Strategies must be put in place to combat piracy, say experts at 3rd Arab Publishers Conference

SHARJAH, 2nd November, 2015 (WAM)–There needs to be an organised strategy in place in order to combat piracy and copyright infringement a panel discussion at the 3rd Arab Publishers Conference agreed.

The conference, held at Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre in Sharjah on 2-3 November, organised by the Arab Publishers’ Association (APA) and the Emirates Publishers Association (EPA), is discussing a number of vital and important themes in the publishing industry.

During the session, moderated by Dr. Yousif Al Sharif called, “Fighting Piracy,” participants discussed copyright compliance policies, anti-piracy laws, and the future of copyright enforcement. Al Sharif said that the growth of the Internet and social media use had made it more difficult to protect publishers’ and author’s rights. “This has forced us to take this matter seriously. In the UAE we have signed most international agreements to protect publishers’ rights. We hope through this conference to find solutions to a problem” he said, Dr Sulaiman Al Riyaee, Adviser to the Dean of University Libraries, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, said that piracy is one of the biggest problems in the Arab region and to find a solution there is a need to look at the problem from the top down. He said, “Collaboration between publishers is the most important component in working against piracy. Trust between book distributors and publishers must be put on the agenda. When the publisher is absent from the market it produces an opportunity and a motive for piracy. So factors such as quality and cost of products need to be considered by the publisher when combating piracy. Another factor is the availability of digital content in Arabic. Can Arab publishers provide this and the devices necessary for Arabic readers to obtain e-publishing legally? Collaboration between publishers and technology can provide part of the solution to piracy.”

This point was agreed upon by Michael Healy, the Executive Director of International Relations at Copyright Clearance Centre, a global leader in rights licensing and content solutions based in New York City.

Healy said, “There is a need for a three pronged approach to copyright infringement and piracy. First is education. We need to invest time and money into programs that teach students, teachers and librarians the consequences of piracy and the value of legally obtained content which encourages further investment in creativity. This information needs to be highly visual and highly persuasive. When we communicate clearly and simply to people, who generally want to do the right thing, we obtain results. Secondly, investment in licensing is needed making it possible to easily share information legally. So when people go looking for information they also find the conditions under which that information may be used and reused. The third prong in combating piracy and copyright infringement is enforcement which is more likely to succeed if we educate the consumer and provide them with ways to share content legally.”

Emma House, Director of Publisher Relations at the Publishers Association UK (PA), the leading trade association for book and journal publishers in the UK representing over 80% of the turnover of the publishing industry said that the issue of copyright protection cannot be stressed enough.

She said, “Let’s not forget that copyright is the bedrock of the publishing industry. The industry needs to work with private and public sectors on policy and ensure law makers are legislating to protect copyright and that any new legislation on copyright does not weaken the industry.”

House added that online plagiarism, copyright infringement and piracy undermine the legitimate version on the work and have a negative impact on investment into new content. She said, “In the UK 10% of content comes from illegal sites and this figure is higher in some other countries. We may never stamp put piracy but by working together we can reduce it.”

House also suggested a strategy for combating piracy to include education, which ensures the population were aware of the negative impact of piracy; enforcement so that there are legal consequences to organized piracy and also ensuring that the content people want is available to them legally. “We must come down hard on those who profit from piracy,” she said.

This is a point that lawyer, Rani Al Sader agreed upon. He suggested that more financially punitive consequences should be implemented against those who profit from piracy saying, “We need to impose higher financial consequences to those convicted of this crime. In the US pirates are fined millions of dollars and this causes the criminals to think twice about engaging in this activity. If a perpetrator is given a two month sentence only, for what is essentially a financial crime, and then walks away from prison having gained millions, then that is not a deterrent. But harsher financial penalties may prevent such criminal in the first place.”

In contrast, in another session, Ashleigh Gardner, head of writer and publisher partnerships at Wattpad talked about freely sharing user content on the user content generating website. “Wattpad helps publishers, writers and media engage with writer on the world’s largest online community for writers and readers,” Gardner explained.

“At Wattpad we are trying to change the way people engage and tell stories. On this site anyone can write their own stories, or add to other stories being written and get feedback and the satisfaction that their work is being read. Very often that is what writers want more than anything. To have their work read and understood,” she said.

Gardner describes Wattpad as new form of entertainment where anyone can become a writer and it is the fastest growing social media site currently in the world with thousands joining every day. “We have in excess of 40 million users and 100 million stories being read. However we would urge users in this region to join up. There are many stories in Arabic on the site and we already have over a million users from this area, and we hope to grow our users in this region and encourage writers from the Arab region to load up their stories.”

The two-day conference, held under the theme “The Publishing Industry: Prospects and Challenges of the Digital Age,” will include eight main sessions and concludes today, (Tuesday). The event has been attended by Arab and international specialists, academics, and experts in the publishing industry and serves as a platform for Arab and international publishers to share experiences and explore opportunities and the challenges facing the publishing sector in the region and the world.