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PA's PA 30th January

PA's PA 30th January

Welcome to this week’s PA’s PA in a week in which David Cameron weaponised the fact that Ed Miliband had said he was going to weaponise the NHS, and the number of words of comment written about the delayed Chilcot Report into the war in Iraq actually exceeded the number of words in the report itself (probably).

Made-l-in Europe

The Director General of DG Connect, the British Robert Madelin, spoke with rightsholders at an event in central London at which he promoted the Commission’s Digital Single Market programme.  He noted that President Jean-Claude Juncker’s manifesto had made clear that he would be Europe’s first Digital President, and that fairness sat at the heart of his agenda.  “All the knives and forks were now on the same side of the table” for reform he said, as he pointed out that the digital single market could do for digital content what the physical market did for Rocquefort cheese.  Although keen to stress his was the view of the bureaucrat, Madelin nevertheless gave the strong impression that the ideological heft behind the reform programme is something he very much chairs. With Syriza, Podemos and terrorism changing the nature of European politics – he noted – now was the time to engage in reform.   Madelin was unperturbed by comments from the audio-visual companies in the room that they should not be compelled to provide services on certain terms where to do so would be clearly uneconomical.  Brushing aside suggestions that more detailed economic impact assessments should be carried out, the D-G stressed that there was no need for paranoia when confronting the reform programme. 

“Lets Go Connected”

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey found himself having to defend the ‘non-paper’ sent by Number 10 to the Commission outlining the UK vision for the EU’s digital economy (as reported in last week’s PA’s PA) to a room full of creative industry representatives at a Lets Go Connected event this week.  The event, organised by NBC Universal, Bertelsmann, and Sky, discussed a number of areas from new digital business models to how best to establish the right regulatory framework in the UK and EU.  However, and unsurprisingly, the importance of copyright featured as a common theme.  Ian Hudson, CEO of Penguin Random House International, referred to copyright as the glue that holds book publishing together and warned governments that they shouldn’t tamper with it unless they are clear as to the outcome.  This was expanded upon in a further panel discussion which saw The PA’s CEO Richard Mollet along with the Premier League’s Bill Bush, David Wheeldon from Sky and Mike Weatherley MP, the PM’s former Adviser on IP, discuss ‘Establishing the right regulatory framework in the UK/EU’.  All were in agreement that regulators need to do more to ensure policy is formulated on the basis of evidence and research and that the long term interests of consumers are not being adequately taken into account.  While Vaizey clarified that the Government remains of the view that any changes to copyright need to be supported by evidence, there was immense frustration in the room that this was position, which had been articulated by the Government back in February 2014, was not taken into account in this paper. Conversations continue with government ministers, MPs, advisers and officials as to how this can be rectified and the potential damage it could do limited. 

UK update

With the polls indicating that the Green Party is drawing Labour voters away from the party, Tristram Hunt has come out with a strong attack on their education policies.  The Guardian reports on him describing the policies as “total madness” and a “flashback to the 1970s”.  These include delaying the start of formal schooling until the age of six; ending the use of standardised achievement tests in schools; restricting data that would allow the publication of school league tables; abolishing Ofsted; and ending the status of academies and free schools. 

The Government has published its response to the consultation on reducing the duration of copyright in unpublished works (the “2039 Rule”).  Most unusually, it has abandoned its preferred option, which was to change the rule, and instead is adopting a ‘do nothing’ approach.  It comments that, “Despite the benefits of the policy to the potential dissemination of cultural heritage and wide support from that sector, a number of groups representing copyright holders raised legitimate concerns about the impact the policy would have on the commercial exploitation of copyright works”.  

Copyright education and awareness in schools

Following the report produced by Mike Weatherley MP, The PA has joined a new group brought together by the Intellectual Property Office to discuss how best to maximise the creative industries collective efforts in this area.  At the Group’s first meeting, the IPO reported that they have received funding from OHIM (Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market) to develop a new web portal to provide a single home for information and resources for teachers and schools looking for information on copyright, whether that be regarding licensing or teaching resources.  This was warmly received, with the usual caveats of the need to avoid duplicating existing resources as this could lead to confusion (such as the information on licensing provided by the likes of CLA, the Educational Recording Agency and, in time, the Copyright Hub).     The importance of ensuring such a website, and the materials it contains, meets the needs of teachers was discussed.  To this end, the IPO will hold a number of teacher focus groups, with the Group feeding in the discussion guides.  The plan is to have the website ready for the new school year in September. 


Never a body to shy away from criticising the Government, the Education Select Committee in its latest report concludes that there is no evidence that academy status helps primary pupils.  After finding “no convincing evidence of the impact of academy status on attainment in primary schools” it calls on the DfE to commission research into this as a matter of urgency.  The report also criticises the rapid growth in academy sponsors and chains saying that "Evidence to the inquiry suggests that the pressure to expand the academies programme rapidly, and the associated need to identify an increasing number of sponsors, has led in the past to inadequate vetting by the Department for Education of potential sponsors prior to authorisation."

In the wake of this year’s performance tables indicating that a far higher number of schools are failing, teacher union ASCL believes that, because of the major upheavals in the GCSE exam system,  the government targets are “pretty much irrelevant” and warned any organisation looking at this week’s data not to judge schools on these figures alone.   

This week we…

Participated in the Lets Go Connected conference in central London; met with John Whittingdale MP to discuss the Government’s EU digital single market paper, Mike Weatherley MP, the IPO and other creative industry parties on copyright education, Matt Sanders, Culture and Education Special Adviser to the Deputy Prime Minister, exam board AQA, and the Society of Authors; attended a meeting of the Copyright Advisory Panel, a dinner with Robert Madelin, Director General of DG CONNECT (now DG Digital Economy and Society,) and the Board meeting of Academic Book of the Future. 

Next week we will be…

Meeting with Google, The Times, policy officials in DfE to discuss maths texts books, and Unite; attending the Copyright Hub Advisory Panel; discussing the repeal of Section 52 of the CDPA with the IPO; attending meetings of the National Literacy Forum and the Read On Get On coalition. 


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