A warm welcome to this week’s PA’s PA in a week in which the outcome of the Prime Ministers negotiations with the European Union dominated political discussion. While the terms of the draft deal are important, the referendum campaign will not be decided on the details of the renegotiation, but whether opposing sides successfully make the case that voting “remain” or “leave” will enhance voters’ sense of prosperity, security and identity. Polling conducted on Thursday showed a surge towards “Leave” but it’s far too early to suggest this is a trend. In short there is a long way to go yet.
The PA participated in a knowledge sharing day with the Police Intellectual Crime Unit (PIPCU) organised by the Alliance for IP. This was an opportunity to hear from PIPCU on their work and current priorities and for us to update the PIPCU team on our anti-piracy initiatives. We also used the occasion to highlight upcoming challenges such as the increasing amount of infringing content being found on and distributed via social media networks. In particular, we highlighted issues with protected/hidden schools and University groups on Facebook which share chapters, individual titles and entire reading lists, and users posting images of covers and links on Instagram and Pinterest. This engagement with PIPCU will continue with bespoke discussion groups being established around specific issues.
The PA attended a roundtable organised by the Intellectual Property Office for them to gather views from UK stakeholders on the Commission’s questionnaire on enforcement, an important part of Digital Single Market Strategy. To help them develop their own response, the IPO was particularly keen to hear from attendees on issues such as right to information, injunctive relief, and the role of intermediaries. In response, the importance of being able to seek website blocking orders was raised, but it was stressed that getting such orders was highly costly and therefore a remedy which was out of reach to SMEs. The Commission’s proposal for a duty of care was welcome by the rightholders present with it being pointed out that the notice and take down system is broken and created for a different age. The IPO will be drafting its response in the next month and would welcome further comments.
Following briefings from the Alliance for IP and its members, Shadow Secretary of State for Business Angela Eagle MP tabled a question asking if the Government plans to bring forward proposals in increase the penalties for online copyright infringement. Responding, Creative Industries Minister, Ed Vaizey MP, batted it to the IPO saying that following the Government’s consultation officials are now giving consideration to the future direction and timings and will advise Ministers accordingly.
Digital Single Market Update
A quieter week than previously, but one announcement from the Commission worth mentioning is its decision to exclude mass generated responses to its online platforms consultation. Civil Society groups such as the Open Rights Group had used an online tool to generate stock responses to the consultation which ran the risk of skewing the results. Unsurprisingly, this decision was met with dismay by these groups even though the Commission does say that they will nevertheless form part of the final, comprehensive assessment.
Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Lucy Powell MP, has given a major speech outlining Labour’s views on education. Speaking at the Education Foundation’s Summit she covered a number of areas such as the recruitment crisis and school places crisis, of particular interest however, were her comments on the curriculum warning that “the ministerial diktat on the curriculum has gone too far” and called for a curriculum based on the needs of a modern economy rather than political pet projects of ministers. Instead, according to Powell, individual schools should have the ability to set their own curriculum free from political interference, as academies and free schools already can, commenting that “the detail of what happens in individual lessons should not be controlled in Whitehall. It should be for all schools to develop their curriculums that put this framework into practice in the classroom and make it meaningful for every young person. We should never allow the situation to arise again where ministers are personally writing individual programmes of study for schools or prescribing the specific texts young people should study.” Read more here.
The Scottish Government has passed a new Education Bill which will force the Scottish Government and councils tackle the attainment gap between pupils from different background. The Bill also introduced a National Improvement Framework which will bring in new national assessments. While Education Secretary Angela Constance said the reforms were “a significant milestone for education in this country, her Liberal Democrat Shadow urged the government to “heed the calls of teaching unions, teachers and parent to drop plans for national standardised testing in primary schools. Read the report in The Herald here.
Allison Pearson, writing in the Daily Telegraph, picks up on last month’s report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development which found that a number of 16 to 19 year olds in England have only a basic grasp of English and maths. The study, which looked at literacy and numeracy skills concluded that 7 per cent of 20 to 34-year-old graduates in England have numeracy skills below level two, while 3.4 per cent have literacy skills below this level - meaning that they struggle to estimate how much petrol is left in a tank from looking at the gauge, or have difficulty understanding instructions on an aspirin bottle. For numeracy, this places England below other nations such as Australia, Ireland, Poland, Italy and Spain. The reason for this, according to the OECD, can be found in the fact that while, in 2012 when the survey was conducted, 70 per cent of youngsters in this age group were in education or training that would lead to a formal qualification, all young people were in many other nations. Pearson points to her own mother’s excellent handling of arithmetic in contrary to the young gas from her gas company, who had the misfortune of being at the other end of the phone when she called to query her bill, as supportive evidence of the slip in standards.
The saga of the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty for the Visually Impaired continues. The Treaty was finalised in June 2013, but has yet to come into force as it, so far, has only been ratified by 13 out of the 20 required signatories. The EU has not ratified it due to disagreement in the Council over whether the EU has the competence to ratify the Treaty on behalf of all Member States. This delay has been causing great concern in the European Parliament which has this week adopted a Resolution expressing its ‘profound indignation that seven EU Member States have formed a minority block which is impeding the process of ratifying the Treaty’. Our old friend Julia Reda MEP has launched a campaign against EU governments ‘blocking blind people’s access to knowledge’ and ‘lobbies bitterly fighting the common good’. The full text of the resolution is available here.
This week we have:
Met with the IPO to discuss the Commission’s proposals on enforcement; met with UKTI; participated in a webinar on sanctions and Iran; updated the City of London’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit on PA enforcement activity; discussed the potential for joint lobbying activity with the Booksellers Association; met with, along with FEP colleagues, CENL – the organisation of the European Legal Deposit Libraries.
Next week we will be:
Attending the Creative Industries Council along with Business Secretary Sajid Javid MP and Culture Secretary John Whittingdale MP; meeting John again at a CICI lunch; meeting with the Copyright Hub.