Welcome to this week’s PA’s PA
Parliament returned with not so much a bang as a slightly fizzing, half-dying sparkler. After the metaphorical beatings the three main parties experienced at the hands of UKIP over the past couple of weeks this was no triumphant return for anyone. The Conservatives will, however, be lighter of foot this morning following their victory in yesterday’s Newark by-election, albeit with a reduced majority. The polls suggest that UKIP, if they are to have any chance of repeating their Euro success in next year’s general election, need to do something about their level of support amongst women. The final Survation poll, reported here in the Guardian, found that while 36.8% of men supported UKIP just 16.8% of women supported the party. Was it ‘The Women wot won it’ for the Conservatives?
Wednesday saw the final Queen’s Speech of this Parliament. Whilst on the surface, with its 11 bills and six additional bills being carried forward from the previous session, it may look like a full legislative programme and a Government still alive, active and not a ‘zombie’. When you dig a bit deeper and note the lack of any legislative proposals in education, health, and business it is clear how few big picture issues the two coalition parties now agree on – either that or they are keeping their best (?) ideas for their own manifestos. Political manoeuvrings are also at play. Some of this primary legislation, for example the cap on welfare spending, could have been introduction via secondary legislation. A case of the Government seeking to make life difficult for Labour in the voting lobbies? The reform to pensions also presents something of a bear trap for Labour as, with the unions fighting the annuity reform proposals and their own teams appearing uncertain, it’s not easy to fight a policy which pits you against trusting people with their own money. Nothing, however, looks like impacting the publishing industry specifically. A summary of the proposed legislation can be found here.
As reported last week, the first batch of SIs (research, education, libraries and archives, disability and public administration) came into force on Sunday 1st June. Our mission to extract from the IPO exactly how the new exception for text and data mining will work in practice continues. From latest conversations, we have a promise (maybe too optimistic a word!) from the IPO that, while the explanatory memorandum cannot be changed as this is part and parcel of the SI, the door is not closed on the accompanying guidance notes. We will be preparing a(nother) note for the IPO on recommending better language explaining the interplay between contract override and publisher control of access. The remaining two SIs (private copying and text and data mining) will return to the House imminently – perhaps even as this goes to press. While we understand that the text of these Instruments remains unchanged, amendments have been made to their explanatory memorandum. Frustratingly, we understand that the reference in 7.7.1 to eBooks remains, although this will now make clear it has to be an eBook you own and an e-reader you own. The IPO remains adamant that as factually you will be able to transfer an eBook from one e-reader to another it remains a valid reference, even though in the vast majority of cases technically (and therefore legally) you will not be able to.
Consumer Rights legislation
The Consumer Rights Bill has been rolled over into this new session only managing to complete its passage through the Commons before Parliament was prorogued. This will introduce new rights for consumers in relation to digital contact, providing remedies of right of repair or replacement if the good is faulty, not as described or not fit for purpose.
The Government has implemented the Consumer Rights Directive which comes into force on 14 June via the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013. This introduces changes to the information traders must provide pre-sale, extends the online and other distance selling cooling-off period from 7 to 14 days, and, in relation to digital content, requires the trader to get express consent from the buyer that they waive their right to cancel. Otherwise, the trader will be in breach of the regulations if they allow access to the content during the 14 day cooling off period. This extension of the cooling off period may be of concern for publishers who are also traders as it is open to potential abuse by people purchasing books online, using them (for example, for exam revision), and then returning them.
Ofqual has completed its proposals for GCSE and A Level reform. The eight week consultation proposes rationalising the range of subjects and exams offered putting a question mark over exams which have relatively small numbers of candidates - such as 105 for manufacturing GCSE - and others which are similar to related subjects, such as A-level performance studies and drama and theatre studies.
The Education Select Committee has announced the first of two evidence sessions following up on its previous inquiries into exams for 15 to 19 year olds in England. Giving evidence on Tuesday 10 June will be Glenys Stacey, Chief Executive of Ofqual, Amanda Spielman, Chair, Ofqual and Ofqual’s Director of Research and Evaluation, Dr Michelle Meadows. In addition, on 11 June the Select Committee will be holding a one off session with David Laws MP, Minister of State for Schools, on school funding. The session will explore issues raised in the Department’s consultation on proposals for the allocation of £350m in additional funding to local authorities in 2015–16. It will consider progress made in developing a national funding formula, and other related issues.
New report released on public libraries from Arts Council England
According to the report, public libraries have an economic impact on their communities that far exceeds their ‘traditional perception’. However, the report concludes that the benefits are usually long term, making it difficult to put an immediate monetary valuation on their role.
Advocate General’s opinion on Technische Universität Darmstadt v Eugen Ulmer KG published
Advocate General Jääskinen, has stated that a Member State may authorise libraries to digitise, without the consent of the rightholders, books they hold in their collection so as to make them available at electronic reading points. We are still waiting on publication of the full opinion, but is appears that while libraries can be allowed by member states to digitise copyright books to make them available on their premises, users of the library are not allowed to copy such digitised book on a USB stick. How this may related to physical printing is unclear and its interaction with the proposed private copying exception is unclear. Initial thinking is that printing is not allowed under the new exception because it is not from the person’s own copy and that the person accessing the book has not acquired the work on a permanent basis. This might be different in the private copying exceptions of other member states.
Launch of Policy Exchange’s Technology Manifesto
On Wednesday, leading think tank the Policy Exchange launched (at Google Campus) its (Google sponsored) Technology Manifesto. It calls for policy makers to put technology front and centre of their thinking for the 2015 general election and sets out three principal goals: to build the world's most connected and digitally skilled society; to make Britain the most attractive place outside of Silicon Valley for technology entrepreneurs to start and grow a business; and to make our government the smartest in the world. On the panel at the launch was Nadim Zahawi MP, Conservative member of the BIS select committee and also member of the Number 10 policy board; Chi Onwurah MP, Labour Shadow Cabinet Office Minister; and Julian Huppert, Lib Dem MP for Cambridge. Neither the report nor the discussion at the launch came to any radical conclusions. Technology is important and only going to become more so. The internet enables people to do stuff and so government should ensure everyone has access.
Who We’ve Met and Forthcoming Meetings
This week we have met John Alty CEO of the IPO and attended the launch of the Policy Exchange’s Technology Manifesto; next week we are in Lithuania for the General Assembly of the Federation of European Publishers and attending (and speaking) at the International IP Enforcement Summit in London which will be addressed by Ed Vaizey, Minister for the Creative Industries and Lord Younger, IP Minister.