This week saw UKIP return its first elected Member of Parliament on a night which also saw them force a recount in a safe Labour seat. UKIP only losing by 617 votes in Heywood and Middleton must be of a greater concern to Labour than its win by over 12,000 in Clacton is to the Conservatives. The Lib Dems also met for their annual party conference in Glasgow, which saw them in the unusually position of closing rather than opening the conference season due to the timing of the Scottish referendum.
The new European Commission Deputy Director for Education and Culture, Jens Nymand-Christenson, addressed a meeting of the Federation of European Publishers at the Frankfurt Book Fair. He stressed copyright’s cultural, economic and social importance and highlighted Europe’s cultural diversity, the preservation of which he saw as a key role of the EU. He highlighted three challenges for European policy: the digital revolution, copyright and harmonisation of the tax regime. Of particular interest was his reference to ensuring that dominant positions within the ‘digital revolution’ were not abused (a nice echo of our call to the next UK government to initiate an inquiry into the imbalance in the ebook market) and the confirmation that the new Commission will look at how it may need to modernise copyright laws. His general comments on copyright were positive with plenty of references of the need to protect copyright as an enabler of creativity. He also addressed the imbalance in the VAT regime and the upcoming changes to how VAT is applied to epublications. This, he said, was a side effect of the legislative framework and that ‘similar goods and services should be subject to the same tax regime’. Apparently the EU is reflecting on this but he didn’t want us to underestimate the challenge of getting this addressed.
Mike Weatherley MP, the PM’s IP Adviser, has released his third IP report entitled ‘Copyright Education and Awareness’. The report examines IP education and aims to help reinforce on the public the importance of respecting IP and paying a fair price for content. Recommendations include: a step up in the coordination of IP awareness programmes, led by the Intellectual Property Office; greater measurement of IP perceptions and behaviours; incorporating IP education in the school curriculum; making better use of technology; the introduction of an IP/Education coordinator; the BBC to create a copyright education programme. Commenting Mike said: “Getting education right on intellectual property awareness is paramount if, as a county, we are to properly respect the value of the creative industries”. Welcoming the report, Culture Secretary, Sajid Javid MP, said: “We need to get the message across that if people value creativity – and most do – then it has to be paid for”.
Following the publication of this report, Mike has announced he is standing down as Cameron’s IP Adviser. Having already announced that he will be leaving Parliament at the next election, in a letter to the PM he said that he believes now is the time to step aside. In reply, Cameron thanked Mike for his hard work over the last year in raising the profile of the importance of Intellectual Property, saying “Respect for Intellectual Property is crucial to our economy and the role that Mike has played has been a great help to the Government in addressing this important issue.”
The IP Crime Group, a cohort of private industry, government departments and law enforcement, has released its IP Crime Report for 2013/14. The Report provides an overview of the preceding year in IP crime and the action taken to tackle it. It brings together case studies, survey data and analysis from all of the IP Crime Group members (including The PA), to help us better understand the nature of IP crime today, and how it has changed. It also considers the current drivers and characteristics of IP crime, consumer behaviour and the role of organised crime and the collaborative and individual actions being done to tackle it. This year’s report has a particular focus on the internet and its role as a facilitator of IP crime, noting how its borderless nature creates an open platform for offering and accessing counterfeit and pirated goods. The fact that The PA last year took down over 1.6 million links to infringing books is highlighted as evidence of this. Commenting, IP Minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe said: “Criminals who steal work and ideas, or make and sell fake merchandise pose a real threat to jobs in the UK, and deceive consumers who want to know the goods they buy are the real thing. National and international efforts to fight this type of crime are yielding real results, through new specialist resources, greater collaboration and intervention by industry. It is vital that we keep fighting to bring Intellectual Property criminals to justice and make sure that consumers are alert to the risks.”
Former Higher Education Minister, David Willetts, has called for A levels to scrapped. According to The Telegraph, Willetts believes that unless this happens Britain will be left with a generation of experts with a narrow field of knowledge – historians who can’t do maths and scientists who can’t speak a foreign language. The comments are being seen as a criticism of former Education Secretary Michael Gove whose reform of A levels led to a narrowing of their focus.
Russell Hobby of the National Association of Head Teachers has reflected on Liberal Democrat education policy while in the coalition. In a letter to theEvening Standard, he comments that the Lib Dems probably prevented a return to O levels and limited the diversion of cash into free schools. He also acknowledges that while they will most likely be remembered for the policy u-turn on tuition fees, they were behind the pupil premium which provides schools with an extra £1300 per pupil from a poor background. He believes this focus on the very youngest is spot on.
This week: we have been at the Frankfurt Book Fair meeting with publishing colleagues from around the world to discuss current and future issues and share intelligence and best practice. We also met with, amongst others, the EU’s new Deputy Director for Education and Culture, the British Counsel General, the British Council and the American Copyright Clearance Center.
Next week: we will be travelling to Brussels with the Alliance for Intellectual Property to meet with UK MPs, the UK Permanent Representative in Brussels and Commission officials, having meetings with Tom Harris MP, Julian Astle, special adviser to Education Minister David Laws, and the Music Publishers Association and attending the launch of Primary Futures.