The Author HQ at this year’s annual London Book Fair, at the Olympia Conference Centre in London from 14th-16th March 2017, was packed to the rafters with writers from around the globe. Authors attended to hear seminars from industry professionals helping them make informed decisions about getting work published and protecting their rights once they had been offered a publishing contract. Every year the London Book fair has a country of focus, and this year Poland was in the spotlight.
Country of focus: Poland
As part of the focus on Poland, Andrzej Sapkowski featured in a seminar as ‘Cross Media Author of the Day’ discussing his fantasy series The Witcher and the blockbuster video game adaptions based on it. Andrzej spoke about how he started writing at a time when the fantasy genre was poorly regarded and how he developed his writing style over time to develop his writing prior to The Witcher series. As advice to aspiring authors Andrzej said an author must keep writing to find both the story and the author within themselves. On Polish literature Andzrej spoke about how he had wanted to build an epic fantasy saga relevant to Polish folklore in a way other countries had fantasy tied to their mythology and history. With the international success of The Witcher it has been translated into numerous languages, Andzrej said he had been pleased to work closely with translators and to see many translations keep the spirit of his work.
Last year Poland introduced the Public Lending Right scheme, a scheme which sees authors remunerated when their work is borrowed in Public libraries.
Consensus on copyright
The Charles Clarke Memorial lecture, arranged by the Publishers’ Association (PA), featured a debate on ‘fair use’ with Judge Pierre Leval of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and Jon Baumgarten, Intellectual property lawyer and former General Counsel for the US Copyright Office.
Pierre Leval argued the benefits of fair use, claiming that it ensures an author’s work is accessible without unduly harming the economic interests of the author. As an example he cited Harper & Row v. Nation Enterprises, a US Supreme Court case regarding President Gerald Ford’s memoir and the account of his pardon for President Richard Nixon. Leval also discussed how existing measures of fair use makes author’s works more accessible to consumers, such as through book reviews.
Jon Baumgarten argued against the extension of fair use, focusing on its potential to weaken the position of copyright by eroding author’s ownership of their works, and how projects such as Google books have an author’s work freely available without informing them. Jon Baumgarten argued that despite the claimed intent to benefit authors, in practice fair use can often erode important protections of copyright.
Copyright Under Threat?
At the ‘Copyright Under Threat?’ seminar, chaired by the PA’s Susie Winter, William Boath of Cambridge University Press (CUP) gave a fantastic run-down of copyright as the great education enabler.
Contrary to the modern view that it stifles innovation, copyright’s true social purpose since its inception 300 years ago was the ‘Act For Encouragement of Learning’, meaning greater access to education materials for the public and its continuous development and adoption across the arts and of late, software, is a testament to its phenomenal success.
Misconceptions that copyright affects consumer and digital rights mean there is a need for better education: copyright needs to be proportionate and that’s why it’s not a monopoly, it doesn’t last forever. It’s right that it has limitations and boundaries, which is why it doesn’t apply to every single fact, detail or piece of data. Boath stated that IP rights are no broader in education today than they were when copyright was introduced. There are thresholds are in place for the public interest and it is right that there is a time limit and a public domain.
Understanding copyright as an economic framework
Boath explored what might help the public and politicians to better understand copyright as a practical framework operating within the wider economy – authors and publishers deserve fair remuneration for the works they produce. “If teachers get paid, why shouldn’t those producing the high-quality education learning materials? How do the authors and publishers get paid for a work in an academic context when that’s its sole purpose?”
He added that arguments need to change around IP, and education on the risks of diminished supply need to be stronger, particularly at a time when ‘fair dealing’ is synonymous with ‘free use’. As an example, he pointed to all the people working in developing countries in educational publishers, working to bring vital materials to the wider public for the benefit of society – without copyright, how do those industries continue to exist?
However, he conceded that licencing practices could be easier for the public to understand.
When fair dealing fails creators
Sarah Faulder, Chair of the Publisher’s Licensing Society (PLS) said licensing is the solution to helping money flow back to content creators. Licensing represents great value, but Governments around the world are currently debating copyright and ‘fair dealing’ regulations in short-sighted efforts to save money on public spending.
Faulder exemplified how this short term gain can have devastating and far-reaching cultural and economic impacts, as shown in Canada, a country with a tradition of high regard for international copyright law. Yet Canada’s seemingly small change in ‘fair dealing’ legislation in 2012 has all but eradicated licensing income with knock on effects for both publishing and education.
Small change, big impact
These changes have seen Access Copyright, Canada’s Collective Management Organisation (CMO), all but decimated. In 2011 the organisation had collected $18.3 million for writers and publishers for the re-use of their works but by 2013 was completely wiped out. The move also rendered the two top educational publishing houses bankrupt, with an overall 16% drop in value Canadian educational content and redundancies to match.
The financial pressures felt by publishers meant that money usually diverted into commissioning new and dynamic content diminished. Imports increased from America, and teachers are under increased pressure to create localised resources for the sector themselves, leading to variable standards in those materials. “Teaching materials have become unquestioningly impoverished in Canada, it’s a really bleak picture.”
Around the world
Faulder expressed concern that fair dealing is attempting to sweep the world with Singapore, Ireland and Australia all under similar copyright reviews to Canada, despite the evidence of devastation. Whilst the 2011 Review into Intellectual Property and Growth in the UK showed an overarching ambition for fair dealing to stay the same as it is in the UK, Faulder expressed hope that this would stay the same once the UK departs the EU.
She added that countries that are experiencing similar threats around the world could learn from Australian creatives who have come together in their entirety: artists, writers, musicians and publishers, “to show that Australia is a hot bed for home-grown talent”. By coming together in force, they have proved an effective lobby, which all could learn from. But, she said, “We must remain vigilant”.
Creating digital books for learners with disabilities was the agenda for the ‘Textbooks for All’ panel discussion, hosted by Unicef along with partners Accessible Books Consortium (ABC), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and International Publishers Association (IPA).
The Marrakesh Treaty
Hugo Setzer, Vice President of IPA, said that the world’s publishing community was fully committed to bringing accessible textbooks to children around the world, in order to offer diverse ways of learning and redress the imbalance of disabled children being locked out of education. However, true success lies in implementation.
He said that the Marrakesh Treaty, which seeks to ensure that every child has access to text books – specifically blind children – will have a huge impact on people’s lives the world over, and IPA are committed to work with Unicef to take the necessary steps to help publishers towards greater accessibility for their audiences.
Why is greater accessibility vital?
The current situation for those with print-disabilities is that the lack of resources in mainstream school lends to discriminating against them. Of the world’s 650 million primary school age children, an estimated 93-150 million of them have disabilities. 80% of those are in developing countries, with up to a third of those children not in education at all. Increasing accessibility to books will prevent blind children from being barred from learning.
Converting books to digital formats
Claudia Cardoso, publishing Manager at Santa Maria Publishers gave a demonstration of The International Digital Publishing Forum’s (IDPF) ‘E-pub3’ software, which shows how publishers can convert books into accessible formats, and how interactive they can be for children with different disabilities. She conceded that converting textbooks to accessible format has been fraught with problems but that the aim is to make sure that the editorial quality is just as high.
Gopal Mitra, Programme Specialist at Unicef, thanked WIPO for the important work they have done so far in increasing the accessibility. He highlighted how education forms a broad part of Unicef’s core values, and for this reason they want to end to the discriminating factors that render disabled children blocked from education.
Mitra also called for publishers to get involved, a sentiment echoed by Pedro Milliet, an E-Publishing Accessibility Specialist on the panel.
IAF’s accessibility guidelines for writers
Do you want to make your ebooks more accessible? The International Authors Forum’s (IAF) guide aims to help self-published authors to increase the accessibility of their work for readers who are blind or face other challenges to reading books in standard print.
Kate Pool, Deputy Chief Executive of the Society of Authors (SoA) and an experienced professional in contract-vetting, led the seminar for ‘What to look out for in a good and bad contract’.
Accompanying Pool was Celia Rees; Britain’s foremost writer for teenagers and member of the Contracts Team at SoA. Rees began by stating that like many writers she also finds contracts somewhat daunting. She stated that as the publishing world gets more complex with the growth of digital publishing; contracts can also become complex. Writers must become aware of their rights abroad and across media formats that they may not have considered previously.
Falling into a trap
She highlighted that authors can be so glad to have their first contract that in their haste to becoming published they fall into the trap of signing without understanding all the terms. It is important for writers to go through the contract with a fine-tooth comb; The SoA helps with this process free-of-charge.
Pool began by saying that for writers, contracts can seem quite technical “if you strip away all the legal language then it does what it says. It will become clear if you are passing too many of your rights to your publisher and you need to know this.” Pool went on to say that: “Writers need to think from the start what they want from their publisher and the contract should reflect this. There is an inherent disparity between author and publisher as the publisher is coming at the deal from a purely commercial point-of-view whereas for the author it is about their work; their own creation.”
Think about the future
Rees reminded the audience that in the initial stages, writers do not know what the life of their book is going to be. There could be the potential for the book to be adapted to a film or TV show and signing over media rights can mean losing large sums of money later on. She cited the case of J.K. Rowling who, as a newly-published author, signed away her media rights for one of her first works, resulting in companies making millions from DVD and CD sales. She advised that the only basic rights an author should initially sign away are rights in the English Language and possibly for sales of eBooks.
Pool advised that once a writer has decided to sign away certain rights they need to consider how long this will be for, mentioning that the option to terminate a contract easily helps if the book isn’t selling as well as expected. This is advantageous as the writer can go back to the work and make necessary changes and publish it again.
Pool and Rees outlined the benefits of self-publishing for authors, having full control over their work and not having to sign over rights. Pool advised that: “If a writer self-publishes then they can make more money selling fewer copies as there is no one taking a cut of the sales.” Both acknowledged, however, that this method suits some writers but not all.
Pool reminded the audience that societies like The Society of Authors and lawyers are always out there to help writers and support them if they feel daunted. She said: “As soon as a contract starts to look worrying then you should query it. In the end, if a publisher really wants to sign you up they will negotiate their terms.”
The SoA is a UK trade union for all types of authors, illustrators and literary translators. Members receive free advice on various aspects of the profession including confidential clause-by-clause contract vetting. For more information about the work of The Society of Authors please visit their website: (http://www.societyofauthors.org/Where-We-Stand)
Campaign for Fair Contracts
Over the last two years, IAF has campaigned vigorously for fair contracts. See IAF’s Ten Principles for Fair Contracts in…
Impact on children’s media
At a seminar on the impact of Brexit on Children’s media, discussion covered how the creative industry around children’s books particularly will be affected. Scriptwriters discussed how productions of TV series for children currently rely on access to an EU workforce, while the UK’s position in the EU for trade has benefited the supply chains of products derived from books and TV for children such as toys. Despite concerns that leaving the EU will have a negative impact on the creative industry around children’s media, many members of the panel felt that books and TV created for children in the UK had strong, positive brands, limiting downsides of the changed position of UK exports, whilst continuing to contribute to the value and appreciation of British culture globally.
‘Fair use’ post Brexit
At the ‘Copyright Under Threat?’ discussion, William Boath of Cambridge University Press (CUP) discussed how copyright law has been adopted in countries throughout the world, but outlined how the EU maintains the status quo. What will ‘fair use’ look like when the UK depart the EU? He said: “This is a wonderfully international framework in a time of very polarised views which is vital at this stage of history.”
Business as usual
However Adam Williams from the UK’s IPO (Intellectual Property Office) finished the ‘Copyright Under Threat?’ session on a positive note. Whilst he conceded that Brexit means a lot of uncertainty in many aspects, he assured the audience that there are no current plans to change the UK copyright system at all, and that IPO are constantly working with partners abroad to exchange information and views. In short, it would be business as usual in that IPO would continue their work to protect content and build relationships in the post-Brexit market.
He said: “Business models fail when content isn’t paid for,” adding that Government figures showed just how valuable protecting copyright is to the economy. Figures show that in 2014, 25% of intangible UK assets were protected by IP, with copyright industries contributing £168,000,000 to the UK economy.