We may indeed regard the Berne Convention as one of the great charters of literary liberty; it has directly and powerfully influenced all legislation touching copyright matters which has been achieved since it came into force. 

John Murray, IPA President, 1899

It was 1896: Ten years had passed since the signing of the Berne Convention, which even today is still the most significant international agreement for the protection of published works and the rights of their authors — harmonizing, as it does, national copyright laws under some basic principles and minimum standards.

As previous IPA President, Fernando Guedes, put it in his 1996 book, International Publishers Association, The First Century, ‘Once the Berne Convention had been signed, and as a result of growing internationalisation, the time had come for publishers to organize on an international scale. And this is, in fact, what happened.’

This growing internationalisation prompted a congress of publishers in Paris in 1896, which marks the birth of the International Publishers Association. In fact, the organisation was initially known as the ‘International Congress of Publishers’, only changing its name to the current one in 1954.

In 1896, the promotion of the Berne Convention was one of the imperatives that brought publishers together and copyright has remained one of IPA’s top priorities ever since. And for good reason, for copyright is the basic economic model for returning value to authors and publishers, enabling creativity and the dissemination of ideas.

The Paris Congress was inaugurated on 15 June 1896, under the chairmanship of Mr Georges Masson — a prominent French publisher at the time, as well as past chairman of the Cercle de la Librairie and a member of the Paris Chamber of Commerce. 200 publishers from 13 countries (Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Switzerland and USA) registered as participants of the Congress.

125 years later, we have held 32 International Publishers Congresses, as well as many other conferences, seminars and symposia, in cities all over the world.

Today the IPA is recognized as the most important global federation of national, regional and specialized publishers’ associations, representing and defending the interests of publishers, with 86 members from 71 countries located on every continent.

125 years of intense and productive activity have passed, and copyright is still one of the underpinnings of our industry, the other being the freedom to publish. Without these two basic principles, publishers would not be able to fulfil their mission of bringing the creation of the intellect of countless authors to millions of readers.

Since its founding, the IPA has been led by 34 Presidents, counting our current one, Bodour Al Qasimi, and 8 full-time Secretaries General, including our current one, José Borghino. Along with members of various committees and employees, they have devoted their time, energy and talent to improve the business environment for our industry, fighting to promote our values and working tirelessly to defend the interests of publishers all around the world.

The difficult environment we had to face in 2020 made it abundantly clear that today, 125 years after its foundation, the International Publishers Association is still as relevant as ever, and its work with national and international policymakers remains a fundamental safeguard for the global publishing industry. We will surely face many more challenges in the coming 125 years, but we can rely upon the IPA to continue supporting publishers everywhere.