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PA's PA 16th January

PA's PA 16th January

Welcome to this week’s PA’s PA in a week in which the biggest political debate was about whether there is to be a debate!  With Cameron refusing to participate in a leadership debate unless the Greens are included and Labour, Lib Dems and UKIP calling on the broadcasters to ‘empty chair’ or ‘tub of lard’ (a la Have I Got News for You) him, will we see a return of the Chicken who followed Blair around in 1997 following his refusal to debate Major? [Daniel Finkelstein provides amusing insight here (£) of the time he was given the job of stopping the chicken defecting...]

European Matters

There is surely no better way to begin the new year than with a visit to Brussels to discuss publishing with the Directors-General of the departments for Education, Arts & Culture, Connect (as the department for all things tech and copyright is still called) and the Copyright Unit.  The PA’s CEO together with PA President Dominic Knight joined a Federation of European Publishers delegation for a day of meetings discussing innovation, freedom of expression, VAT, copyright and competition.  As ever with such meetings, the principal aim is to get publishing on the radar and to provide these policy-makers with insight into the development of the European publishing business.  It is also a very useful political intelligence gathering exercise as the Commission girds itself to publish a Modernising Copyright White Paper in Spring, and indicative legislative proposals shortly thereafter, as part of the first year programme.  Naturally, officials like to keep cards relatively close to their chests, but the main messages from the EU side of the table seemed to be the following:

  • The Commission’s policy positions are not the result of “bottom up” consultation but are being driven by the Commission President (believers in democratic mandates will make of that view what they will).
  • The Commission’s push for a Digital Single Market is a clear and simple proposition – and views against it would need to be expressed equally simply.  Also, the economic case for Education and Culture needs to be made more strongly.
  • The Commission is seeking a role for itself in the education field; be that raising the awareness and competence of digital technology amongst teachers, or supporting education institutions in procuring platforms and infrastructure.
  • Generally the Commission wishes to “Europeanise” that which is better done together (A neologism which could catch on in the UK, but one suspects not in a good way).
  • Creative sectors should look for funding opportunities from the innovation budgets of the Horizon 2020 programme.
  • The central hypothesis in copyright reform is to ask what are the options for action and should exceptions be made compulsory.  Cross-border licensing and text and data mining are in the sights - e-lending is notably not - but the “amplitude of risk” to rightsholders from reform is not as great as some suggest (although we suspect rightsholders should be the judge of that).
  • The mechanism of making new or extended exceptions subject to the non-availability of appropriate licensing is under active consideration.
  • Any position on VAT on ebooks will be a political decision as to the value of cultural and creative content – it is not just about the revenue which is raised (in other words, publishers would probably lose the argument on purely fiscal grounds).
  • Publishers should make content as available as possible and not argue against openness (naturally, we agreed fully). [for poets] overcoming obscurity is a bigger problem than piracy.
  • The Commission is already engaged in an Economic Impact Assessment exercise on its proposals (which is slightly curious because they also tell us their proposals are not yet finalised).

In general, the clear direction of travel for the Digital Single Market is harmonisation.  The question for policy-makers is to demonstrate that the net economic effect of this is positive – that is, it must be possible to show that markets will operate more successfully than they do now if the different prevailing settled market conditions in different member states are smoothed out.  For the UK government and rightsholders, the question is whether such harmonisation would imply a levelling up or down of copyright strength from its current status in the UK – and then what to do about it if not.  It is going to be an interesting six months.

STOP PRESS! We have just had sight of the draft report Julia Reda MEP (Pirate Party) has prepared for the European Parliament’s JURI Committee, on the harmonisation of the information society directive (flagged in previous PA’s PA).  Whilst she acknowledges the need for authors and performers to have legal protection for their work and recognises the role of publishers in bringing works to market, in her recommendations she makes Ian Hargreaves look reasonable.  Amongst other things, Reda (predictably) calls for: the exhaustion of digital rights; mandatory exceptions; text and data mining for commercial purposes; an exception for elending by libraries; and extending the exception for research and education so it applies not just to educational establishments but “any kind of education and research activities, including non-formal education”! Apparently letting Reda lead on this piece of work was part of a deliberate strategy by the other members of the JURI Committee.  Lets hope so…

Creative Industries economic contribution

DCMS released new figures this week which showed that the UK creative industries contribute £8.8million per hour to the UK economy, grew by almost ten per cent in 2013, three times that of wider UK economy, and account 1.7 millionjobs.  Unfortunately, the publishing stats were quite as positive.  While the figures showed that the wider publishing industry (which includes books, journals, newspapers and magazines) was worth more than £9.9billion in 2013, up 3.2 from 2012, jobs in the publishing industry were down from 223,000 to 197,000.  However, it is still welcome to see such strong growth for the sector as a whole.  We hope the Government takes note of this and actively oppose the damaging amendments to copyright law being proposed by the European Commission (see above) which would threaten this economic growth and success.  The PA supplied a range of titles to watch out in 2015 which accompanied the Government’s press release and also participated in a Twitter chat.  Find The PA’s comment here

Labour Party Policy

This week The PA – together with about ten other creative industry bodies – met with Shadow Culture Secretary Harriet Harman to discuss, amongst other things, Labour’s approach to the creative industries and media regulation.  As those who heard her speak at The PA’s AGM last May will know, Harriet is a very strong advocate for copyright and is passionate about the creative industries as a source of employment and growth.  She is keen to see all of us work on improving access to jobs and stresses the need for a regional presence for the sector – there is a need for creative and cultural devolution – and for creative businesses to better engage with education.  The “One Nation” theme of Labour’s campaigning is likely to be developed to include reference to “One Creative Nation”.  All in all, encouraging sounds from the [current] Opposition.

The PA also met with Labour Shadow Culture Minister, Chris Bryant MP, to discuss the policy recommendations in Publishing Britain.  Chris was also able to provide good insight into the themes and content of the Labour Manifesto.  Reassuringly, the Party is alive to the issue of imbalance in the e-retail market and the manifesto is likely to include wording on this.  Bryant was also very supportive of copyright commenting that you can’t support creativity if you don’t support creators. Concern was expressed that the recommendation for every library to have a school was a spending commitment, but we were able to alleviate this concern by explaining that such a pledge could be met within existing budgets.  

Literacy / Reading for Pleasure

Schools Reform Minister Nick Gibb MP has given a welcome commitment to eliminating illiteracy.  In response to parliamentary questions from Barry Sheerman (former Chair of the Education Select Committee) referencing the Read On Get On campaign he pointed out that the government has made improving the teaching of reading a priority and reformed the education system to help every child become a confident and enthusiastic reader.  Gibb does recognise, however, that there is still further to go to meet the campaign’s goal of every child reading well by age 11.  The PA is working with Save the Children and the Read On Get On / Reading for Pleasure partners on a range of activity to drive forward this initiative. 

Education

Following his negative comments about UK-produced textbooks at The PA/BESA conference in November, a meeting has been held with Nick Gibb to discuss the quality framework around textbooks.  It was a positive meeting and the publishers present left with a clear sense of the role we have to play, along with Government, in promoting the value of textbooks across the whole education field.  We agreed with the view that mis-guided attempts to reduce reliance on text-books in the classroom has had a negative impact on attainment and said that publishers stand ready and willing to be part of a wider campaign to firmly reverse that trend.

This week we…

Met with senior officials in the European Commission, briefed Chris Bryant MP on the issues facing the publishing industry, met Shadow Culture Secretary Harriet Harman, met the IPO’s Director of Copyright and Enforcement, Ros Lynch, met with the FT and the Evening Standard to discuss upcoming stories, attended a panel debate in the House of Commons on the future of public libraries, met with Save the Children to discuss next steps in the Read On Get On campaign. 

Next week we will be…

Discussing current and upcoming UK policy issues with the Alliance for IP and the British Copyright Council and EU policy issues with the FEP, meeting with the Head of PLR at the British Library, attending the Educational Publishers Forum and hosting a dinner for attendees, meeting with UKTI.