WASHINGTON, D.C., Aug. 8, 2000 — The Association of American Publishers (AAP) and Microsoft today announced plans to collaborate on a broad educational and enforcement initiative to fight eBook piracy. Microsoft, which is a member of the AAP, is contributing critical technology resources, including new technology to identify illegal content on the Internet, and will provide a significant financial endowment.
This announcement coincides with today’s launch of the Microsoft Reader for the Windows operating system, which is available for free download at http://www.microsoft.com/reader/ . AAP will coordinate the programs announced today and within a year will establish a new committee to oversee education and enforcement efforts.
Patricia Schroeder, President and CEO, Association of American Publishers (AAP).
In a recent interview with PressPass, AAP President and CEO Patricia Schroeder discussed the challenges facing the ePublishing industry and the AAP’s efforts, in partnership with Microsoft, to develop safe and secure ways to deliver electronic content. A member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 24 years, Schroeder was known as one of the most knowledgeable members of Congress on copyright issues. She was appointed president of AAP in 1997.
PressPass: What are your thoughts about the challenges that publishers are facing today with regard to electronic publishing and the rise of eBooks? What is it like for publishers out there?
Schroeder: Publishers are looking around and seeing other industries really being hit hard by piracy in this new digital age. I think they’re beginning to understand that they can’t cling to the Gutenberg Press as they have for the last 500 years. Yet as publishers join this new world of digitization and electronics and the Internet, they are wondering what in the world they are going to be able to do to protect themselves. I think everybody is very concerned about how intellectual property gets protected on the Internet and how we get and keep lively content up there.
PressPass: How is the AAP contributing to the solution?
Schroeder: First of all, AAP is going to be working with Microsoft to educate people about what an important part of our economy intellectual property is. Publishers are not just a bunch of meanies who only want to squeeze another nickel out of people. This is really about jobs for an incredible number of middle-class Americans. Intellectual property is the fastest growing segment of our economy, and it is the largest export in our economy. It beats aviation; it beats agriculture; it beats automobiles. We really have to get Americans thinking about the fact that products where you add value with your mind, like copyrighted texts, are where most Americans make their living these days. It is amazing how many Americans don’t know that. So in joining with Microsoft to really start educating people, we hope to get them to understand that while they may think it is really cute to steal or pirate or borrow this stuff, what they are really doing is taking their own jobs.
PressPass: What role does enforcement play?
Schroeder: Enforcement plays a big role, but enforcement is very difficult because it is costly to go to court, and very often if you are suing people individually your damages are not enough to get back your court costs. But piracy is also criminal. It is just like breaking and entering someone’s home. If I crack the security system you have on your home and go in, there is no question in people’s minds that that is a crime. It is absolutely the same thing if you crack someone’s encryption and break into his or her software or music. It is amazing how many Americans have forgotten that and think that this is just a big game. We need to remind ourselves that piracy is no different than breaking into someone’s home and stealing property. We need to work closely with law enforcement to get that message out.
Even the FBI would tell you we have been treating all of this much too lightly. People say,
“Isn’t that cute — a little eight-year-old in his pajamas just crashed the air traffic control system.”
It isn’t going to be cute if you happen to be in the air. This is no longer a video game. This is real life. Our economy is almost totally dependent upon electronic communication and computers, and I think we realize there is no going back. So we need to remind people and get the law enforcement community to join with us. Everyone needs to see what an important part of the economy this is and how you can really destroy the United States by destroying its economy. Hopefully, in working with Microsoft on this issue, we will gain some renewed focus.
PressPass: In the national discussion on this issue, some people are voicing the notion that technology may not be up to the challenges. How optimistic are you that technologies like the Microsoft Digital Asset Server and other offerings are going to be able to meet the challenges of tomorrow?
Schroeder: I think technology is always a piece of the answer. Clearly, you don’t want technology to be so difficult to use that no one can access the content. You really want technology that is very user friendly — that is the real sell of the Internet. Everyone should be able to get content in a very ready way at home whenever they want it. So it has to be user friendly. It has to be easy to access. It can’t be really complex. And while technology may come up with a solution today, let me say we all know that it never takes long before somebody figures out how to crash it in the future. We have been tolerant, saying
“Well, if they can crash it then they deserve to get it free.”
So while it is incumbent upon everybody to get the best technology they can to attempt to protect their copyright, it also has to be technology we can all use. We have to keep reminding people that if they have reasonably protected themselves with state-of-the-art technology, then someone who crashes it is committing a criminal act, just like breaking a burglar alarm system. It should be illegal; it should be clear that it is illegal; and it should be made very clear to all Americans that we can’t continue this game of
“if you build it, we will crash it.”
PressPass: You’re swimming against some pretty powerful cultural currents at this point.
Schroeder: Absolutely. Part of the Internet culture has been built on the idea that everything should be free. It is interesting to me that the computer isn’t free, and the online service providers aren’t free, and all the other things that people use to access the Internet aren’t free, but some people think that movies and software and reading and music should all be free. We need to find a way to educate people on the fact that if they want to continue to get high-quality content on the Internet, there are tough choices to be made. If they really want to get high-quality content, then they’re going to have to be prepared to pay for it just like they do for a high-quality computer or a high-quality online service provider or high-quality anything else. This is no different.
PressPass: In your role and with your experience, you have a unique perspective. What do you say to the publisher today who is looking at events as they are unfolding and who is wondering when and how to participate in this powerful, interesting and potentially dangerous new marketplace?
Schroeder: Well, we can’t cower under our desks and hope it will go away. With people working together, there will be security in numbers. I would hope a lot of people would join with AAP, Microsoft and others concerned about intellectual property to start re-educating the American people about how important it is in our economy. If people really want the vigorous e-commerce world that we all envision, then we ought to work together to make it safe so there is high-quality content and so the pirates are called pirates and pay for their piracy.
Some people still want to say that it should all be free. I think about that when I see Stephen King’s newest book instantly up on pirated sites. I think the real issue is that technology has made it easy for even someone like me — a total non-techy type — to copy anything that Microsoft produces or anything that any of my publishers produce. I might forget that it is no easier for Microsoft or for publishers to create content than it was 500 years ago. Nothing has come out that makes it easier to create content. Creation is still very, very hard. Creative geniuses are few and far between and we should celebrate them. They have really been the core of this economy. The fact that technology will allow us to copy anything they do without ever paying them can undermine the whole system.
PressPass : Do you think people are going to take to ePublishing?
Schroeder: Well, the Association has expended a lot of resources looking at the eBook market. Based on the first report we got from our consultants, we decided to go forward into the eBook market very vigorously while trying to get some standards on things like metadata. What that first report showed is that about 10 percent of the publishing market will be eBooks in five years. Some people say that is high, some people say that is low. But what it definitely says is that the eBook market is significant.
I tend to think you are going to find some segments that will move faster than others. My guess is, and I am thinking of this as a former college student who still has a dent in her collarbone from carrying a book bag, if you could start having eBooks for all your college textbooks that would be wonderful, and it would certainly lighten your backpack. So, I think that this would be a very logical place to start. If the price of these different platforms came down, I think you would see more people buying into them. The first round is expensive enough that not everybody can participate, but as you make it more and more affordable, here it comes.
PressPass: To what extent are intellectual property rights guaranteed by the law?
Schroeder: One of the most interesting pieces of history that very few Americans know is that the only place in the body of the Constitution — not the Amendments, but the body of the Constitution — where the word
is mentioned is dealing with the right of intellectual property owners. I think that that is absolutely amazing that when the founders of this country were drafting the Constitution, they understood how important intellectual property and the creative American genius and the protection of it was to the American dream. Think of that — it came before the First Amendment on free speech and freedom of religion, and it came before the Second Amendment on bearing arms. This is the only place that they put it in from day one and didn’t have to amend it. I don’t think many Americans know that, but there it is right in the body of the Constitution, front and center. We tend to talk about how other countries don’t understand intellectual property, but we have a little understanding to do ourselves.