Challenges of the digital world in protecting intellectual property
The challenges imposed by the digital age with regards to the protecting intellectual property in the publishing world were the focus of the first panel discussion of the two-day 3rd Arab Publishers Conference which began in Sharjah.
Chairing the panel was Dr. Abdelrahman Al Muaini who teaches Civil Law at the Dubai Police Academy who said that the importance of protecting the publishing sector is part of the of the UAE 2021 vision. In his opening remarks, Dr. Al Muaini outlined the development of the legislation in the UAE that protects intellectual property.
Speaking about the origins of the concept of protecting intellectual property, Dr. Mohammed Lutfi, professor of Civil Law at Bani Swaif University in Egypt said that the idea originated in the ancient Egypt.
“In the book of the dead, which was an ancient Egyptian funerary text, the good deeds of the dead person were invalidated in the afterlife if it was found that this person had, during his lifetime, stolen someone else’s ideas. This is essentially the origin of protecting intellectual property,” said Dr. Lutfi.
He said that the protection of both the author and the publisher is essential adding that he works closely with publishers and is aware of the agonies of the protection of intellectual property in the digital world. Dr Lutfi also said that authors must be aware that the work they do not own and the work that they publish on social media sites. “If you check the terms and conditions that you agree to when you sign up on these sites you’ll realize that the work that you publish on the sites are owned by the sites themselves and not by you,” he said.
Also on the panel was Olav Stokkmo, the CEO of the Belgium-based International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organizations (IFRRO) who spoke about the importance of making it easy to use copyrighted work in a legal way. In addition to having a major impact on the economy he said that the importance of protecting copyrights ensure the continuity of the publishing industry. “It is important for both the author and publisher to be paid. If they are not paid, they will produce less,” he said that producing less would mean that the culture would depend on imported work which would affect the maintenance of national identity.
Stokkmo also said it is important to also focus on the secondary market of the use of published work for different purposes such as using articles and chapters for academic work. “In this case, collective rights management is essential, it can’t be handled individually. Only this could protect the rights of authors and publishers. They have the right to be paid of fragments of their work is being used,” said Stokkmo adding that this has been agreed on by nearly 80 countries from around the world.
Speaking about the importance of legally combatting piracy and the infringement on intellectual property, Ola Khudair, the Vice Chairman of the Arabian Anti-Piracy Alliance (AAA), established by the Motion Picture Association said that when the association first started, the focus was on films but then they were approached by British publishers. “We started in the UAE by conducting a market study and bookstores inspections to get to the root of the problem,” said Ola. She added that they found out that some schools were working with textbooks distributors who gave them pirated books at very low prices.
The digital world imposes different challenges, she said adding that it’s easy to set up a website but taking it down is more challenging. “In 2015 we carried out 20 campaigns in collaboration with the government authorities that involved bookstores and photocopying centers. We also carried out 395 website take downs – one of them carried 70,000 pirated books,” said Khudair. However she emphasized that piracy in the Arab world is mainly due to lack of awareness and that the media need to play a role in creating awareness among the public.
The final participant in the panel was Khaled Bilbeisi who is a partner, member of the Board of Directors, and the CEO of Dar Al-Manhal Publishers and Distributors from Jordan. He said that the publisher has an important role to play when it comes to the protection of copyrights. “We are now in the third generation of modern publishing in the Arab world. This generation needs to manage the publishing process in a manner that is professional and scientific.”
He said that the Arab Publishers’ Association has a role to play in training publishers to work professionally and according to international standards.