Thursday, April 14, 2016

Sam Elworthy on IPA special assembly at the IPA Congress

PANZ Newsletter

Sam Elworthy reports in from London where he is attending the IPA special assembly at the IPA Congress

London Book Fair this year was host to both the IPA Congress and a special General Assembly of the International Publishers Association. That special assembly was called by the ‘Milan Group’ of nine European publishers associations who objected to the IPA General Assembly’s decision at the 2015 Frankfurt Book Fair to admit China as a member of the IPA. Opposition was based on China’s poor record on freedom to publish and the close ties of Chinese publishers to government. On balance, PANZ along with the UK, US and the majority supported the admission of China to IPA on the assumption that improvements in copyright, freedom to publish, etc were more likely by having China in the tent.

At the Congress, China’s new role remained controversial. Hachette CEO Anaud Nourry addressed IPA President Richard Charkin in his address to the Congress ‘I hope you knew what you were doing when you supported the Publishers Association of China’s application to be members of the IPA’ after which a member of the Chinese delegation stood up to object to Nourry’s remark.

The group of nine had put to IPA a series of radical proposals that would have allowed a membership committee to meet in secret and exclude countries from membership for many reasons. So many reasons in fact that PANZ could have been excluded. The group of nine also threatened to withdraw from IPA if their concerns were not addressed.

PANZ raised a number of objections to the group of nine's proposals which were circulated to the IPA committees working on amendments. By the time of the Special General Assembly this week, the group of nine and the IPA executive committee had reached a more moderate compromise plank of statutes which were approved at the Assembly. On the membership guidelines, a number of countries voted against and PANZ abstained.

We continue to have concerns that the new membership guidelines will be used by the Europeans in an attempt to evict China from membership—achieving by procedure what they failed to do by democratic vote. But an IPA without the membership of nine major European book markets would be a hollow body, so compromise was necessary and it was achieved in London. 

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