Welcome to this week’s PA’s PA in a week in which Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt ruled himself out of the Labour leadership race, giving his backing instead to Liz Kendall, and a row broke out in Parliament over who got to sit on the front row.
Digital Single Market
The PA, as part of an Alliance for IP delegation, met with European Commission Vice President (and chief architect of the Digital Single Market programme) Andrus Ansip to discuss the recent communication from the Commission. Issues raised included: territoriality, enforcement, copyright exceptions and text and data mining. The Alliance took a broadly positive view of the DSM strategy, noting that British creative businesses were international and digital in their scope “for many of us the Digital Single Market is already a reality”. We also welcomed the measures to boost digital infrastructure and skills. Mr Ansip gave some assurances on the vexed issue of geo-blocking, noting that he was not opposed to territoriality, per se. His main stress was that rightholders are losing out due to level of online infringement which – he believes – are caused by users trying to access works which they want to buy legally, but cannot. Mr Ansip is clearly open to the prospect of internet intermediaries doing more to tackle infringement and also to ensure online markets operate more fairly (but as with the strategy paper itself, the detail on this is yet to emerge). On text and data mining there is clearly an impulse to act, but there is concern as to how non-commercial and commercial uses can be distinguished. However the phrase “no plans to provide access to publishers’ data to commercial players” was used. The Alliance conveyed the importance of the Commission approaching any reforms on the back of strong evidence and assessment. The Communication notes the need for there to be such an assessment as to the “legal necessity” of reform – whilst it goes on to pledge a legislative package as soon as the Autumn! We were able to remind them that the estimates of purported benefits drawn up to support the Hargreaves Review in the UK turned out to be have been on the heroic end of the optimism scale.
As the Commission’s proposals begin to be discussed by Member States at the European Council, the UK government is gathering views from stakeholders to help in the formulation of its position. The PA has already attended one roundtable convened by BIS and will attend a further event hosted by the Intellectual Property Office next week. At this week’s event, the obvious issues were discussed – content portability, TDM, role of internet intermediaries. Some of our old ‘friends’ from the Hargreaves era were present (Open Rights Group, Coadec) expressing unchanged views.
The committees of the EP continue to vote on their ‘opinions’ on the Reda Report. While the opinion from Internal Market and Consumer Affairs (IMCO) is balanced, that from Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) is much less so. Word on the street is that it has been heavily influenced by Google. The Culture Committee (CULT), as previously reported, failed to agree on its opinion so all eyes are now on the vote on the Report, as amended, in Legal Affairs (JURI) on 16
June and then by the Parliament as a whole at its plenary session in July. The JURI vote has already been postponed once and may be again which in turn means that the EP plenary vote will similarly be delayed.
It has also been announced that IMCO will be conducting an own-initiative report on the Commission’s Digital Single Market paper; the rapporteur being Evelyne Gebhardt (a German MEP). As with the Reda Report (which was also an own-initiative report) this will have no legislative relevance but will be important in shaping the mood of the Parliament as and when actual legislative proposals are before them for scrutiny. We will work with FEP to influence this.
The Commission has shifted its position significantly with regards to VAT and the anomaly which sees Member States unable to exercise discretion on the level of VAT applied to ebooks, in the way that they can with physical books. Following the reference in the White Paper and President Juncker’s declaration that “VAT should be technology neutral”, speaking in the European Parliament Vice President Ansip, said that “The Commission intends to communicate its vision on the main features of the future definitive VAT regime next year; the current tax treatment of e-services such as digital books and digital press will be reviewed in this framework and I would personally support an initiative for reduced rates for them.” Given these strong statements from the Commission, the ball is now firmly in the Member States’ court. However, we do not believe that the UK Treasury position has undergone a similar conversion.
Pete Wishart MP (SNP) has been announced as the new Chair of the All Party Intellectual Property Group and All Party Writers Group. The PA will work closely with him and identify joint opportunities between these groups and the APPG on Publishing when it is reconstituted. The horse-trading in Parliament as to which parties will get which Chairs of Select Committee has begun, but the final outcome of these will not be known until next week. Chairs and members of all the Committees will follow soon after and we will be able to begin the task of engaging with those relevant.
Following the Pearson/FT breakfast (reported in last week’s PA’s PA), Laura McInerney continues to analyse what the new Conservative manifesto commitments of 500 new free schools, SATs resits, more academies and the recruitment of 17,500 maths and physics teachers will mean for the education sector. Writing in the Guardian, she says that with the Labour party currently re-establishing itself, the Conservative government may use its first 100 days in power to introduce bold changes.
Reading for Pleasure
Read On Get On (of which The PA is a founder partner) has commissioned the RSA to develop a national reading strategy for England, which will set out the action needed over the next decade to achieve the target goals for 2020 and 2025:
All children achieving good early language development by age five by 2020
Every child reading well by the age of 11 by 2025
To help them identify key issues and strategic priorities for action, the RSA has launched a call for evidence. The deadline for submissions is 15
June and should be sent to Thomas.Hauschildt@rsa.org.uk.
This week we have:
Met with European colleagues at the FEP General Assembly; discussed issues of joint concern with the Independent Publishers Guild; travelled to Brussels to meet with EC Vice President Ansip and UKREP (the UK Permanent Representative in Brussels); met with the British Council; discussed joint activity on the digital single market with colleagues from the Alliance for IP.
Next week we will be:
Reaching out to new Ministers; Attending Book Expo America; visiting the Hay Festival; contributing to an IPO roundtable on the digital single market; attending a meeting of the IP Crime Group; and participating in the IPO’s Copyright Education and Awareness Group; monitoring the Queen’s Speech and looking forward to the UK Parliament returning to business.