John Degen, Chair of the International Authors Forum (IAF), participated in panel discussion along with Bodour Al Qasimi (President, International Publishers Association), Benedicte Page (Bookseller), Carsten Fink (Chief Economist, World Intellectual Property Organisation) and André Breedt (Managing Director, Nielsen Books) about the impact of COVID-19 on the global publishing industry at the Frankfurt Book Fair on 20 October.
John Degen discussed the impact surveys launched by a number of author organisations worldwide, including the The Writers’ Union of Canada, which revealed the tremendous losses authors have experienced over the past year due to cancelled book launches, readings, appearances, and talks as well as fewer royalties from book sales themselves. He highlighted the desperate need for emergency relief funding from governments around the world to address these losses felt by authors and creators. In addition to these pressures, Degen gave an outline of the extensive and sudden pressure for authors’ works to be freely available, such as with license relaxation and “read aloud online” permissions (where educators read entire texts to their students), without proper remuneration to authors for such uses.
John Degen discussed the recent legal case of Access Copyright at the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC), expressing his dissatisfaction on the ruling of the SCC, granting broad permission to the education sector to copy published work without paying for it. He shared that there is pending request for the Canadian Parliament to step in and fix this issue, to give authors clarity and confidence in their rights. The IAF Chair identified at least one positive outcome of the pandemic: that it has led to many author organisations working closely together to tackle shared issues.
Degen also discussed the shift towards a new digital era, describing not only the challenges faced but the opportunities presented, as many authors are reaching new audiences, mostly through social media platforms. He argued for the need for laws to properly protect the digital diffusion and use of authors’ works.