted in a resonant 47-page summary court judgment in the United States’ district court in the Southern District of New York—a ruling squarely on the side of copyright and its essential protections.

The Pallante article is good reading for those in publishing everywhere. The story of a three-year effort in litigation mounted by Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, John Wiley & Sons, and Penguin Random House with the Association of American Publishers was integral to the industry, as she writes, because “copyright is both the lifeblood of authors and the foundation of a sustainable publishing industry.”

Our purpose here is to heighten the international scale at which the digital-era runs at copyright are being mounted, as reflected in Pallante’s seven-page analysis. But the article is instructive throughout, for the lucid look it takes at many elements of contemporary attack faced by copyright regimes everywhere.

Briefly, as Pallante writes, Hachette Book Group, et al, v. Internet Archive “was prompted by the Internet Archive’s mass digitization and distribution of millions of books, without the permission of authors or publishers, in violation of fundamental principles of copyright law. Internet Archive sought to justify its ‘Open Library’ under a legal theory called ‘controlled digital lending’ (CDL), but the court firmly rejected that assertion, holding instead that it offers up a competing market substitute for authorized versions of the works in violation of authors’ and publishers’ rights.”

In the international arena—a fundamental element of today’s presentation at London Book Fair—several key points are surfaced that bring into bright relief the immensely international aspect of today’s concerns about copyright, and happily in the context of a protracted legal fight which has been decided in favor of the publishing industry and protection of its intellectual property protections.

Pallante writes about what she one of the subtlest and most dangerous elements of the Internet Archive’s “Open Library” efforts:

“It seems potentially hurtful to public lending libraries to be lumped into the same category as an international Internet platform that is acting as a global collector, hub, and distribution platform for literary works, and one potentially siphoning off their patrons. No doubt, there are perspectives on these points that are properly the purview of library, archive, and museum professionals to debate, but if the lines should blur in a manner that would affect the exclusive rights and limitations of the [United States] Copyright Act, the issues become public policy questions that are more broadly important, including to the affected rightsholders.”

Immediately, you begin to grasp the level of alarm around this instance because an Internet-wide operation like that of the San Francisco-based Archive is, by definition, a worldwide operation. The battle was enjoined far beyond the shores of the United States, Pallante writes:

“Also filing was a coalition of seven international organizations, led by the International Publishers Association (IPA), on behalf of publishers, authors, and producers from the book, music, and film industries worldwide. Their brief reminded the court of the various copyright treaties and normative practices to which the United States is a party. Controlled digital lending is ‘contrived,’ it wrote, and the facts ‘do not meet the minimum standard for protection as defined by international treaties.’ The international amici also cautioned that if the United States is ‘perceived to allow businesses like Internet Archive to function without restraint [the] spillover problem will be global, massive, and potentially irreversible.”

Here’s a quick reminder that you can see some of the specific programming that the International Publishers Association is staging this week at London Book Fair, touching on copyright and many more issues in the international book business.

Each of today’s speakers will be engaging from her and his respective arena in a top-level, sharply informed position on the rising worldwide tide of copyright-protection threats being mounted today.

You’ll find more information on this and other Seminar Program events in the trade show’s listings here.

A programming note:
Publishing Perspectives will also participate in a Sustainability Lounge event on London Book Fair’s opening day, April 18: a 30-minute examination of the status of the United Nations’ Sustainability Development Goals with an eye to the 2030 time line for this program’s accomplishment.

April 18, 1:30 to 2 p.m., Sustainability Lounge
Halfway to 2030: What is Needed to Get the SDGs on Track?

  • Sherri Aldis, UNRIC Brussels
  • Porter AndersonPublishing Perspectives
  • Louis Coiffait-Gunn, Publishers Association

More on London Book Fair is here. More from Publishing Perspectives on copyright is here, more on ‘controlled digital lending’ is here, more on the Internet Archive is here, more on the Association of American Publishers is here, and more on the International Publishers Association is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the global media partner of the International Publishers Association.

More coverage relative to the 2023 London Book Fair:

London Book Fair and the UK’s National Literacy Trust Open Schools Program
Emirates Publishers Association at London Book Fair: Seven Presses for Rights Meetings
London Book Fair: The 2023 International Excellence Awards
From Richard Charkin’s ‘My Back Pages’: ‘The Challenges of Diplomacy’
London Book Fair and Bologna: 2024 Trade Show Dates Conflict Resolved
London Book Fair: Klaus Flugge To Receive London’s Lifetime Achievement Award

Interview: Rachel Martin on London Book Fair’s Sustainability Lounge
London Book Fair: International Publishers Association Events
London Book Fair: A Keynote From London Mayor Sadiq Khan on the Climate Crisis
Richard Charkin in London: ‘The Perils of Literary Publishing’
Sustainability: Exact Editions Promotes ‘Collections’ for Book-Award Juries
London Book Fair’s New Director Gareth Rapley: ‘A Rich History’
London Book Fair Names Main Stage Speakers
London Book Fair Plans: Scholarly and Rights Conferences
Exact Editions to Showcase IPG Publishers’ Books at London Book Fair
Industry Notes: London Book Fair Awards, Hay Festival in Colombia
London Book Fair Opens International Excellence Awards for Submissions

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.