David’s Sling (translated from the Italian)
by Stefano Mauri, President of Gruppo editorial Mauri Spagnol, representative of the Association of Italian Editors at the Assembly of the Federation of European Editors
Soon the European Union must approve or not the copyright directive. I would like to give my testimony to the beneficial effects of this institute. I’ve been a publisher for 30 years. I was lucky enough to see our publishing houses grow mainly thanks to scouting. It simply means research. A central activity for us. We built 95% of our activity on authors found as early as their first manuscript. We are many and the selection between us and the public is ruthless. Every year, among tens of thousands of reports from all over the world, we read about 10,000 new entries. Of these, after careful evaluation, we choose about 200 of them, which will be added to the authors already published in our publishing houses. After acquiring the rights we are committed to making their incredible talent known by readers. Among these, only the most loved will be able to live on their writing. As a publisher I am defending a cost! Because I’ve seen how these money have been determinant in making these talented people write. We saw the success rising from start of many writers loved by readers: from JK Rowling to Luis Sepulveda, from André Aciman to Arundhaty Roi, from Donato Carrisi to Ildefonso Falcones, from Rupi Kaur to Marie Kondo and then Alessia Gazzola, Ilaria Tuti, Valentina d ‘Urbano, Jostein Gaarder, Gail Honeyman and many other original and beautiful voices. We have grown up because the authors we liked were successful. More than 300 of our authors in 2018 received enough writing to live. In recent months, disinformation campaigns have been heard on the web according to which copyright is a limit to the freedom of the press. Copyright is, on the other hand, the sling of David against Goliath. Gian Antonio Stella, Marco Travaglio, Roberto Saviano, Gianluigi Nuzzi are strengthened by copyright and they can be very critic to powerful people.
These extraordinary talents that readers in a ruthless Darwinian mechanism have chosen to privilege thanks to copyright acquire strength and independence towards the rest of the world. The directive is not the optimal solution for book publishers, it is a compromise between the various European forces at stake. But it establishes the holy principle that this talent and this effort must be paid for. But it is opposed by some large platforms mostly from overseas which, while defending their intellectual property to the sound of lawyers, through the defense of patents, trade secrets and brands, do not consider it equally important to defend your personal data and preach the freedom to steal the intellectual property of tens of thousands of artists, writers, musicians without making a minimum effort to remunerate them. Recently Mogol wrote, with an effective summary: “they have the billions, we are right.” They are indicated as champions of freedom of expression but in reality in democracies they do not deal, as newspapers and publishers do, with defending the published contents in the event of complaints or criticisms of power, in the face of which, they simply decline all responsibility, invoke their neutrality and remove uncomfortable documents from the web. Goodbye and thanks. I add an element that is not clear to everyone. While patents defend ideas, copyright protects the form through which these are expressed. Therefore, if like the patents it constitutes an incentive to create, unlike patents it does not in any way prevent progress, anyone can write a book inspired by other books that he has read. Copyright covers the fatigue and the way in which the author works, the creator’s original aesthetics. While the platforms in question were born in the US and there pay most of the few taxes they are forced to pay, Europe is still the global epicenter of the book world.
Out of ten of the first world groups, six are European-owned, in Europe the three most important international fairs are held (Frankfurt, Bologna, London). Italy is still the fourth largest book country in Europe. Now is the moment in which we must decide on copyright and it is natural that it is precisely our continent, the cultural cradle of the West, that takes the initiative. It is peculiar in this context that among the great democratic countries that are those obviously with the greatest cultural production only our government declares itself contrary to this directive. It should be on the side of the people, and therefore of thousands of artists chosen by the people and of those who want to continue to enjoy their creations, and of the 130,000 people who work in European publishing houses and the hundreds of thousands who are part of the related industries and who each year produce 600,000 new books, instead of being on the side of a few Goliaths in Silicon Valley. What will prevail? The talent of thousands of individual geniuses scattered around the world, or the muscles of some of the important Silicon Valley companies, supported by those who have an interest in pirating and exploiting others’ work in a parasitic manner?