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PA's PA 20th March

PA's PA 20th March

Welcome to this week’s PA’s PA in a week in which George Osborne presented potentially his last budget.  Never one to break with tradition, Osborne used this final opportunity to talk directly to the Conservative core vote whilst ensuring the budget contained some crowd pleasing measures on beer and fuel duty.   How far and deep ‘austerity’ cuts will be required in the next Parliament remains the main point of differential between the main parties.  Questions are being asked as whether The Treasury is being entirely transparent about the implied cuts (it isn’t) along with whether Labour has any better answers on how to complete the mission of bringing down the deficit (it doesn’t).  The week finished with the extraordinary (and some might say, unconstitutional) sight of the Chief Secretary to the Treasury standing on the steps of The Treasury brandishing his own yellow budget box and presenting his own budget on the floor of the House, only a day after stood in the same spot as part of the Government.  Viewed as a spectacular miss-fire, even in Lib Dem circles, the image quickly spawned a host of parodies on social media.

The Budget and Publishing

Obsession with the digital economy reached Number 11 this week with the Chancellor announcing a range of measures in the Budget designed to help the digital economy, with BIS trumpeting them as helping to ‘secure the UK’s position at the forefront of digital communications and innovation’.  Along with commitments to remove barriers to investment in ultrafast broadband and support its delivery in rural areas, was a financial pledge of £7.4m to provide free wifi in public libraries.  This was a key recommendation in William Sieghart’s recent review in public libraries in England.  A review of business rates was also announced, a move welcomed by booksellers.  First announced in the Autumn Statement last year, it is hoped that this will help high street shops struggling to compete with online retailers like Amazon, which pay relatively small business rates.

The budget also included a package of support for what the Chancellor referred to as the ‘sharing economy’.  While this is referring to online platforms such as Airbnb, Uber and Zipcar, we will monitor it closely to ensure this concept of ‘sharing’ doesn’t spread into the content industries.  

 EU update
A quieter week (at least publicly) in Brussels this week as the relevant parliamentary committees continue shaping their opinions on the Reda Report.  Vice President Ansip has taken again to Twitter (which is increasing becoming the new Commission’s engagement tool of choice) with The PA’s Richard Mollet taking up his customary position as Agitator-in-Chief.  Ansip’s postings backed up previous statements confirming that his focus is providing  cross-border access to content – even, as we know, BBC content.  Richard responded to “How can cultural diversity gain or profit from my not being able to pay for legal access?” with a succinct “Consider the converse: cultural diversity will be adversely affected if producers are made to sell in all MS simultaneously”.  While no response was forthcoming direct from Ansip, a Commission economist did get in touch requesting further information and evidence which we will be providing. 

Things are due to hot up again, however, next week, with a debate at the College of Commissioners on 25 March on the Digital Single Market where geoblocking and copyright will be discussed.  In addition, there will be a Council of Ministers meeting in Riga followed by a conference where some of these issues will also be discussed.  The PA will be contacting the UK government in advance of these meetings.

IP Finance Toolkit
The Department of Business Innovation and Skills has launched a ‘IP Finance toolkit’, in order to help businesses exploit their intellectual property. British businesses will benefit from the toolkit as it will advise on how to understand and present the value of their Intellectual Property ( IP) to potential lenders. Developed by the UK Intellectual Property Office,  it will support small businesses to use their intellectual property assets to secure the finance they need for company growth.

UK Intellectual Property Attaches
New figures published show that the four UK IP Attaches – based in China, Brazil, South East Asia and India - have helped to protect £400 million worth of IP assets for UK businesses. Since 2011 these advisers who provide support for UK businesses seeking advice on local IP matters in country, have also helped 8,400 UK businesses through 350 outreach and education workshops. A further 537 firms have received direct practical support helping them to handle IP issues and protect their investment.

Open Access
Following last week’s update after our meeting with new policy adviser, Tim Higginson, and the news of a ‘non-paper’ which the UK has co-drafted with the Dutch, The PA has had sight of a letter Sander Dekker, the Dutch Secretary of State for Education, Culture and Science, has sent to the Dutch Parliament on Open Access.  This confirms our suspicions that the Dutch are looking for allies in their bid for low (or no) embargoes for Green OA.  We will be working to ensure that the UK does not follow this lead. 

Lib Dem Minister David Laws has used an interview in The Independent to comment that the Conservatives education policy is still driven by former Education Secretary Michael Gove as opposed to his successor Nicky Morgan.  He also suggested that Morgan and the Lib Dems in the department were often on the same side with blocks coming from outside the DfE and not within it. 

The DfE project to bring 30 teachers from Shanghai to carry out maths lessons in UK schools has been scrutinised in The Guardian.  The two-year programme, aimed at incorporating elements of lessons that have seen students in Shanghai three years ahead of English students in mathematics by the age of fifteen, has come in for criticism from a number of educationalists.  Questions are asked as to whether this is the best use of money, and whether standards in the UK could be increased simply be giving teachers more time to prepare for lessons by taking fewer classes each day.  It is also pointed out the Chinese statistics are selective in the schools and demographic of society they take their data from.    

And finally…
The Publishers Association has launched its new-look website providing up-to-date information on the range of campaigns and initiatives being undertaken by The PA and publishing generally.  The site will also include a regular PA Poll giving people the opportunity to let The PA know their views on a range of topical issues and allow visitors to sign up to its regular newsletters.  Let us know what you think. 

The week we…

Met with creative industries colleagues at the Alliance for IP Board meeting, the Creative Industries Council IP Sub Group, and the British Copyright Council Copyright and Technology Working Group, met with the Society of Authors and colleagues on the Joint Committee on Legal Deposit, participated in a SWOT analysis with JISC and partners on open access, and met with Ian Fordham of the Education Forum for a briefing on his project to map digital learning in London. 

Next week we are…

Receiving a briefing from the IPO on its corporate plan for 2015/16, meeting with the Sherpa/FACT Advisory Board, attending the IPO’s Copyright and Awareness Strategy Board, meeting with the IPO to discuss the guidance for the repeal of Section 52 of the CDPA, participating in the World Book Night launch event, attending the Westminster Forum event on Open Access and attending the IPA Congress in Bangkok.