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The discussion and behind-the-scenes arguments over whether China should be granted membership of the International Publishers Association during 2014-15 form part of former IPA president Hugo Setzer’s history of the last 25 years of the IPA, just published and available on the organisation’s website.

The book is entitled The Fifth Quarter Century: IPA 1996-2021 and charts the challenges, difficulties and successes the organisation has seen during a tumultuous period.

In 2015, when the UK’s Richard Charkin was IPA president, Setzer recalls: ‘Most of the discussion centred on the application from China. Some members argued that the IPA was not ready to accept the Chinese applicant as a member. There were concerns about the independence of the applicant from the Chinese government, and there were fears about what accepting the applicant might do to the credibility of the IPA. For the sake of openness, Richard stated his personal position that accepting the applicant could benefit the IPA in many ways, including in the debates around copyright in Geneva as well as in Freedom to Publish issues.’

The application was eventually accepted but the IPA took on board some criticism of its structure which led to the formation of four Working Groups.

In Beijing in 2019, with China now firm members, Setzer told his hosts: “China and the international publishing community can, and will have to, cooperate more to ensure the future success of our industry. Besides copyright, one of the other very important policy issues for IPA is the freedom to publish. At the IPA we strongly believe that authors should have the freedom to express their opinions and publishers should be free to publish any kind of work they believe is relevant. The freedom of expression and the freedom to publish are absolutely essential to a strong and participatory society in the knowledge economy we are living in. The IPA is committed to the freedom to publish and supports publishers around the world deprived of that freedom.”


Commenting on becoming an author, Setzer says:  “It has been quite an experience to be an author rather than a publisher. The IPA has been such an important part of my professional life and it is vital that our association has a written memory of some of our major milestones. Thanks to all those who contributed.