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IBPA Advocacy Committee’s Summary of Ongoing Copyright-Related Cases

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by MJ Courchesne, Founder & President, Gryphon Publishing Consulting —

An overview of what the IBPA Advocacy Committee is monitoring and contributing to the copyright-related cases.

As a professional trade association dedicated to leading and serving the independent publishing community, IBPA has an intrinsic interest in helping protect its members’ intellectual property (or content). This work falls to the IBPA Advocacy Committee[1], which has been monitoring and contributing to the following events and cases:

Internet Archive’s National Emergency Library

IBPA Advocacy Committee’s Position: AGAINST

In recent months, members may recall IBPA’s support of the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and The Author’s Guild against the Internet Archive’s National Emergency Library, which was purportedly created to help ease consumers’ access to reading materials during the COVID-19 pandemic, which shuttered libraries and bookstores worldwide[2]. The Internet Archive claimed that the posting of such material was defendable as fair use[3], but they took the site down after the AAP filed suit against them in June 2020[4]. IBPA (and the rest of the industry) will be watching the discovery of this case, which is expected to take at least a year.[5]

Audible’s Caption Program

IBPA Advocacy Committee’s Position: AGAINST

The publishing industry also grappled with the limits of licensing (and fair use) when Audible announced the creation of the Audible Captions tool[6], which would allow listeners of audiobooks to read text congruently with the narration. Audible claimed this would assist learners in engaging more deeply with the content. However, publishers and authors argued that this exceeded the limits of the audio licenses they agreed to[7,8]. In a letter to Audible dated Sept. 9, 2019, IBPA argued that Audible’s Captions program violated copyright law. In response, Audible agreed to limit the program to public domain works[9]. Subsequently, a lawsuit was brought against Audible by the AAP and plaintiff publishers, which has since been settled[10].

The CASE Act

IBPA Advocacy Committee’s Position: FOR

Since the last major change in US copyright law in 1998, the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act, Congress has been (slowly) working through several issues of interest to creators and publishers. One such issue is the CASE Act (Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019), which aims to create a “small claims court” of sorts for copyright infringement disputes[11]. The act passed the House in October 2019 but has been stalled in the Senate since then[12]. IBPA has joined other creative associations in advocating to senators to move the bill forward[13] and continues to work with these colleagues in the hopes of resolving the issue soon.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act

IBPA Advocacy Committee’s Position: FOR

In July 2020, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary/Subcommittee on Intellectual Property held a hearing as part of its year-long study of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and the possibilities of a reform bill. The July meeting focused on how the DMCA contemplates the issue of fair use[14] and included testimony from Wikimedia, the American Press Photographer Association, the Software and Information Industry Association, recording artists, and those practicing copyright law. Discussion included some references to the CASE Act, the complexities of fair use, and DMCA Safe Harbor for service providers. The next hearing on this issue is not yet scheduled. However, a hearing was held on Sept. 23, 2020, related to “Examining Threats to American Intellectual Property: Cyber-Attacks and Counterfeits During the COVID-19 Pandemic.”[15] IBPA will report on the findings of this hearing in a later issue.

Online Piracy

IBPA Advocacy Committee’s Position: AGAINST

Regarding the issue of online book piracy, the IBPA Advocacy Committee is producing a guide for IBPA members outlining steps they can take when they find their work has been infringed upon. Look for more information on the guide in the January/February 2021 issue.


The IBPA Advocacy Committee is interested in hearing from IBPA members directly. If you know of an intellectual property issue that should be brought to the IBPA Advocacy Committee’s attention, please email it to ibpa_advocacy@ibpa-online.org.


[1]IBPA Advocacy Committee
[2]IBPA Supports Authors Guild’s Campaign Against Internet Archive’s National Emergency Library
[3]A White Paper on Controlled Digital Lending of Library Books
[4]Publishers File Suit Against Internet Archive
[5]Publishers, Internet Archive Propose Yearlong Discovery Plan for Copyright Case
[6]Audible Captions: A Demonstration
[7]IBPA Backs US Publishers Association in Objections to ‘Audible Captions’
[8]IBPA Statement on the Audible Captions Program
[9]Audible Tells IBPA It Will Press Pause on Full Captions Rollout
[10]Settlement Terms Revealed (Mostly) in Audible Captions Litigation; Judge Signs Off
[11]H.R.2426 – CASE Act of 2019
[12]CASE Act Implementation
[13]A CASE Act Call to Action for IBPA Members
[14]HHow Does the DMCA Contemplate Limitations and Exceptions Like Fair Use
[15]Examining Threats to American Intellectual Property Cyber Attacks and Counterfeits during the COVID-19 Pandemic

MJ Courchesne is a publishing veteran with more than 20 years of experience in trade, academic, and direct-response publishing and has spent nearly two decades specializing in licensing, subsidiary rights, and permissions. She is the founder and president of Gryphon Publishing Consulting and a member of the IBPA Advocacy Committee.

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