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PA's PA 17th July

PA's PA 17th July

Welcome to this week’s PA’s PA in a which saw the SNP flex their parliamentary muscles and force the government to abandon its planned vote on fox hunting, the Liberal Democrats elect a new leader from a short list of two in the form of ex-Party President Tim Farron, and BBC shows such as The Voice put on notice. 

Update on digital single market

The PA was part of a small delegation which this week met with Culture Secretary John Whittingdale and IP Minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe to discuss the European Commission’s Digital Single Market Strategy.  With conversations now turning to detail, the Government is becoming more challenging in its questioning of the industry and its solutions to the Commission’s proposals. While issues around portability dominated (with a clear message being given to the audio-visual sector that they need to find a solution to this), the concerns publishers have with potential changes to the copyright exceptions for education and research were also raised and noted by the Ministers.  A passionate plea from all industry representatives for the UK to support an urgent clarification of the safe harbour provisions in the E-Commerce Directive, given the abuse of the current provisions and the damaging impact this is having on licence negotiations, was receptively received.   The point was made, and agreed, that these provisions were intended to protect passive intermediaries not platform companies making their business from the distribution and access of content.   

A group of tech trade associations in the UK, Germany and France have announced eight (very broad) principles they say should guide the development of the digital single market.  The eight include such statements as ‘Embrace change’, ‘Embrace global’ and the catch all ‘Make it easier not harder for businesses to innovate’.  It’s difficult to see how anyone could disagree!  Read more here

Parliamentary support for intellectual property

The All Party IP Group held its Annual Summer Reception and heard from both its new Chair, SNP MP and former keyboardist for Runrig, Pete Wishart, and former Chair, John Whittingdale MP – now of course Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.  Both politicians confirmed their continuing support for intellectual property and the UK creative and content industries which depend on a robust IP framework to drive innovation and ensure creators and those that invest in them can be rewarded.  The new Secretary of State also promised to be a strong voice for UK businesses in Europe. 

Books in Prisons

New Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, has wasted no time in reversing one of his predecessor’s more controversial policies regarding access to books in prisons.  The restrictions introduced by Chris Grayling limiting the number of books prisoners can have in their cells to 12 will now be removed.  Relatives and friends will also be able to send books to inmates directly as opposed to having to go through authorised suppliers.  The PA warmly welcomed the move, commenting that “Michael Gove’s relaxation of the restrictions placed on prisoners access to books is extremely welcome.  All the evidence points to access to books being a vital element in increasing literacy levels amongst prisoners; aiding rehabilitation and increasing job prospects when released.”  

House of Lords debates writers’ income and PLR

The issue of the rights and income of professional authors and writers was raised this week in the House of Lords by The Earl of Clancarty who asked the Government ‘what steps they plan to take to improve the rights and income of professional authors and writers.’ During the ensuing debate, Baroness Neville Rolfe made very clear that she felt that we had ‘world leading copyright laws’ and we should be proud of the role authors and writers contribute to our economy. However, many peers expressed concern about the decline in the number of full time writers, quoting recent ALCS figures which reveal that significant decline in the number of full-time writers, a 29% drop in the median income of professional authors in the last 10 years to a paltry £11,000 a year.   Baroness Rebuck sought to widen the debate and raised the overall declining revenues of publishers and the closure of half of the independent bookshops.  She concluded by asking the Minister whether she agreed that “we need to safeguard not only the revenues for writers but the whole book ecosystem on which their revenue depends?”.  Whether the Public Lending Right can apply to books borrowed from community run libraries was a matter of concern for a number of Peers with the Minister using her response to these queries to confirm the Government’s commitment to looking at the options to extend PLR to remote e-lending, noting that it was one of their manifesto commitments.  

Value of textbooks

Following the critical comments about textbooks made at the end of last week by Richard Culatta of the US Department for Education, (textbooks are outdated and given the rise of many digital resources will soon be obsolete) the former head of Harrow school has entered the debate to support the use and value of textbooksin classrooms.  Putting his stake in the ground as a firm supporter of textbooks via an opinion piece in The Telegraph,  Barnaby Lenon points to the many advantages the physical textbook has over both its digital counterpart and worksheets, from the ability of students to annotate, to their value as a reference source and the solution they offer to children starting a course late and / or needing to catch up.   

‘One Nation Science’

Science and Innovation Minister Jo Johnson has set out his ‘One Nation Science’ strategy at a speech in Sheffield.  The plan involves audits to map research and innovation strengths and infrastructure in different parts of the country and an “action plan” to tackle the lack of diversity in science.  The drive appears to be, with nearly half of public science spending is concentrated in Oxford, Cambridge and London, to get research funds distributed more widely across the UK. He also indicated that there would be more emphasis on research to drive growth.  For further information see the speech reported in Times Higher Education and on the BBC. 

Productivity announcement

The Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, has launched the Government’s ‘productivity’ strategy framework.  This comprehensive plan sets the agenda for the whole of government over the parliament to reverse the UK’s long-term productivity problem and secure rising living standards and a better quality of life for citizens. The framework for raising productivity includes 15 key areas, built around two pillars: first, encouraging long term investment, and secondly, promoting a dynamic economy.   

Copyright reform

The Government has announced its long awaiting consultation on reform to Section 72 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. Section 72 allows organisations which do not charge for admission to show television programmes to the public without permission from the owners of film and broadcast copyright in those programmes. If an organisation wishes to show broadcasts that contain other copyright elements, for example any original literary, artistic, musical or dramatic works, as well as most commercially produced sound recordings, it still needs the permission of the relevant owners of those works.  Policy and legal issues regarding this provision arose following the Premier League’s ‘Pub Landlady’ case.   More information can be found here for those interested.   

Copyright Hub Update

Progress continues at a pace at The Copyright Hub.  The first services built on Copyright Hub technology will be live in the next few weeks, with 90 more Hub applications in the pipeline.  A dedicated microsite is being launched called Copyright Done Right and a request is out there for people to supply supportive quotes and comments.  The Hub was also the recipient of a Stationers’ Company Excellence Award.  The Hub continues to attract a great deal of international attention, both from within the creative industries and policy makers.    

Exam reform

The Government has published a public consultation on revised subject content for seven GCSEs and five A levels which will be taught from 2017. The proposed content can be found here.  In parallel, Ofqual will be consulting on proposals for assessment arrangements in these subjects. These documents can be viewed on the Ofqual website here. The Government has used this announcement to restate its objective to have GCSE’s and A levels which are  robust and rigorous, match the best education systems in the world and keep pace with universities’ and employers’ demands. The reforms aim to ensure that GCSEs are qualifications in which students, employers, and further and higher education institutions can have confidence.  

This week we have: 

Addressed the Alliance for IP’s summer reception which was attended by many parliamentarians including Culture Secretary John Whittingdale; met with Tech City and discussed potential joint activity; discussed European proposals for the digital single market with the IP Minister and Culture Secretary; met with the Copyright & Technology Working Group of the British Copyright Council; met with Creative Content UK; addressed the MA publishing students at Oxford Brookes University.    

Next week we will be: 

Meeting with the Society of Chief Librarians; meeting with the RNIB; attending a roundtable on the digital single market with IP Minister, Baroness Neville-Rolfe; attending the IP Crime Group meeting.