Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill
The PA welcomes certain proposals in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (ERR) Bill, notably draft legislation on orphan works and extended collective licensing. However, Clause 57 (previously Clause 56) of the ERR Bill continues to cause anxiety amongst the rightsholder community, given how broadly it is framed.
This clause, supposedly intended to introduce higher criminal penalties for copyright infringement, is currently drafted so broadly and vaguely that rightsholders worry it will be used to introduce sweeping changes to the copyright framework, not least to introduce further exceptions to copyright. This threat is very real, given the Government’s current consultation on copyright. .
The PA continues to call on the Government to tighten the wording of Clause 57 to make its intent clear; and to provide additional clarity and reassurance in the Bill’s accompanying explanatory notes. While we support the stated intention of this clause (to introduce higher criminal penalties for copyright infringement), rightsholders need more reassurance than has currently been provided by policy officials; this must come from Ministers and be on the face of the Bill. Without these, The PA remains concerned that Clause 57 will be used to introduce wider changes to copyright law, without full parliamentary scrutiny, and which could threaten the success of the creative industries.
Any proposed changes to the copyright framework must be introduced by individual SI, with an accompanying impact assessment. The PA rejects any attempt to ‘bundle’ multiple, distinct changes within one SI.
The ERR Bill reaches report stage in the House in September, and we look forward to receiving some reassurance from Ministers on the floor of the House, in line with the above. We also look forward to the Bill reaching the House of Lords and for Clause 57 to come under greater scrutiny during debate.
As noted above, draft legislation for orphan works and extended collective licensing schemes are currently before the House (in the ERR Bill). However, we await further proposals from the Government regarding the copyright exceptions consulted on at the beginning of the year.
The PA will continue to argue that licensing represents the best way of facilitating secure access to works, and in a way that rightsholders can also be remunerated and incentivised to reinvest. Licensing schemes already exist to this end and publishers are making great strides towards improving processes for would-be miners who wish to carry out text and data mining.
The PA will continue to work with stakeholders, including the wider academic community, to push forward with this work.
Digital Copyright Exchange
Following on from Richard Hooper’s stage 2 report and his proposals for the establishment of a Copyright Hub, The PA is working with others to establish a steering group, to drive forward and oversee the design and implementation of the hub.
We will also be discussing with the Government the connection between this work being carried out to streamline licensing, and future proposed changes to the law, for example, in relation to exceptions; as well as with Ofcom to understand how the Copyright Hub might complement its duties under the Digital Economy Act.
In July, The PA welcomed Dame Janet Finch’s report on scholarly publishing, looking at how to increase access to publicly funded research outputs, and David Willetts MP’s subsequent response. Dame Finch’s balanced package of measures stated a clear preference for the ‘gold’ (funded) over the ‘green’ (derivative) model, and the realisation that publishing under whatever model has costs associated with it that must be recovered in a sustainable way.
We will be working with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Research Councils UK and others to implement the Finch review’s recommendations, including the publisher‑proposed initiative for walk-in access in public libraries and for extending access to high‑technology SMEs.
Towards to the end of the last parliamentary session, e‑lending moved higher up the political agenda, with authors expressing concern that ebooks were being lent, despite there being no public lending right (and associated remuneration) in place. Clause 43 of the Digital Economy Act extended the PLR scheme to ebooks and audiobooks, but this clause has not yet been implemented. Publishers continue to experiment with difference licensing models to facilitate ebook lending, but remain concerned about the commercial implications of ebook loans and the security provisions within libraries to offer this service.
Following a proposal from Dan Jarvis MP, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is poised to launch a review of ebook lending. The PA looks forward to participating in these discussions.
The PA will continue its dialogue with the Government and at European level regarding the status of VAT on ebooks.
At present, a rate of 20 per cent VAT applies on the sale of ebooks in the UK, but 0 per cent applies to print. Some EU territories, such as France and Luxembourg, have unilaterally reduced their VAT rates on ebooks and the Commission is conducting a review of the VAT directive, including exploring whether ebooks might be included on the list of goods and services that can have reduced rates.
Communications White Paper
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has indicated that it will publish a communications White Paper in early 2013.
The PA and others will be maintaining the case for this to contain provisions requiring internet intermediaries to do more to tackle online copyright infringement on their networks, notably to ensure search engines do not promote infringing sites. We are also exploring avenues to expedite legal measures, such as site‑blocking, against rogue sites.
Save the Date
The next Author Publisher dialogues will take place in Westminster on Wednesday 28th November.