President of Brazilian Publishers Association on AI legislation and other unique challenges
May 24, 2022
By Zoë Genova
Brazil’s publishing industry faces a variety of unique challenges; Elsevier’s Dante Cid talks about collaborating with industry and government to create opportunities
In the image above: Dante Cid is Elsevier’s VP of Academic Relations for Latin America and President of the Sindicato Nacional dos Editores de Livros – SNEL (Brazilian Publishers Association).
The publishing industry is complex and varied on a global and local level, causing challenges and opportunities to fluctuate by region and country. In Latin America, there is a focus now on demonstrating the importance of investment in research in both the public and private sectors. This requires building relationships with academic and private sector partners.
In Brazil specifically, the government plays a vital, central role in research investment. Research is primarily conducted in public universities rather than in private institutions or corporations. This creates a unique link to federal government funding and requires a focus on building strong relationships with government representatives.
Dante Cid(opens in new tab/window) serves as Elsevier’s VP of Academic Relations for Latin America, and in 2021, he was elected President of the Sindicato Nacional dos Editores de Livros – SNEL(opens in new tab/window) (Brazilian Publishers Association). In this interview, Dante dives into the context, challenges and opportunities in the world of Brazilian research and publishing.
New artificial intelligence legislation in Brazil affects the entire publishing industry. Can you describe this legislation and how it may influence the industry?
The AI bill in the Brazilian Senate, Marco Legal da Inteligência Artificial PL 21/2020, creates a new exception for copyrights for any AI system training. According to the Senate, the bill “establishes foundations, principles and guidelines for the development and application of artificial intelligence in Brazil.”
It turns out that the text is too vague, potentially allowing start-ups to use AI to do the following:
Create and sell summaries of research content without paying royalties to copyright holders.
Create a system to read and translate content to sell without paying licensing fees.
Read third-party content and create derivative work without acknowledging sources.
Currently, there are licensing options that allow AI development projects to take advantage of existing content without breaking copyrights. The ambiguity of the bill’s language, and the fact that existing licensing systems exist, may end up causing more harm than good.
From my perspective as someone in publishing with an academic background in AI, I believe new legislation requires a more balanced approach that considers existing licensing mechanisms and that can ensure AI prosperity under ethical standards. In this scenario, creators of content would be respected and protected at the same time as providing maximum access to content. Moving forward it will be important to convey this perspective to the government.
A unique challenge that Brazilian publishing is facing right now is rising paper costs. How did this come to be, and how can costs be mitigated in the future?
With the global boom of e-commerce throughout the pandemic, Brazil saw a 56.8% increase in online shopping during the first five months of 2020 compared to 2019 alone. As a result, the demand for paper products and cardboard boxes to deliver packages increased exponentially. The paper demand both globally and in Brazil has created pressure on the supply chain and prices of basic paper manufacturing. This has affected the availability of paper for use at local publishing houses in Brazil, as paper providers were increasing costs up to 35%. This surge can be disastrous for small publishers that depend on print houses to purchase paper and they do not have the large-scale power to negotiate prices.
The Brazilian Publishers Association has stepped in to represent all publishers. We were able to negotiate the increase from 35% down to 22%-23% and made an agreement with key paper industry representatives to arrange installment payments. These installments will help ensure smaller publishers can plan ahead to adapt internal costs and prices for upcoming increases.
Will this mean a broader switch to digital as an alternative solution to paper?
We are now seeing a shift toward more digital books in Brazil. A typical Brazilian trade book had only about 5% of its sales shares as e-books. This number doubled during the pandemic due to paper costs and the greater ease of digital acquisition. If costs continue to rise, there will likely be a further migration to digital alternatives. However, depending on the audience, this can be an issue. In lower economic areas, especially ones that depend on public school materials, digital-only materials can become an obstacle because of lack of access to reliable internet and electronic devices in these communities. During pandemic-related school closings, Brazil saw that more economically favored schools could more easily and quickly migrate to online classes, but public schools and universities struggled to do the same. There is a government plan — Educação Conectada — to provide all public schools in Brazil with digital educational materials that would ensure internet access for digital content. Brazil has one of the largest programs for the acquisition of books and educational materials globally, and today this is done with traditional print books. If the government were to provide the means, these books and materials could be provided digitally, as is the case for research contents acquired by the same Brazilian Ministry of Education.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, there has been a reduction of public investment in education and research and development in Brazil. What are industry leaders doing to encourage future investment?
Developing countries across Latin America have a low level of investment in R&D and education. A little over 1% of GDP in Brazil is invested in R&D, which is one of the highest in the region. To take advantage of our presence in key trade associations in the country, we frequently participate in meetings with government representatives and share perspectives on the importance of further investment in R&D and education in the region. We are speaking to Brazilian Congress to make sure that literacy is always a priority in the country and investment in university research is fostered. Through Elsevier, we are able to demonstrate that continued investment in R&D will allow the country to play a key role in global innovation.
Science and research prove to be the way forward in facing challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic. We use examples such as this to make sure congressional representatives and the executive branch understand the need to provide a budget for R&D and education. Without education, people cannot arrive at the high level of R&D needed for innovation. I see this as a common fight for quality education and research in Brazil and Latin America more broadly.
What is a recent success for publishing in Brazil?
In addition to supply chain and cost-related issues affecting small publishers, smaller bookstores and publishers struggled to stay open during the pandemic without the infrastructure to operate remotely. At the Brazilian Publishers Association, we created an opportunity to help fund these small businesses that struggled. In February 2022, a flood near Rio affected a bookstore and caused them to lose much of their stock. Many publishers came together to help them restock and get back on their feet. I’m proud of the community of Brazilian publishers for stepping up to the plate to help their fellow businesses.
What is one thing you hope to achieve during your tenure as President of the Brazilian Publishers Association?
Fostering investment in education and R&D is a permanent objective. But one of my key goals during my term as president, and while using my experience and connections at Elsevier, is to create a bridge between local publishers and global ones so that Brazilian publishers can learn from experiences in other countries and better develop the local business environment. This would in turn provide more visibility to the national publishing market and create opportunities for further collaboration.