Welcome to this week’s PA’s PA in a week in which the Chancellor announced the sale of RBS, Zac Goldsmith and Sol Campbell entered the race to be the Conservative candidate for London Mayor and friends and family said goodbye to Charles Kennedy.
A major new front opened this week in the European Commission’s battle with platform companies. Following its (continuing) investigation into Google’s business practices, the Commission has announced the launch of an antitrust investigation into Amazon’s e-book distribution deals with publishers. According to the official statement, the Commission suspects Amazon’s contract terms may hinder competition, because publishers are obliged to inform it when more favourable terms are offered to competitors. Provisions that allow Amazon to benefit from terms and conditions as good as those offered to competitors are also under investigation. Our own concerns around this were articulated in our Publishing for Britain manifesto which noted the imbalance in the book retail market in the UK and called for an inquiry. We issued a short comment welcoming this development which was used by The FT, The Bookseller and Politico.
As the Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee gears up to its vote next week on Reda, changes to compromise amendments have been flying around. The latest wording on the recommendation dealing with the education exception (which originally called for a broad exception covering not only educational establishments but all forms or educational and research activity, including non-formal!) has been much improved. Following calls with Uk MEPs on the Committee, we understand ‘broad’ no longer appears and any research or educational activity needs to be linked to a government-recognised educational establishment. Positive drafting amendments have also been made to the recommendation for a new exception for elending. This now only goes so far as to call on the need for this to be assessed. Amendments are still being negotiated and so we won’t have the final wording until next week.
Copyright Hub Development Continues Well
At a meeting of the Copyright Hub Partners Board this week, The PA learned that the number of live “use cases” – or applications – for the Hub is now at 10. Although focused on the photographic images market, these cases demonstrate that the underlying technology of the Hub is working well and that it is possible to embed copyright information in a machine-readable format, which can then be used for people to easily license works online. There are some 80 other use cases in development, some of which involve text and audio-visual works. But as the developers have been keen to stress, it has been important to prove the concept through the relatively context of images, before moving on to the trickier end of the spectrum. The Copyright Hub is being developed by Digital Catapult, which is a fund operated by Innovate UK, in turn funded by the Department for Business. Hub Chairman, Richard Hooper, and his team are now in the process of building the funding case for the next stage of development, and it is hoped that this will result in a blended approach with public and private finance involved. As policy debate continues to rage about the ease of licensing and the role of copyright in the digital age, the development of the Copyright Hub is a critical “proof point” that it is possible to hide the complexity of copyright from the average user, whilst still ensuring that creators are fairly rewarded. Despite the outlandish claims of some opponents of copyright, there is no immediate threat to the lives of “internet cats”. A new website is in development, but in the meantime, do go to www.copyrighthub.co.uk to learn more. WIPO and IPO in HOL
At a private event in the House of Lords, hosted by Lord Tim Clement-Jones (the Liberal Democrat BIS spokesman), a small gathering of creative industry representatives heard the Director-General of the World Intellectual Property Organisation, Francis Gurry, explain the challenges facing IP in the global environment. Mr Gurry noted that WIPO saw it as vital that there was a functioning market place in which creative industries could flourish. A balance had to be struck between exceptions and limitations, but the ”bad outcome” to be avoided was a threat to the creation of content. He noted that non-state players had an increasingly active role in IP (for example, the Gates Foundation controls $320bn compared with $40bn of government funding in WIPO) and so the debate had to evolve accordingly. He stressed too the importance of platforms rather than treaties – meaning that solutions to problems with IP could be better met through market frameworks and public-private agreements, rather than a recourse to changing the law (a useful and important point). By way of response, and in one of her first engagements since the Election, IP Minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe stressed the importance of licensing agreements working well to ensure the development of IP markets. The Digital Single Market programme of the Commission did not involve a rewrite of copyright, she said, but nevertheless some of the targeted measures on copyright could have a negative impact if not implemented well. Strong protection and enforcement of copyright were necessary to incentivise and reward creators. Lords Select Committees – members appointed
While we wait on the House of Commons to announce the makeup of their select committees, the House of Lords has wasted no time in getting their committees up and running. The four which remain of most interest to us continue to be the Committees on Communications, Economic Affairs, Science and Technology and the EU. The latter may well be of particular interest (and use) given its responsibility for scrutinising the UK Government’s policies and actions in respect of the EU and also its role in influencing the development of policies and draft laws proposed by the EU institutions. We will be monitoring their respective agendas and suggesting areas for consideration where appropriate.
Special Adviser update
Ray Gallagher has been appointed as senior policy adviser at DCMS. Following a 15 year career at Sky, Ray advised the Culture Select Committee under John Whittingdale’s chairmanship between 2006 and March 2015. Ray will be a politically impartial civil servant in the Department and distinct to Whittingdale’s two other special advisers Carrie Symonds, who will likely focus on media management of Departmental priorities, and Mimi Macejkova who, using her background working for a number of MPs, will most likely be deployed in keeping Conservative backbenchers content around BBC Charter Renewal issues.
Nick Gibb used a speech at the Policy Exchange think tank to take a more measured tone on textbooks than that which was aired at The PA/BSEA Education Conference back in November, and acknowledged the work under way with The PA and its members to increase usage and quality. He said: “We are working with teachers and publishers to increase the use and availability of high-quality textbooks in schools. Good textbooks provide a structured, well-honed progression through a subject’s content. They also ease workload for teachers, who no longer need to spend whole evenings and weekends preparing ad-hoc resources. Despite these benefits, textbooks are now a rare sight in English classrooms: only 10% of primary maths teachers here use a textbook as the basis for their teaching, compared to 70% in Singapore and 95% in Finland. I have challenged textbook publishers to do better, and am determined that we will secure high-quality resources to underpin an academic curriculum.” Commenting, Richard Mollet said: “We are delighted that the importance of textbooks and the value they bring to teaching and the classroom has been highlighted this evening by the Minister of State for Schools. Education publishers continue to work closely with teachers and education specialists to produce high quality, pedagogically sound textbooks and teaching resources, which save teachers time and help them to deliver the curriculum across a range of subject areas and pupil ability.”
Referral to CJEU on Dutch case relating to elending and digital exhaustion
Following on from the entry in last week’s PA’s PA, our submission into the IPO calling on them to intervene on behalf of the UK publishing industry can be found here.
This week we have:
Met with the Copyright Hub; lunched with Francis Gurry of WIPO and the IP Minister, Baroness Neville-Rolfe; discussed the development of a National Reading Strategy at the RSA with Read On Get On coalition partners; raised publishers’ concerns on the Reda Report with UK MEPs; discussed upcoming parliamentary activity with the National Literacy Trust; facilitated discussions with publishers and teachers on the quality of maths textbooks.
Next week we will be:
Meeting with Ros Lynch, Director of Copyright and Enforcement at the IPO, to discuss the EC’s paper on the Digital Single Market, as well as the IPO’s Chief Executive, John Alty; presenting at the Association of Authors’ Agents summer meeting; attending a British Council event in the Houses of Parliament; attending a CEO meeting of the Read On Get coalition; attending Beanstalk’s summer reception; visiting China to sign an MOU with the Alibaba Group and attend a seminar on Copyright in the Library and Education Setting organised by the US Patent and Trademark Office and the Chinese National Copyright Administration.