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PA's PA 17th October

PA's PA 17th October

Welcome to this week’s PA’s PA in a week in which the Labour Party unveiled the first of no doubt many secret recordings of Tory ministers saying compromising things at their party conferences. 

European Affairs

With the dust settling on May's European Parliament elections and the subsequent creation of Jean Claude Juncker's Commission (read Richard Mollet’sblog), The PA joined a small delegation of members of the Alliance for IP to survey the scene in Brussels.  A combination of voluntary and involuntary departures has denuded the Alliance of some of its stronger supporters in the UK MEP cadre, although some do remain.  So the main aim of the visit was to outreach to new members, especially those of the largest UK party, UKIP.  The reception - as usual - was warm.  MEPs of all party hues were quick to grasp that the continued success of the UK economy requires robust IP laws and a respect for creators. Given the UK's clearer competitive advantage in the creative industries all MEPs we spoke to saw it as vital that the national interest should not be thwarted by the actions of other member states.

Meanwhile in the Commission, the copyright unit is making the physical - as well as the administrative - move from DG Markt to the old DG Connect, now DG Digital Economy & Society.  Officials were clear that copyright reform would be a key part of the early work of the Commission (as already outlined by President Juncker) although it is yet to be decided exactly what the priorities would be.  That said, attention was drawn to recent comments from the in-coming Commissioners, Oettinger and Ansip, that territoriality, data and text mining and education were near racing certainties as areas of focus.  The "six month to action" timetable is clearly an aspiration rather than a hard and fast plan, and refers more to when the Commission may be in a position to bring forward proposals, rather than have them fully worked up.

This analysis leads to the obvious conclusion that if the Commission is serious about acting in such a relatively short timescale it has no choice but to take forward many of the ideas and analysis generated over the last two years.  The previous Commission's White Paper is not dead; it is merely sleeping.  We will not see - Lord be praised - a re-run of the Licenses For Europe circus, but the Commission is clearly keen to engage with stakeholders with new intelligence and information on market developments.  The UK's experience with the new data and text mining exception will be of great interest to them.


Whilst these meetings were happening in the physical world Vice-President Ansip was meeting with Europe virtually, through an hour long "#AskAnsip" session on Twitter.  This level of open digital engagement is likely to become typical and is a hugely welcome breakthrough in transparency of decision-making.  And it was useful, if not a little worrying, to gain insight into the mind of the Estonian who will be driving much that happens in copyright policy in coming months.  "The digital economy is all about sharing and leveraging the ideas of everyone..." He declared - apparently forgetting that it may also be quite useful to pay and reward creators (the clue being in the word "economy"). The PA's tweeted concerns about making creativity a subset of digital policy (the direct inverse should be the case) were met with a non sequitur response about the importance of taking note of cultural diversity.  Other (vague) comments included: that you should have the same rights online that you have offline (hopefully that includes rightsholders!); that we needed to bring down digital single market barriers (without stating what these ‘barriers’ are); that libraries are our collective memory and he wants to bring them into every home (!) and, in a response to a tweet from the Federation of European Publishers, that copyright needs to take account of cultural diversity but also modernise for the digital age.  We will clearly need to engage a great deal more with the new Commission.  A summary of the event can be foundhere.

Manifesto promotion

The PA team continues to promote Publishing for Britain to politicians, opinion formers and other stakeholders.  Meetings have been held with Tom Harris MP, Julian Astle, Special Adviser to David Laws MP, the Music Publishers Association and the Society of Authors. 


The report of proceedings of the International IP Enforcement Summit Report 2014 held in London 11-12 June has been published and is available on theOHIM website along with the video content from the event.  Debate at the Summit focused on the online environment, customs enforcement in Europe and at external borders and the tools and techniques to tackle IP infringement.  Participants included writer Val McDermid and PA Chief Executive Richard Mollet. The report outlines the detailed discussions which took place and recommendations for further collaboration.

Reading for Pleasure

An extract from Frank Cottrell Boyce’s David Fickling Lecture appears in The Guardian.  The author argues that the transformative power of reading is under threat in an education system obsessed with targets and literacy. "Time and time again I come across teachers reading a story and then asking immediately for some kind of feedback,” he says. “A piece of 'creative writing' 'inspired by' the story. Some opinions about character and wow words. Something to show the parents or the school inspectors. It pollutes the reading experience by bringing something transactional in to play. It destroys pleasure."


Teachers have taken to Twitter to ridicule Tristram Hunt’s plan for teachers to make a public statement of allegiance to the profession – dubbed a Hippocratic oath for teachers.  Mock oaths using the #teacheroath hashtag appeared on the social network included: “I pledge that I will leave this demoralised profession as a bitter and burnt-out shell at the earliest opportunity”; “I pledge to work 60 hour weeks before I'm forced out with complete exhaustion”; "I swear to follow education policies thought up by people with no relevant experience apart from the fact they went to school". 

The Royal Society of Arts City Growth Commission has called for university graduates to ‘stay local’.  Its report, Univercities: The Knowledge to Power UK Metros, assesses how higher education can play a larger role in stimulating local economies.  The research calls for more help for employers to pool resources so they can offer "golden handcuffs" over a range of industries and sectors to those graduates who commit to working in an area for a set number of years with local councils running "ReFreshers Weeks" with universities campaigning for students to stay in the area after graduation by offering job advice, help to find housing and matching individuals with job opportunities.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan gave evidence to the House of Commons Education Select Committee.  The focus of questioning was on on extremism in schools in the wake of the Trojan Horse affair and Morgan used the opportunity to repeat her message from the Conservative Party Conference of the need to promote British values in schools. 

Launching its Primary Futures scheme, the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) has published a new survey which found that four out of five primary school teachers find that most pupils do not realise that reading and maths will help them later in life.  Primary Futures seeks to The project seeks to raise aspirations, to help children understand the link between the world of work and what they learn in school and boost their academic performance.  Professionals will be encouraged to visit primary schools to speak to and inspire children. 

This week we have: meet with a number of our UK MEPs in Brussels and European Commission officials; continued to promote the recommendations contained in our manifesto and met with the Society of Authors. 

Next week we will be: meeting with the Creative Industries Council IP Sub Group; attending a debate at Stationers Hall on ‘Has Copyright Any Future Role in a World of Disruptive Publishing?’; holding a roundtable briefing with Tristram Hunt MP, Shadow Education Secretary; meeting with Iain Wright MP, Shadow Business Minister; meeting with the Intellectual Property Office.