Welcome to the final PA’s PA of 2014, the year of “peak freetard”?. The PA’s Richard Mollet in his final blog post of the year poses this very question and optimistically views 2014 as the year in which, in the tensions between the creators and coders over how their work is used, the pendulum finally swung back in favour of the creators.
European copyright update
The quick march of the new Commission towards copyright reform moved up a notch this week. Its work programme for the next five years was adopted which, as expected, included a reference to copyright: “In addition, swift adoption of the legislative proposals on network and information security, data protection and further work on intellectual property modernisation [emphasis added] are vital components of the digital agenda.” Ablog post from ‘super’ Commissioner Ansip exposed the contradictions which remain over timing for the reform, correctly acknowledging that reform can’t be “a quick fix”, but saying it has to happen in 2015. In a further twist, Commissioner Oettinger’s tweet referring to a new ‘copyright law’ was quickly retweeted (or rebranded?) by Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda as a new ‘copyright directive’ – an exaggeration on her part or understatement on his? Many (including us) are still puzzled as to exactly what aspect(s) of copyright law is stopping citizens and businesses from having online access to digital services and therefore what measures any new copyright law would contain. The Commissioners and their officials remain frustratingly vague. Let’s hope this vow of silence is broken in 2015.
More information on the Working Group on IP rights and copyright reform, established by the Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, has also been made available. To the surprise of no-one, modernisation of the copyright legislation will be among the topics discussed in the coming months. However, commenting, the co-ordinator of the Group, Jean-Marie Cavada – a friend to the creative industries – said: “We intend to present concrete and innovative proposals to the European Commission, ensuring the right balance between the right holders protection and easy access for consumers. In addition, I will ensure we keep an eye on operators of the 'GAFA' (Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon)”
Future of public libraries
The Independent Library Report for England has been published today and can be downloaded here. Containing obvious but necessary recommendations, such as all libraries should have wifi, it sets out some clear actions for both central government and local government as well as mapping out a role for a new ‘library taskforce’. It certainly believes, which we would support, that the time has come for the government to stop reviewing library provision and start putting its money where its mouth is. Recommendations of particular interest include:
- WiFi in all public libraries
- Public Lending Right to be changed to include remote e-loans
- Creation of a digital library network
- New taskforce to respond to current e-lending pilots and work with partners to secure adoption of the models supported by the pilot.
Libraries Minister, Ed Vaizey, has been quick to welcome the report and its recommendations and has already set in train the creation of a Library Taskforce. To be chaired by Dr Paul Blantern, chief executive of Northamptonshire County Council, the taskforce will advise on the implementation of the Report’s recommendations. It will meet for the first time in Spring 2015.
(For a slightly more irreverent take, check out this piece on Newstump…)
Local authority budget cuts
Whether by accident or design, the publication of the Independent Library Report coincided with a warning on that local government budgets will be cut. Time for the Government to heed The PA’s advice and put responsibility for library policy and budget into one Department?
The Lib Dems continue to try and put ‘clear yellow water’ between themselves and their coalition partners in the run up to next year’s general election. This week, the focus has been on education with Education Minister David Laws accusing the Conservatives of putting the education system at serious risk with their plan to cut the budget by more than a quarter by 2020. Look out for more like this in 2015.
Nicky Morgan’s focus on ‘character-building’ – first mentioned at the Conservative Party Conference in October – finally gets some money behind it. The Education Secretary has announced details of a £5m fund aimed at encouraging classes and activities that foster traits such as self-control, commitment, endeavour and humour (!). A further £500,000 will be used to fund prizes for schools that excel in character building and an additional £1m will be invested in research into the most effective ways of teaching character.
The Government has responded to the report from the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee on adult literacy and numeracy. Unsurprisingly, the Government has welcomed the report and the its contribution to the debate and shares its objective of ensuring that adults who find reading, writing and maths difficult are able to access high-quality, flexible courses and training. Alongside the traditional written response, the Department has gone all digital and issued an accompanying video.
We’d like to thank our friends at the International Publishers Association for reminding us that there are at least 12 reasons why the publishing industry should be cheerful and looking forward to 2015.
Next year (amongst other things!) we will be:
- Travelling to Brussels and meeting with the Directors General of DG Education and DG Digital Economy and Society
- Meeting with Minister of State for School Reform, Nick Gibb MP to discuss the importance of textbooks and the role educational publishers play in delivering high quality learning materials
- Helping the Government hone its position on EU copyright reform
- Continuing to work with industry colleagues on our shared policy agenda via our memberships of the Alliance for IP, the British Copyright Council and the Creative Industries Council
I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. See you in 2015!