Welcome to this week’s PA’s PA in a week in which we said goodbye to our outgoing Chief Executive Richard Mollet. Read his final blog on how publishing is the ‘First Among Equals’ here.
Digital Single Market update
The PA formed part of a FEP delegation to meet with Vice President Ansip. The meeting was perhaps more positive than expected with the Commissioner appearing receptive on a number of points.
- An Education exception is still in the frame but they seem to now be agreeing to the purpose of this being not to achieve alignment but better the functioning of the internal market which, they acknowledged, was different in education because of language and curriculum.
- They remain convinced for the need for a TDM exception and Ansip extolled the UK as a shining example. But he was supportive of the restriction on commercial exploitation. It was interesting to note Ansip’s comment that the US was behind the UK on this issue, and that he sees it as an opportunity to put Europe as a whole in that ‘superior’ position. The point was made that that low usage of the exception so far in the UK indicated that licensing would have met the case, but Ansip clearly believes that the situation in non-UK Europe is unsatisfactory.
- They are planning on addressing the issue of VAT on ebooks in the context of wider VAT reform.
- There was full acknowledgement of the problem caused by HP judgment and that it needs a fix but the Commission seems keen to encourage this, at least in the first instance, to take place at national level – not least because to because of the protracted nature of the EU process.
Angela Eagle meeting
The PA has had a good introductory meeting with Angela Eagle, the Shadow Business Secretary. Angela also deputises for Jeremy Corbyn at PMQs. As reported by the Alliance for IP, she was supportive and on message with regards to IP and copyright enabling us to focus our time with her on other matters of interest and concern to publishing which fell in her brief.
After a brief introduction to publishing we talked through:
- The role of publishing in higher education and Open Access. We pointed to the settlement reached as part of the Finch process as being one which was agreed by all parties involved, and the importance (in the absence of a) any more funding in the system and b) the rest of the world not embracing Gold in the way envisaged) for there to be a role for both Gold and Green OA going forward. This was a very new area for Angela and as such requested some follow up material which we will be sending her.
- UKTI. We talked through the support the publishing sector receives from UKTI and the important assistance it gives publishers in reaching international markets. In particular, we raised our concerns at cuts to UKTI funding and how the long term impact of this is being ignored for the short term budgetary gain.
- Apprenticeship levy. Our concerns regarding the lack of flexibility in the Government’s current proposals were well received and matched what Angela has been hearing from others. She was particularly receptive to our desire to see funds raised by the creative industries able to be used within the creative industries. We did, of course, stress that it wasn’t the concept of apprentices we were questioning, but the proposed infrastructure around the delivery of the manifesto commitment.
- Digital Single Market. We only touched on this as it doesn’t really fall under Angela’s brief (more relevant now for her sister!) but given she was visiting Brussels this week to meet with Commissioners and officials it was a timely opportunity to flag our concern that, left unchecked, the Commission could reform copyright in such a way as to be detrimental to the UK publishing industry.
Overall she was engaged, thoughtful, and, with offers to raise issues politically if required, likely to be supportive going forward.
The Government has published a summary of the responses to its consultation on changes to penalties for online copyright infringement. It is available to read online here. The consultation explored the need to increase the maximum penalty available for online copyright infringement for two years to ten years to match that available for physical copyright infringement. The PA has long supported the Alliance for IP in its campaign for this increase given the dangerous message it sends of online infringement being somehow not as serious as physical infringement; it being perceived as a lesser crime. The Government has not been able to be as conclusive as, we understand, it would have liked, owing to a write-in campaign by the Open Rights Group which saw 91% of the responses generated by that organisation. Because of this, it is expected that a further consultation will be issued designed to take into account some of the concerns raised by the ORG with the current legislation such as the fact that there is no requirement to prove intent to cause harm, meaning that the existing offence has elements of strict liability, and a belief that the term ‘affect prejudicially’ is too vague and could mean someone facing a criminal charge where only a minimal amount of content has been infringed. They think this requires some threshold to ensure only commercial scale infringers are punished.
UK Copyright Update
At a meeting with the IPO, Director of Copyright and Enforcement, Ros Lynch, gave an update on the Government’s current policy priorities. The overwhelming message was that, while there were some outstanding issues to address on the domestic front (amendments to Sections 72 and 73 of the CDPA and the repeal of Section 52 were specifically mentioned along with online penalties – see above), the Office’s focus in the coming year will very much be on Brussels and the changes being proposed as part of the digital single market strategy. The Government shares industry’s concern at the lack of clarity from the Commission with a number of definitions (e.g. ‘temporary’ in relation to the portability regulation; ‘public interest research organisation’ in relation to text and data mining) and supports our call for greater clarity over what type of organisation can avail themselves of the safe harbour and in what instances.
This week we have:
Met Shadow Business Secretary Angela Eagle MP; briefed Vice President of the European Commission Andrus Ansip on publisher concerns with the Commission’s digital single market strategy; met with officials from the Department for Education and discussed how assessment is working in a ‘life after levels’ as well as hearing progress of the review groups on marking, planning and resources, and data management.
Next week we will be:
Discussing Read On Get On 2016 activity and priorities with the other CEO partners; meeting with UKTI; attending the Alliance for IP Board meeting; discussing common issues of concern with the Society of Authors; attending the IPO’s Copyright Advisory Panel; participating in a Digital Roundtable being held by Baroness Neville-Rolfe, the IP Minister.