Welcome to this week’s PA’s PA in week which saw The PA enjoying the delights of Olympia and the London Book Fair while the main political parties were busy launching their General Election Manifestos. Whilst the manifestos contained no great surprises, how they chose to position their respective commitments for the next Parliament resulted in some interesting political cross-dressing. Labour stressed their commitment to economic prudence while the Conservative’s seemed happy to jettison their reputation for economic credibility in favour of a ‘splash the cash even though we aren’t quite sure where we will get it from’ approach. This week also saw the second televised Leaders’ Debate albeit with only the five ‘opposition’ party leaders. This had the somewhat unfortunate result of giving an indication of the potential chaos which could entail should Labour be forced to seek support from other parties in order to form an administration (#coalitionofchaos being the favoured Twitter hashtag of those politicos following the debate).
Labour’s manifesto ‘Britain can be better’ can be found here. The recommendations on IP and the creative industries broadly echo those flagged in the Woodward Review which was published in March (and reported in PA’s PA 27.03.15).
Pledges of interest include:
An increase in the number of apprenticeships in the creative industries.
The creation of a Prime Minister’s Committee on the Arts, Culture and Creative Industries, with a membership drawn from all sectors and regions. The Committee will bring issues of concern direct to the attention of the Prime Minister.
The establishment of a British Investment Bank with the mission to help businesses grow and to create wealth and jobs.
It will have the resources to improve access to finance for small and medium-sized businesses, and will support a network of regional banks. – It’s worth noting that we could work to ensure that Intellectual Property is an integral part of this.
See last week’s PA’s PA for details of the Party’s education commitments.
The Conservative manifesto also included welcome comments with regards to Intellectual Property, particularly in relation to copyright enforcement. Specifically, they pledge to:
More generally, there are some positive comments on the creative industries, stating that “In music, art, fashion, theatre, design, film, television and the performing arts, we have an edge” and that “The creative industries have become our fastest-growing economic sector, contributing nearly £77 billion to the UK economy”. They praise their work around tax reliefs for this, claiming that this growth has been driven by “the tax incentives for films, theatre, video games, animation and orchestras we introduced”.
While the manifesto is positive in this regard, it’s also worth noting that they have, as we might have guessed in light of the PM’s ‘non-paper’, confirmed their support for the Digital Single Market : “And we have pursued a bold, positive, pro-business agenda, exempting smallest businesses from red tape, promoting free trade, and pushing to extend the Single Market to new sectors, like digital.” For an Party whose majority of members want to leave the European Union, it is frustrating they have chosen this issue in which to demonstrate some pro-European credentials!
The Liberal Democrats will be launching a specific creative industries manifesto next week but references to the creative industries can still be found within the main manifesto. Of particular interest, they pledge to:
Support growth in the creative industries by continuing to support the Creative Industries Council, promoting creative skills, supporting modern and flexible patent, copyright and licensing rules, and addressing the barriers to finance faced by small creative businesses.
Aim to double the number of businesses which hire apprentices, including by extending them to new sectors of our economy, like creative and digital industries.
Work with sectors ‘critical to Britain’s ability to trade internationally’ with the creative industries highlighted as one of these sectors.
With regards to the EU, it states they will “Work to deepen the EU single market in the energy sector, in the digital economy and for services. We will boost British exports by scrapping national barriers to British firms trading online and by concluding ambitious EU trade agreements with key markets like Japan and India. We will implement the recommendations made by Michael Moore MP in October 2014, including publishing an annual European Business White Paper and appointing an EU Business Minister to lead this competitiveness agenda”
This manifesto also follows an announcement earlier in the week of plans for a Digital Rights Bill to be introduced within the first six months of forming a new coalition Government. Within the manifesto, they’ve highlighted their support for this again and stated they will ‘Safeguard the essential freedom of the internet and back net neutrality, the principle that internet service providers should enable access to all lawful content and applications regardless of the source, and without favouring or blocking particular products or websites.’
And mentioned in despatches…
Green Party manifesto, For the Common Good, includes a section on ‘Information and Digital Rights’ where they call for ‘copyright laws that reward creators but that are consistent with digital technologies’ and for ‘democratic political control of this technology.’ They would also like to see a ‘Comprehensive Digital Bill of Rights’ which would include provisions to reduce length of copyright term.
Well, UKIP just want to abolish the Department for Culture, Media and Sport…
European Commission and Google
The European Commission has come out strongly against Google in its long running investigation. It has sent the company a Statement of Objections alleging that Google has abused its dominant position in the markets for general internet search services in the European Economic Area (EEA) by systematically favouring its own comparison shopping product in its general search results pages. The Commission's preliminary view is that such conduct infringes EU antitrust rules because it stifles competition and harms consumers. The Commission has also formally opened a separate antitrust investigation into Google's conduct as regards the mobile operating system Android. The investigation will focus on whether Google has entered into anti-competitive agreements or abused a possible dominant position in the field of operating systems, applications and services for smart mobile devices.
Commenting, EU Commissioner in charge of competition policy Margrethe Vestager said: "The Commission's objective is to apply EU antitrust rules to ensure that companies operating in Europe, wherever they may be based, do not artificially deny European consumers as wide a choice as possible or stifle innovation. In the case of Google I am concerned that the company has given an unfair advantage to its own comparison shopping service, in breach of EU antitrust rules. Google now has the opportunity to convince the Commission to the contrary. However, if the investigation confirmed our concerns, Google would have to face the legal consequences and change the way it does business in Europe."
While not of direct interest to publishers, we are following these developments with interest as they may give an indication to the Commission’s approach to other dominant online platforms.
European Parliament and the Reda Report
Debates on the Reda Report continue in the European Parliament. As previously reported, while the Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) is the lead committee for this report, other relevant committees produce ‘opinions’ which are submitted to the main committee and give an indication of likely support elsewhere in the Parliament. This week the full membership of the Culture Committee (CULT) rejected its own opinion, drafted by one of its members. The anti-copyright wing are blaming the pro-copyright wing for this and vice versa. While the opinion (after being amended) was better for publishers it was by no means ideal and so having CULT have ‘no opinion’ is perhaps a better situation than an opinion influenced too much by those seeking to undermine copyright.
This week we have…
Been at the London Book Fair discussing a wide range of issues from the impact on copyright of the Internet, how to make the publishing workforce more diverse and reflective of society, developments in accessible publishing, advancements in education publishing and publishing innovation.
Next week we will be…
In Brussels discussing copyright reform with the UK Permanent Representative and MEPs Catherine Stihler, Mary Honeyball and Emma McClarkin, meeting with the new Head of the IPO Economic Research Unit, attending the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival and the International STM Conference in Washington DC.