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Ben Steward

Ben Steward

Ben Steward became the IPA's Director of Communications and Freedom to Publish in February 2016.

After leaving the UK, where he had been a newspaper journalist, Ben joined the Geneva-based European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the world’s biggest alliance of public service broadcasters, where he worked for eight years as a news editor then communications officer in the Public Affairs Department. From 2014 to 2016 he served as the speechwriter and communications aide to the leadership of MSC Cruises, the world's fourth biggest cruise company. 


WHAT DO Alanis Morissette, Margaret Atwood, Bryan Adams, Marie Claire Blais, Michael Bublé, Sharon Pollock, Gordon Lightfoot and William Deverell have in common? Yes, they are all Canadian (eh?)

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And so ends another SCCR marathon: hundreds of delegates locked in some 40 hours of discussion over five days; only God knows how many mini-sandwiches, cups of undrinkable coffee and MBs of data have been consumed.

The IPA put in a strong showing this time. For the first time ever the IPA delegation included its President (elect) and the Chair of the copyright committee. Add to that the Secretary General, our razor-sharp legal counsel and, well, me, and we were a distinctly visible presence in the crowd.

Having been wrapped in the copyright bubble since Monday and talked of little else between the hours of 9am and 7pm, I get a sense that there has been a definite shift in humour.

Frustration and possibly a vague embarrassment over the impasse has peaked and is spurring the chamber to action on the broadcasters treaty; the inside track is that a diplomatic conference may be announced as early as SCCR 34, from 1-5 May 2017.

Here's Carlo Scollo Lavizzari to tell you how he thinks it went:

This morning Melbourne Law School Intellectual Property Professor Sam Ricketson was beamed into the chamber to give a lengthy webcast presentation on the Artists’ Resale Right which, while not immediately linked to the IPA’s policy agenda, is nonetheless an important area of interest for creators.

Some countries, particularly from Africa Group, are pushing hard for rollout of the Resale Right. Prof. Ricketson said a growing number of countries have adopted the right into their law over the past 10 to 15 years, particularly among Berne Convention member countries.

In the afternoon session, the IPA made a written submission to the SCCR on educational exceptions and limitations, having been denied the chance to speak to the chamber. The reason for this was that the room was so preoccupied by the other agenda items, including the resale right, that it left no time for the NGOs to intervene on this matter.

Here's the full submission:

The IPA is the global association of book publishers, including those in the trade, educational and academic sectors. Our 64 member associations from 59 countries represent thousands of individual publishing houses, which together serve more than 5.5 billion people across the globe.

Educational publishing is a critical strategic resource for all countries. To be truly successful and effective, educational publishing must be genuinely relevant to the place where its outputs will be used.

In a healthy educational publishing market, this relevance requirement benefits local publishers and local authors. And such support for local content is crucial because, for economies in transition or in developing countries, local educational publishers actually form the bedrock of the national publishing industry — enabling and underpinning all the other publishing sectors in those countries.

The IPA has long stressed the importance of the ‘local’ in education publishing. We have often stated that the best curricula are pointedly local, as are learning environments and cultural contexts. Great education embraces local content and context.

Unfortunately, overbroad educational exceptions jeopardize this virtuous circle.

If a government neglects the economic framework around local publishing, then healthy domestic educational publishing markets are undermined.

‘Neglect’ can take the form of overbroad exceptions, which lead to unintended consequences. Take, for example, the 2012 copyright amendments in Canada, which have had ongoing and long-term deleterious effects on not only the local publishing industry and Canadian authors, but also, we would argue, on the availability of high-quality educational resources for teachers and students alike.

The impact of these Canadian amendments on publishers has been immediate and severe, with a number of publishing houses scaling back their operations and at least one global player, Oxford University Press, packing up and leaving the country, citing the copyright amendments as a prime reason.

But these amendments have also increasingly forced Canadian authors to publish for US or other foreign markets. Publications produced for foreign markets will, however, always be a poor substitute for the ideal, which, as we’ve argued, would be locally sourced and locally produced. Such foreign-sourced publications will be detrimental to the general coherence and objectives of a sound national educational policy.

In education, so much depends on the quality of the resources being utilized by teachers in the classroom for the benefit of the particular mix of students before them. In Canada, it is not just the provenance of the materials that has been compromised by the 2012 amendments, but also their quality.

High-quality educational publishing requires intensive, long-term investment. Publishers are now telling us that they are pulling out of the Canadian educational market precisely because the medium- to long-term prospects are so grim. This will mean fewer local authors, writing less local content, for fewer local publishers to produce fewer high-quality Canadian resources. This will not be good for Canadian students.

rsz dsc 0177A consequence of the local nature of education publishing is that one-size-fits-all exceptions are unnecessary and inappropriate. As Professor Seng’s work demonstrates, Member States have largely succeeded in formulating their own state-specific education exceptions suited to their unique local conditions. An inflexible international instrument that does not respect local conditions will harm, not help, efforts to achieve the worthy goals of educational exceptions.

The IPA respectfully requests that SCCR take into account the need for balance and respect for local interests and not foreclose local markets and licensing solutions. Otherwise exceptions are bound to have a negative effect, especially where multiple copying is concerned.

Well, that's pretty much it from the WIPO Diary for SCCR33, although I'll post the chairman's summary when it becomes available, likely next week. Have a great weekend!


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Professor Daniel Seng returned to the chamber briefly this morning to field more questions and comments about his mega-study. A night’s sleep had clearly worked wonders on everyone, and the questions came thick and fast from all corners of the room.

Some delegates wanted clarifications; others suggested ways to improve the report. And it seemed that my prayers in Wednesday’s post had been answered when the Brazilian delegate spoke. In previous SCCRs Brazil has made a series of utterances indicating a distinctly ‘copyleft’ bent. But perhaps the wind of change blowing through Brazilian politics has arrived on this side of the Atlantic, as the delegate said: ‘In Brazil, this report will provide us with much food for thought in our ongoing internal debates about copyright law reform.’

Once Prof. Seng had departed (probably for a well-earned rest), the discussion moved onto exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives. One of the first interventions of the session was by the Nigerian spokeswoman on behalf of the African Group.

She said: ‘We believe it is simply time to determine a functional path forward, for the committee's work in this area. We strongly believe that the absence of a clear result-oriented timeframe for the committee — for the committee's discussion of the limitations and exceptions agenda — is more harmful than helpful to the work programme of the SCCR and the overall objective of the exercise.’

IPA’s legal counsel Carlo Scollo Lavizzari, a Swiss polyglot who’s well versed in diplo-speak, suggested that this statement could be read in two ways. Either the African Group wants to strike exceptions and limitations from the agenda altogether, since it is acting as a brake, or, more likely, they want to impose a strict timeframe in order to force a more urgent resolution.

A little later, André Myburgh, a lawyer on Carlo’s team, intervened on behalf of STM publishers to draw the committee’s attention to the liability of librarians and orphan works, and the benefits of licensing as a solution.

He said: ‘STM’s position on copyright-protected uses of orphan works ... (is) that users who have not been able to identify, locate and contact the copyright owner to obtain permission, despite a diligent search, must not be penalised if the rightsholder comes forward later. An STM signatory statement offers exactly this safe harbour in respect of the uses of works considered to be orphan works which are then discovered to be works in which the signatories – comprising the largest STM publishers and many more - own the copyright. STM continues to advocate this principle, both in public fora and in the publishing industry.

Licensing has in our experience supported library document delivery services, resulting in the liability of libraries not even coming into the question. With the main interest of publishers being in the broadest possible dissemination of the works they publish, STM believes that there is much scope for licensing services in solving this problem.’

However, the Statement of the Day Award goes to Mike Holderness, who chairs the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) Authors’ Rights Expert Group. I make no apology for reproducing it here wholesale since the extremely topical ideas it encapsulates and expresses so eloquently deserve all the exposure they can get. Enjoy:

‘I have a confession. I am a journalist – an author. And now – more clearly than at any recent time – the world needs ethical journalism. Despite the failings of newspapers in some countries recently, the work of individual, independent journalists remains the best bulwark against arbitrary power and the gaining of that power through a mixture of falsehood and rumour amplified by the echo chambers of electronic gossip. rsz img 5831

I write and edit reports on science and technology in London. My ability to make a living – like that of every independent, professional author – depends on the strength of authors’ rights laws, the future of which we are once more here to discuss. I want to stress the need for professional authorship. The promise held out by some that the internet era would usher in a golden era of democracy has proved hollow. A vast exchange of prejudices and lies through anti-social media is not, I suggest, true or useful “free expression”.

Citizens of all our countries need to have the chance to be informed through the work of people who commit themselves to building the skills and experience to evaluate claims and unmask falsehood. Those people – those journalists in particular – need to have the economic security that enables them to stand up to power (including that of newspaper and broadcasting owners when necessary).

That publishing has been hurt badly by the internet revolution is well-known – not least because publishers have some influence and capability to tell us so. It has been hurt in particular by internet corporations that eke out a fortune selling advertising alongside other people’s creative work. How to get those corporations to pay for their use of this, their prime raw material, is a challenge that is causing head-scratching in the European Union, as it must here, soon.

I therefore appeal to this Committee not to be swayed by the promise held out by some that opening up creative works to use without remuneration offers some kind of golden era of free information. The risk is that free information ends up being worth every penny.

Yes, let us have international norms that give libraries, archives and educational institutions the legal certainty they need to play their utterly essential part in ensuring an informed citizenry.

And let us insist that, throughout the world, those vital institutions are adequately funded and that the use they make of authors’ work is compensated. Because as libraries move online, and as libraries form partnerships with those internet corporations, some of their activities increasingly resemble publishing and these parts of their activities affect the incomes of authors like me.

Let us insist that that remuneration be delivered to authors through collecting societies. Let this Committee commit to encouraging the formation of transparent, democratic collecting societies everywhere.

Useful information depends on authors having adequate primary income. The proposed new EU directive securing more transparency in the way authors’ work are exploited by their publishers, producers and broadcasters is a step in the right direction. WIPO should by inspired by it.

Let this Committee re-dedicate itself to enabling “innovation and creativity for the benefit of all” through defending the rights and incomes of individual authors. After all, without the work of skilled authors and performers libraries have nothing to share; schools nothing to teach; and this Committee nothing to discuss. This Committee needs to re-focus on supporting creativity. Please do.’

Very well said, Mr Holderness.

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The IPA team joined a US delegation breakfast briefing this morning, high up on the 13th floor. A superstitious person may have hesitated to attend, but this was a golden chance of valuable face time with some key SCCR influencers. At the table were stakeholders from all sides of the copyright debate: policy makers, consumer groups, librarians, lawyers and NGOs.

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The morning began with a strategy huddle among the IPA-coordinated Creative Sector Organizations (CSO) group − a coalition of audio-visual, music and publishing industry representatives with a common goal: to protect creators, creations and creativity from attempts to weaken copyright.

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As the world of international diplomacy hastily manoeuvres ahead of the looming Trump Era, delegates congregated at the World Intellectual Property Organization in Geneva this morning for the 33rd meeting of its Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR 33).

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Oh Google! You’ve done it again! You have taken a good idea—one that could help creativity–and once again blotted your copybook by antagonizing the creative community you profess to serve. Yet again you have turned a blind eye to the rights of writers and creators to serve your own ends, all in the name of “progress”.

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The Geneva-based World Intellectual Property (WIPO) has now closed its 56th Assemblies of the Member States, which took an interim look at various areas of strategic interest to publishers.

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The morning began with an alarming rumour circulating that today’s session might spill over into a dreaded 'late-nighter'. Was this the curse of Friday 13th?

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Two hot potatoes in particular injected extra vim into the SCCR discussion today, drawing parties on either side of the copyright fence into an exchange of views that, had we been in a pub and not at WIPO, might have led to indecorous behaviour from some.

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A collective sigh of relief was heaved here at WIPO this morning when, at last, the broadcasting talk wrapped up.

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As the SCCR delegates resumed their Sisyphean effort to define the terms underpinning the long-awaited WIPO broadcast treaty this morning, the glaring paradox at the heart of the process became apparent.

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WIPO Director General Francis Gurry fired the starting gun on the 32nd Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR), today, urging the participants to agree on the elusive broadcasting treaty, which has lain on the table since 1996.

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This week, the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) will meet for the 32nd time, in Geneva, to debate several copyright issues that will have a direct impact on the global publishing industry.

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