AI and the Book Business: AAP’s Annual General Meeting

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Maria A. Pallante’s outline of AI’s considerations for publishing was the highlight of AAP’s 2023 annual meeting, streamed from Washington.

A panel discussion in the Association of American Publishers’ all-women annual general meeting program. Clockwise from upper left are AAP president and CEO Maria A. Pallante; Princeton University Press director Christie Henry; Adrienne Vaughan, president of Bloomsbury Publishing USA; Julia A. Reidhead, CEO, chair, and president of WW Norton, and current chair of the Association of American Publishers; and Kumsal Bayazit, CEO of Elsevier. Image: AAP presentation

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

Maria A. Pallante: ‘IA and AI’
With more than 650 people reportedly logged in to see the event, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) has held its annual general meeting today (May 8), once more a digitally produced event.

While the program was a busy 90 minutes of staff reports, invited guests’ commentary, and a panel publishing leaders, all touched on hot-button issues with a minimum of corporate partisanship.

The most important element of the meeting came early, when Maria A. Pallante, AAP president and CEO, opened the annual meeting of an organization that has been riding a major wave of legal victories for book publishing—from increasingly virulent state-based challenges to federal copyright protections in the American market to the profound success the association and four publisher-plaintiffs have had in defying the internationally impactful efforts of the Internet Archive to erode fair use concepts through its long-running “Open Library” program, called by the court “a prima facie case of copyright infringement.”

While both those areas of hard-won litigation were handled in staff reports, Pallante provided something even more timely and needed: One of the first comprehensive outlines of how “artificial intelligence” may impact book publishing.

We’ll bring you her comments here at a bit of length, largely intact, capturing the approach she took in breaking the issue down into two components: principles and policies.

Pallante on AI and Publishing: ‘Principles and Policies’

AI developments have been nothing short of astonishing this year. Technology is nothing new for society. But AI is in a category by itself. It’s not about a shift in delivery models. It’s a paradigm shift. Meaning we can’t go back to the world before AI, any more than we can go back to the world before the Internet.

Maria A. Pallante, president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers, discusses issues around ‘artificial intelligence’ and book publishing. Image: AAP presentation

For most every sector and for society at large there are two considerations: How will AI tools help and how will they hurt?

At AAP, we’re engaged on two categories of questions: principles and policies.

Principles. These are really ethics questions, such as, authenticity of content, accuracy, provenance, and objectives.

  • Consider academic publishing. Each year more than two million articles are published in more than 26,000 research journals following peer review and curation that is painstaking, but essential to ensure integrity and confidence and research results. How can AI tools help with this mission? What threats does it pose?
  • Consider education publishing. There’s an old saying that people are entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts. What are “facts” in the context of AI? A percentage of truth? How will learning be amplified or cheating be contained?
  • Consider trade publishing. Do we as a society want AI-generated works flooding the Internet, potentially depressing the value of human authorship? If we can’t contain AI-generated works, what should be the ethics about disclosing their provenance?

Turning to policies. There are competing questions about how the law should treat ingestion and output, respectively.

  • How the law should protect the underlying content, including books, used to train AI models–those are the inputs
  • And how should it protect the works generated by AI models? Those are the outputs.
“Some are considering special protections for AI-generated content. This approach is a bit ironic, as it involves weakening the protections for human expression, while creating new protections for machines.”Maria A. Pallante, AAP

Initially, some governments around the world raced to provide sweeping exemptions for text and data mining, and some are considering special protections for AI-generated content. This approach is a bit ironic, as it involves weakening the protections for human expression, while creating new protections for machines.

But now governments are moving more slowly, in part because of a backlash and in part because tech companies are not the nascent industries they were 25 years ago, but, rather, incredibly powerful and dominant players in world markets that governments have had great trouble regulating after the fact.

One point that AAP has made to lawmakers is that the source of materials should matter: AI models should not be trained from a corpus of infringing scans.

Here in the United States, the Copyright Office has begun to question its registration practices, trying to determine the degree to which the use of AI should be disclosed by a copyright owner. And if so, when? Always? Or only when the machine has done most of the creating?

And last week, members of the House Judiciary Committee sent to the Register of Copyrights, a series of questions including how the office ‘will review applications that contain little or no human authorship,’ and whether it has the authority to ‘protect rights holders against the unlawful use of [their] intellectual property.’

Policy will also be driven by litigation. One case of particular importance involves Getty Images, which sued a company called Stability AI for its tools that create photographs derived from millions of copies of protected photographs that were scraped without permission.

But you may recall that AAP filed one of the very first AI cases in 2019, in a case called Chronicle Books LLC v. Audible Inc. That case involved technology that generated unauthorized text captions from audiobooks, undermining both the print and audiobooks of publishers. We settled the case by ensuring that the company would seek permission for all future speech-to-text products for all AAP members.

In the months ahead, we’ll be spending a great deal of time on both the principles and the policies that will come to govern AI. And we look forward to speaking with all of you about both the wonder and the concern that is using and being used by machines–which may or may not be “intelligent.”

27 States’ 50 Bills to Restrict Access to Books

A series of AAP staffers’ reports were crisply handled during the course of the program. Several highlights stood out.

Terry Hart

For example, when the association’s general counsel Terry Hart spoke, he flagged the 27 states in the United States so far introducing “a record total of 50 bills that would restrict access to books in schools and libraries. Five have been enacted into law.”

Hart also, however, spoke not only of the support of authors, librarians, booksellers, “and many others working together” to combat these efforts, but also of “reconstituting our committee on Freedom of Expression at AAP to engage more closely with our members to promote the principles they rely on to connect authors with readers.”

And Hart also signaled progress, pointing to Illinois having become on May 3 “the first state to ban book bans in public and school libraries, [with] similar bills are pending in New York and Rhode Island.” As Shia Kapos reported on May 3 for Politico—in reference to the example set by Illinois—”Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker has said he supports a House bill that would withhold state funding from any of the state’s 1,600 public or school libraries that remove books from their shelves. It passed in the Illinois Senate on Wednesday, and Pritzker is expected to sign the legislation.”

Kelly Denson

For her part, Kelly Denson, vice-president of education policy and programs at AAP, drew attention to two pressure points.

In kindergarten through 12th grade, she said, the association is concerned about “the current push to limit or prohibit teaching on ‘divisive concepts’ which can include everything from race and/or critical race theory, gender, sexual orientation to environmental and/or sustainability issues. Closely related to these prohibitions, are the numerous ‘parental bills of rights introduced in several states and even this year, by Congress, which gives parents the right to review, and in some cases, copy curriculum and instructional materials. … Our top priority is to ensure that efforts do not overtake the legal standards that permit local communities to weigh in, but not to act as censors for all children who have a right to learn.”

And in higher education, Denson said, “The most pressing legislative issue is ‘transparency,’ an effort we do not oppose because publishers have reduced the cost of high-quality educational books and materials.  Nevertheless, over the last 2 to 3 years, states have introduced bills—typically led by ‘open education resource’ activists—requiring all institutions to disclose textbook costs and how financial aid is used to pay for books.

“We have worked closely with policymakers to make sure that open-education-resource—or so-called ‘free’ course materials—are held to the same transparency standards, particularly as it relates to accessibility, privacy, and costs. Open-education-resource materials are not truly free. It costs money to create and update such materials and sometimes those materials are inadequate for students seeking a sophisticated education.”

Jonathan Walker

Jonathan Walker, who has joined the association as its vice-president for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)—little heard from publicly until now—offered three points of activity under his purview including:

  • A “DEI action plan” to “provide voluntary guidance and crucial information about achieving a diverse, equitable, and inclusive publishing workplace and workforce, which no house can accomplish alone.”
  • A “DEI forum” on June 12 in New York City for publishers’ diversity directors “as it has become clear to AAP that the role and work” of staffers in such roles “can be isolating.
  • A DEI summit” on November 6 in New York City “for everyone in publishing, no matter your level or day job” and devised to “focus on advancing” diversity, equity, and inclusion “across the industry.” The theme of this event, anticipated to open an annual series, is to be “Bridging the Gap Between Intention and Action.”

Shelley Husband

Shelley Husband, senior vice-president for government affairs at the association, spoke about “A rash of bills introduced in state legislatures [that] would regulate contracts for literary works in ebook formats by dictating licensing terms–including pricing–from copyright owners to libraries.

“Not only are these state bills clearly unconstitutional,” she said, but “they are [also] based on misstatements from activists, such as allegations that states have the right to supersede private contracts that govern the licensing of copyrights.”

Husband pointed out that, “Several states refused to reintroduce bills this year after AAP sued the state of Maryland and won in 2022—and other states, including Hawaii and Virginia rejected or declined to act following deliberations. A uniform federal copyright law is essential to our industry and virtually every other creative and news sector and is therefore a high priority for AAP,” she said.

The point, however, of this type of threat to copyright originating at the state level is something that Pallante touched on several times during her appearances onstage at London Book Fair in April.

Lui Simpson

And Lui Simpson, the articulate senior vice-president for global policy at AAP, handily took this to the international stage, pointing out what Publishing Perspectives‘ international readership knows well, that “With so much going on domestically, it’s sobering to consider that these same threats and themes play out every day in other countries, and at intergovernmental institutions like the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)—the body that administers the copyright treaties that protect authorship and publications online and across borders.

“Many of the same entities that are working to weaken copyright protections in the United States, she said, “are also extremely active internationally. They push foreign countries to adopt broad exceptions and limitations, and at WIPO, these same groups continue to push for treaties that would undo basic copyright protections, under the guise of pursuing a so-called development agenda.”

Pointing to issues in the United Kingdom and South Africa, in particular, Simpson also mentioned “our network of allies [which] includes member associations of the Geneva-based International Publishers Association (IPA), as well as like-minded organizations across the scientific and creative industries.  In our global work, vigilance is essential—to ensure that efforts to weaken copyright protections are identified early and met with robust resistance.”

Sergio Dahbar: ‘An Authoritarian Regime’

In addition to the reports from AAP’s leadership, the meeting also heard a short message from Venezuela’s Sergio Dahbar, the recipient this year of the AAP’s International Freedom to Publish honor, the Jeri Laber Award.

Sergio Dahbar

In his comments, Dahbar, who founded Caracas’ Editorial Dahbar 17 years ago, said, in part, “Editorial Dahbar is an independent entity from Venezuela that has published a diverse array of books with a special focus on investigative journalism. Some of our editorial publishing has made the Venezuelan government uncomfortable. This has resulted in us being banned in government-controlled media outlets and bookstores. Many journalistic writers and authors have been forced to leave the country due to sustained threats [from the government].

“As you may be aware,  Venezuelan democracy has succumbed to an authoritarian regime that not only has caused a mass exodus of at least one-fourth of the population but also a complete destruction of one the healthiest and solid cultural and journalistic ecosystems in Latin America. We live under a regime that is being investigated for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, with hundreds of political prisoners and a completely hostile environment for freedom of speech.

“The memory of all that we have been through cannot disappear and the Venezuelan people deserve to know their reality.”

Chu, Gordon-Reed, and Bayazit: ‘Profound, Profound Risks’

As covered in our preview story, today’s annual meeting included the presentation to Rep. Judy Chu, Democrat of California, of the AAP Distinguished Public Service Award.

Rep. Judy Chu

In relation to our readership’s international purview, Chu’s comments included the point that “The US creative industries are one of our country’s most important exports, and I’m working to ensure that our trade agreements provide for strong standards of copyright protection and enforcement.

“That includes the US-Mexico-Canada agreement, or US-MCA, which included an intellectual property chapter with language to protect copyright interests in the modern marketplace.

Harvard’s Carl M. Loeb University law professor and historian Annette Gordon-Reed, a winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (WW Norton, 2009) gave a keynote address in which she stressed what to her is the importance of her works that have examined the history of enslaved Black Americans and the sometimes intimate relationships some of them have had with iconic citizens including Thomas Jefferson. She argues in The Hemingses that Jefferson fathered as many as seven children during a 38-year relationship with his slave Sally Hemings.

Annette Gordon-Reed

“I became a writer and wanted to become a historian,” Gordon-Reed said, “because I thought that I could use my talents as a writer to bring the history to people to try to explain why we’re in the situation we’re in today, with race and the problems that we have with voter-suppression, all those kinds of things.

“And the book is a way of reckoning with all of that. So my career to this date has been about exploring American history, American life, the American past, in a way that I hope will be helpful and fruitful for other people. I think that’s the role that books play in our lives.”

The program closed with a brief but pleasant panel of  women leaders in publishing, Pallante being joined by:

  • Julia A. Reidhead, CEO, chair, and president of WW Norton, and current chair of the Association of American Publishers
  • Kumsal Bayazit, CEO of Elsevier
  • Christie Henry, director of Princeton University Press
  • Adrienne Vaughan, president of Bloomsbury Publishing USA

It was particularly good to see Kumsal Bayazit, as she’s less found in such programming settings than many of us wish and she is, of course, highly regarded for her leadership at Elsevier.

And when Bayazit spoke, she returned to the issue of “artificial intelligence,” noting Pallante’s adept handling of the challenges “in generative AI and large language models,” which—as the United Kingdom’s Thomas Cox has said to Publishing Perspectives, would be much better termed “advanced statistical algorithms.”

In her comments, Bayazit, equally adroitly, represented the sheer scale of Elsevier’s operations quite graciously, while pointing from her company’s experience to the issues inherent in these systems.

“There are profound, profound risks around responsible use of these technologies. We like testing our way into these technologies and start small, so we can ensure that we are responsible in the way we implement AI.Kumsal Bayazit, Elsevier

“We have 2,000 technologists who work at Elsevier,” Bayazit said, “and we’ve been using ‘artificial intelligence’ and machine-learning tools in our business for two decades now.

“Generative AI is going to bring significant opportunities for mining data and content, driving analytics, and summarization as well as efficiency and openness and potentially greater inclusion, as well.

“But there are also profound, profound risks around responsible use of these technologies. We like testing our way into these technologies and start small, so we can ensure that we are responsible in the way we implement AI.

“And I think we’re going to have a lot of policy and regulation debates to think through, considering the real impact of solutions that use artificial intelligence, taking actions to prevent the creation or reinforcement of unfair bias, disinformation, ensuring there are no black boxes and creating accountability of human oversight.

“Those are going to be the challenges. And that’s also going to reinforce the value of publishing of trusted sources and curation of high-quality information.”

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Association of American Publishers is here. More from us on “artificial intelligence,’ AI, is here. More from us on the freedom of expression and freedom to publish is here, more on copyright and its issues is here, more on book bannings is here, and more on the United States market is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the International Publishers Association’s world media partner.

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.