Welcome to this week’s PA’s PA . Next week we will be taking a break for Easter.
Even without the traditional excitement of ‘wash up’ (the process by which, before the introduction of fixed term parliaments, the Government tried to push through all of its remaining legislative programme before Parliament was prorogued and the Opposition tried and stop them) the final sitting week of Parliament has not been short of drama. Both of the two main political parties used the final PMQs of the parliamentary session to limit the options open to them to raise revenue by ruling out increases to both VAT and National Insurance in the next Parliament. And then on the final day, William Hague used his very last appearance in the House of Commons (he is standing down to spend more time with his biographies!) to launch an extraordinary attack on Speaker of the House John Bercow by attempting to change the rules by which the Speaker is elected. Bercow, a long-standing thorn in the side of the Conservative leadership – even though he is a Conservative himself – found himself defended by Labour and the Liberal Democrats and Hague’s motion was defeated. The week ended with the leaders of the two main parties, having been unable to agree on how to debate themselves, having to debate Jeremy Paxman (I know who I would have preferred). We now, finally, enter the election campaign proper. Manifestos will be launched, babies will be kissed, ice-creams may well be eaten. PA’s PA can’t wait!
General Election 2015
Labour has become the first party off the blocks and today (Friday) launched its General Election campaign. While the manifesto is still to come Ed Milliband placed the NHS front and centre of Labour’s campaign pledging to halt the "tide of privatisation" he says has taken place under the Coalition. The Labour leader’s speech can be read here.
The PA, Publishing and the Digital Single Market
The PA has continued in its efforts to educate MEPs about publishing. We have published a position paper here which sets out how, for our sector, the digital single market is already a reality and therefore why copyright reform is not needed. It highlights:
the value of publishing to European economy, society and culture;
the ongoing successful reality of the digital market in publishing;
the case that licensing and market led solutions are the best way to address developing consumer needs whilst ensuring a sustainable future for publishers and authors;
the critical importance of thorough evidence based impact assessment of any proposal for reform of copyright laws.
The PA with colleagues in the Federation of European Publishers will continue to engage with Commission officials, MEPs and UK's government as this policy agenda develops.
This paper has been sent to all UK MEPs with a call for them to back a copyright framework which plays to Europe’s strengths and supports the long-term interests of European consumers and its cultural diversity.
In addition, Richard Mollet blogs here about the perfect storm brewing in Brussels as we march towards the publication of the Commission’s White Paper on the Digital Single Market, the vote in the Parliament on the Reda Report and proposals on territoriality and geo-blocking.
Things have hotted up again in Brussels this week. Vice President Ansip (he with responsibility for the Digital Single Market) gave a speech and press conference on a range of issues including his pet subjects of copyright, territoriality and geoblocking. Commenting that "I hate geoblocking – it’s not fair", statistics were cited which pointed to around 100m EU citizens wanting to access content across borders and 271m citizens staying overnight in another member state. Ansip did concede that there were instances where different national laws are valid, for example online gambling, begging the question as to what other laws would also be valid. Text and data mining was also stated as a key area for reform and we will be looking closely at proposals relating to this. The accompanying paper also referred to intermediary liability on which there appears to be some (good) movement. The paper stated that "The Commission will look into the growing importance of online platforms (search engines, social media, app stores etc) for a thriving internet-enabled economy. This includes looking at how to strengthen trust in online services through more transparency and how to include them in the online value chain, and to facilitate the swift removal of illegal content [emphasis added].
In the wider College of Commissioners orientation debate on the Digital Single Market, unsurprisingly copyright was one of the points discussed. See the press release here. Commissioner Oettinger said: "Europe cannot be at the forefront of the digital revolution with a patchwork of 28 different rules for telecommunications services, copyright, IT security and data protection. We need a European market, which allows new business models to flourish, start-ups to grow and the industry to take advantage of the internet of things. And people have to invest too – in their IT-skills, be it in their job or their leisure time".
Commissioner Vestager, the Commissioner in charge of competition policy, has announced that she is proposing to the College of Commissioners that a competition inquiry is launched into the e-commerce sector. Couching it as necessary to achieve the Commission’s objective of a digital single market the press release reads "More and more goods and services are traded over the internet in Europe. At the same time, cross-border online sales within the EU are only growing slowly. This is partly due to language barriers, consumer preferences and differences in legislation across Member States. However, there are also indications that some companies may be taking measures to restrict cross-border e-commerce. The sector inquiry would focus on better identifying and addressing these measures, in line with the Commission's priorities to create a connected Digital Single Market". An interesting, and some might say brave, move by Vestager which could see a spotlight placed on the activities of GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple).
Baroness Neville-Rolfe has spoken at the Informal Meeting of Competitiveness Ministers in Riga. Frustratingly, while the IP Minister did clearly state that she saw no need for a single copyright title across the EU, she still insisted that copyright needs to be updated for the digital age pointing to the need to ensure greater availability of digital content on fair terms, in the belief that this will reduce piracy.
Woodward Review published
Commissioned by the Labour Party, John Woodward (former head of the former UK Film Council) has published his independent review of policy options for the UK creative industries. While the report aims to inform Labour Policy it does not reflect Labour Party views, but having now seen its recommendations if they found their way into government policy should Labour form the next administration it would be no bad thing. The Review covers a range of policy areas of interest to, and impacting on, the creative industries from competition and regulation, private and public finance and skills to IP and copyright, personal data and privacy and the machinery of government. Its recommendations on IP and copyright make particular welcome reading. A Labour government should:
Undertake no substantive review of UK copyright regime in the next parliament
Ensure that rights holders are able to continue to geo-block copyright material online within the EU and strongly resist any wholesale reforms of the copyright framework in Europe
Support the Creative Content UK initiative but retain the measures around notice sending in the Digital Economy Act as a back-stop solution
Support the Copyright Hub
Make an up-front commitment to legislate on search if no voluntary agreement is reached within 12 months.
At the launch, attended by Harriet Harman, Chuka Umunna and Chris Bryant, a number of strong statements were also made about Europe. Harriet Harman questioned whether the current government had been vigilant enough in Europe in not allowing anything to happen that could disadvantage UK creative industries. John Woodward said that the government needed to engage more seriously in Brussels on behalf of the creative industries. Chris Bryant said that his first trip as Minister would be to Brussels to undo what the present government has been doing with regards to the digital single market agenda.
Other points of interest include:
Competition and regulation: Ofcom should conduct and annual ‘horizon’ scan of online media markets which should be extended to cover all creative industry sectors that involve digital distribution to consumers (e-books included). The Amazon / Hachette dispute is referenced with the recommendation that the UK competition authorities must be able to identify and deal with any abuses of market power.
Private and public finance: The major recommendations from the Sieghart Review should be adopted. This was also raised in the discussion with Chris Bryant committing that the ‘task and finish’ force would be co-chaired by ministers from DCMS and DCLG.
CBI: Priorities for the next government
The CBI has published its recommendations for what the next Government should prioritise in its first 100 days. On the EU, it comments that "Progressing the EU’s digital single market would be a windfall to the many UK companies whose strengths lie in online commerce as well as the design, production and distribution of innovative and exciting content for consumers across the EU. New ministers should therefore engage swiftly with the European Commission to move the debate forward, making this a centrepiece of their reform agenda." Specifically it states that in its first 100 days in office, the new government should:
Commit to the swift completion of TTIP by working with allies to ensure the EU and US sign the trade deal by the end of 2016
Set the direction for the UK’s relationship with Europe by outlining a Europe-wide reform agenda
Respond to the European Commission’s digital single market initiative showing leadership on this vital issue for businesses and consumers
IPO Corporate Plan
The IPO has published its corporate plan for 2015-2018 and announced a new ‘purpose’ – Dedicated to giving everyone the confidence to make best use of IP. Each of the Directors reported on their achievements for the past year and outlined their plans for the coming year. Highlights pointed to included delivering IP advice to SMEs, delivering IP education messages and the IP Attaché network. Acknowledgement was given to the need for Brussel’s copyright reform agenda to be evidence-based with the Plan stating that "We have established a dedicated team to focus on this and are working with colleagues across other Government departments, and with stakeholders, in order to develop evidence-based positions on copyright reform". A draft discussion paper on the Office’s future strategy was also previewed with feedback invited by 22 nd May. It was made clear that they want to engage with a wide range of stakeholders and we will be seeking meetings on this with our colleagues in the Alliance for IP.
ALCS / Society of Authors Writers Hustings
The Society of Authors and ALCS’s Writers’ Hustings saw Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey, clash with his shadow, Chris Bryant. On the issue of libraries, Vaizey interrupted Bryant several times, accusing him of always criticising [but surely this is in a ‘Shadows’ job description - Ed], adding that libraries were "doing rather well". Bryant retorted that library closures were a result of cuts to central government funding which had hit many Labour councils harder. On other areas of policy there was a gasp from the audience when Green representative, Hugh Small, stated that party policy would see copyright reduced to 14 years, even though he personally disagreed with that. Lib Dem speaker, Martin Horwood, said that his party favoured an "internationalist approach" to tackle the likes of Amazon and Google but also when looking at the issue of fair contracts for authors. And in case you are interested, here’s the current reading list for the panel: Chris Bryant: The Children’s Act by Neil McEwan; Martin Horwood: Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman; Hugh Small: Rebel Footprints by David Rosenberg; Ed Vaizey: Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey.
The long-awaited report into the review of RCUK’s open access policy has now been published. According to The PA’s Chief Executive, and review panel member, Richard Mollet, the report stresses the need for greater clarity in communication to institutions and researchers, and the need for a standard way of measuring the levels of compliance at each institution as it is difficult to make hard and fast recommendations about the future direction policy might take unless there is a clearer view of how it is currently working. He pledged that "Publishers will continue to engage with RCUK and other funders like HEFCE to assist in the development of Open Access in scholarly research, an area in which the UK is leading the world."
The PA’s new and improved Copyright Infringement Portal is now live. Helping authors to protect their works from online copyright infringement is a vitally important role which publishers provide and the updated Portal will ensure publishers are better able to protect their works in the face of a huge amount of content being made available illegally on websites. While access to the Copyright Infringement Portal is free for PA members, non-members are welcome to discuss licensing terms with The PA. Users of the new Portal will be able to:
Automatically search hundreds of infringing websites with excellent search accuracy
Manually report infringing download links
Identify whether infringements have been removed using a visibility indicator
Export data and statistics to inform their copyright protection strategies
Chair of the All Party IP Group, John Whittingdale, has questioned Culture Minister Ed Vaizey on how the government plans to strengthen penalties for online copyright infringement following the publication of the report Penalty Fair?. In response, the Minister said that appropriate next steps may include a public consultation as the implementation of any change would need careful consideration to understand its potential impact.
The 30 th International Publishers Congress has concluded in Bangkok with a resolution calling on governments around the world to commit to copyright protection, improved book policies and protection of freedom of expression. The resolution reads:
We call on all governments to put national book policy programmes in place that ensure the development of local publishing markets and reading culture.
We call on UNESCO to update its definition of a book to include ebooks. A book, in whatever format, is a book.
We call on all governments, including Thailand, to ensure that authors and publishers have the freedom to express criticism of political, royal and religious authority, expose wrong doing, accompany public debate, and to hold people in public office accountable without interference and without fear.
We call on governments to ensure that copyright laws continue to give authors and publishers a fair reward.
We call for the adoption of the WIPO Marrakech Treaty. There is no need for further regulation of copyright exceptions in international copyright law.
We call on governments, search engines, Internet service providers and other stakeholders to collaborate in joint initiatives to educate the public about the value of copyright.
We call on governments to stimulate an independent and competitive educational market. Governments must work with publishers and technology providers to manage the digital transition.
This week we have:
Met with the Sherpa/FACT Advisory Board, attended the IPO’s Copyright and Awareness Strategy Board, met with the IPO to discuss the guidance for the repeal of Section 52 of the CDPA, attended the Westminster Forum event on Open Access and the IPA Congress in Bangkok.
Next week we are:
Meeting with Read On Get On to discuss communications activity around the launch of the campaign’s upcoming policy paper, attending the Bologna Book Fair, taking the Reading for Pleasure Roadshow to the Oxford Literary Festival, holding our breath for the launch of the parties’ general election manifestos, and maybe eating too many Easter eggs (but, at least for one member of the team, burning them off on the slopes).