Exclusive Interview Anita Huss EkerhultExclusive Interview with Anita Huss Ekerhult on Frontlist: Gain expert insights.
on Nov 03, 2023
Frontlist: After nearly a decade as a Counsellor in the Copyright Management Division of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), can you share how the transition to IFRRO has been for you? Are there specific goals or initiatives you hope to accomplish during your tenure?
Anita Huss-Ekerhult: The transition has been incredibly smooth, mainly due to the very warm welcome (back) from the IFRRO community, who are already like a wonderful, close family. I was pleased to be able to meet many members in person right from the start, at the IFRRO World Congress in Reykjavik in early October.
It has also helped that I worked very closely with IFRRO throughout my tenure at WIPO, where I led the rights management team within the Copyright Management Division. I had the global responsibility for WIPO's legislative and regulatory advice in the area of copyright and related rights management, as well as for capacity-building programs and technical assistance worldwide. With my team, we also provided policy and legal guidance on WIPO Connect, WIPO's software for CMOs. In collaboration with IFRRO, this software is now also parametrized to work for the text and image-based sector. One of my priorities is to have more IFRRO members considering this option – moving forward, metadata, identifiers, and standards will be even more important, and I am confident that, with the focus on capacity-building projects, the operation of RROs will be strengthened all around the world.
Frontlist: What do you perceive as the most significant challenges and opportunities that IFRRO faces today? How do you plan to address these challenges while embracing the opportunities?
Anita: Our ultimate goal will always be to enable RROs to collect and distribute remuneration to those that it belongs to: authors and publishers around the world. Moving forward, AI will certainly be one of the biggest challenges for RROs, authors, and publishers. As highlighted by Tom Chatfield in his keynote speech at the IFRRO Legal Issues Forum in Reykjavik, however, we now have a unique opportunity to establish more human-centered protocols and standards, making AI models more reliable, fair, and trusted.
RROs need to have fit-for-purpose technology and copyright infrastructure, and one of these solutions can be WIPO Connect. WIPO has offered this software free of charge to RROs in emerging markets, which could also contribute to the establishment of new RROs and the strengthening of the copyright management systems in these countries.
IFRRO members also face challenges that can be addressed by technical standards, such as ISNI. A report commissioned in February 2021 by the International Publishers Association (IPA) and IFRRO provided an overview of the deployment of technical standards in the global publishing value and supply chains and highlighted areas where standards infrastructure may need development to meet the needs of participants in those chains – creators (authors, illustrators, photographers); publishers; intermediaries of many different kinds; CMOs; and consumers (end users). One of my priorities will be to pursue progress in this area.
Frontlist: In taking charge as the Secretary-General and CEO, what unique approach would you like to bring compared to your predecessor? Could you share key insights and lessons you've learned from your predecessor's leadership and how you plan to meet or exceed the expectations set?
Anita: Firstly, please allow me to highlight that this has been an extremely difficult year for the IFRRO Secretariat, with the incredibly sad passing of my predecessor, Caroline Morgan. All my Secretariat colleagues have worked very hard and delivered amazing work to the IFRRO membership in spite of these challenges, and I cannot thank sufficiently the team for this, as well as our President, Tracey Armstrong, for her extremely efficient and professional guidance.
Caroline and I had worked together very closely throughout the last years, building on an established relationship between IFRRO and WIPO. We shared values of inclusivity and constructive collaboration. Through my experience over the past decade, I have also developed an extensive, global network of government officials and am well-placed to make meaningful contributions to the IFRRO community through government engagement. Government involvement and support is key, especially for RROs, and I hope to continue to build strong relationships with all stakeholders in the value chain
Frontlist: In a rapidly changing digital landscape, how is IFRRO adapting to technological advancements and evolving global copyright legislation? Given the prominence of artificial intelligence in copyright and intellectual property discussions, what are your perspectives on its advantages and disadvantages?
Anita: Just coming from the Frankfurt book fair, it is apparent that the tech hype around AI and large language models is at a peak. AI feels different than, for instance, blockchain. AI has the potential to fundamentally disrupt our industry, but also so many others. Large language models like ChatGPT are being used by developers to craft code quickly, and generative AI models have been developed in an opaque way – so much damage has already been done with existing generative text models using millions of copyright-protected works without consent, credit, or compensation. Transparency is essential to the development of a fair and safe AI ecosystem – meaningful transparency obligations will be needed and crucially, should be technologically simple to apply. Time is of the essence – we need to focus our thinking and action on these issues of practical, meaningful regulation while AI generative models are still emerging.
Frontlist: How was the IFRRO World Congress received by the audience and how does IFRRO promote global cooperation and mutual understanding in the realm of copyright and intellectual property?
Anita: With a great turnout, the IFRRO World Congress (IWC) 2023, was hosted in Reykjavík by our Icelandic member Fjölís. The topics discussed were especially welcomed by our members, with AI and the latest technological developments central to agendas of all the different meetings and discussions. Held annually, the IWC is the most important (and unique) contact point for IFRRO members, a great opportunity to meet in person, and an excellent forum to discuss the challenges and opportunities of the sector. We were very fortunate to have the Icelandic President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, as our Guest of Honor, delivering a very inspiring speech about the value of culture, literature, and copyright. The opening ceremony program also included an insightful presentation from Mr Benoît Müller, Director, Copyright Management Division at WIPO. A keynote presentation on generative AI and potential implications for creators, rightsholders, and copyright was also delivered by Mr Peter Schoppert, Director of National University of Singapore Press Pte Ltd, and Board Director of Singaporean RRO, CLASS.
On a more general note, IFRRO works to develop and promote effective collective rights management to ensure that the copyrights of authors and publishers are valued through the lawful and remunerated use of text and image-based works. We do this by advocating for copyright, collective management, and the remunerated use of text and image-based works and by enabling authors and publishers to explore and benefit from new opportunities through effective collective management. IFRRO brings together a network of 154 members in 85 countries, representing over 2 million authors and publishers all around the world. IFRRO also cooperates closely with international organizations, such as WIPO, ARIPO, ASEAN, ECOWAS, CERLALC, and OAPI, as well as other international federations, including CISAC and PDLN. Encompassing a broad spectrum of creators, rightsholders, and rights management specialists, IFRRO is an invaluable global network.
Frontlist: Could you elaborate on how IFRRO supports and advocates for the rights of authors, especially in a swiftly evolving publishing landscape?
Anita: Publishing is an important sector among the creative industries that base their activities on copyright-protected works. According to the national studies carried out in 42 countries based on WIPO's methodology, these industries contribute with 5.18 percent to the gross national product (GDP). The press and literature sector represents 39 percent of the total, thus being the single most important sector in the majority of countries. Generally speaking, there has been a broad expansion of digital publishing, with a whole shift in creation and production, distribution and sales of books, resulting in an array of diverse business models. As far as collective management is concerned, I would strongly recommend WIPO's recent publication on Collective Management of Text and Image-Based Works, written by the renowned expert Ms. Tarja Koskinen-Olsson.
IFRRO's membership is not only comprised of (currently, 106) RROs worldwide – who, in turn, manage the interests of authors and publishers on a collective basis – but also of 48 creator and publisher associations all around the world. The work that IFRRO and its members do secures healthy national publishing markets, contributes to strong and diverse national culture, and raises awareness of and respect for copyright. IFRRO works with its members to establish and develop RROs, whether by way of mentorships, technical assistance, including legislative advice, advocacy workshops, targeted webinars, and many more, to the benefit of authors and publishers around the globe.
As regards authors specifically, we also look forward to working with WIPO and other stakeholders on WIPO for Creators, aiming at raising awareness and increasing knowledge about creators' rights and related management practices, ensuring recognition and fair reward for all creators regardless of their geographical, cultural, or economic conditions. IFRRO is on the Advisory Board, and even though the current focus is on music, the text and image sector will also be covered.
Frontlist: IFRRO operates in various regions globally. What is your perspective on IFRRO's presence in emerging markets, and what do you see as the unique challenges and opportunities in these areas?
Anita: IFRRO's Secretariat is headquartered in Brussels. Its 154 members are based in 85 countries, many of them in emerging markets. Challenges in these markets are manyfold, but there are also opportunities. For instance, ECOWAS just adopted a regional Directive on private copying, which will urge ECOWAS Member States to collect and distribute related remuneration to authors and publishers in ECOWAS member states. With the support of WIPO, draft regional CMO Regulations have been prepared jointly with the Intellectual Property / Copyright Offices and CMOs in the CARICOM Member States in the Caribbean, and will be considered at the upcoming Ministerial Conference in November. A current WIPO-ASEAN project focuses on collective management in ASEAN, and a Toolkit and Resource Document is about to be finalized, following which technical assistance will be offered in the region. Not all countries have established or functioning RROs. This is where IFRRO can help, convening the RROs in the respective regions via IFRRO Regional Committees, and with the invaluable network of RROs providing expertise, guidance, and mentoring support, ensuring a healthy and viable market and ecosystem for authors and publishers of text and image-based works.
Frontlist: Lastly, do you have any advice for young professionals who aspire to work in the fields of copyright, intellectual property, or international organizations like IFRRO?
Anita: Follow your heart. Do what you love. Believe in yourself. Copyright is all around us in our daily lives and not only just an abstract legal concept; if your passion is copyright, you will meet a wonderful family, the international copyright community!