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PA's PA 22nd January 2016

PA's PA 22nd January 2016

Welcome to this week’s PA’s PA in a week in which the great and the good made their annual trip to snowy Davos for the meeting of the World Economic Forum.  Bill Gates called on the US to set a better example and follow the lead of countries such as Germany and Sweden by accepting more refugees while Cameron used his speech to urge business leaders to back the UK staying in a reformed European Union.  

Digital Single Market Update

The UK Government has issued a call for views on the draft portability regulation.  This regulation is designed to ensure that consumers can still access their online subscription services when they are travelling in the EU.  The UK government supports this proposal but is starting to understand the difficulties industry has over the lack of clarity in relation to key definitions such as temporary access, verification and residence and is therefore seeking views from interested parties.  As reported previously, this is not an issue of direct concern for publishers and therefore we will not be submitting to this call, but we remain supportive of our colleagues in the creative industries for whom this is a significant issue.  The deadline for comments is 12th February.  

The European Parliament has approved by a large majority (551 in favour, 88 against and 39 abstentions) a report on the Digital Single Market.  The press release can be found here.  Given the debates which took place last year over the Reda Report, there was much in this report to be positive about:

  • It talks about the importance of remuneration for creators and right holders  and how ‘any modification [of EU copyright law] should be targeted and focus on fair and appropriate remuneration for creators and other right holders’
  • It states that ‘the approach to copyright exceptions and limitations should be balanced, targeted and format-neutral and should only be based on demonstrated needs, and should be without prejudice to European cultural diversity, its financing and the fair compensation of authors’
  • With regard to text and data mining, it is proposed that ‘any European-wide exception for text and data mining should apply only when the user has lawful access, and should be developed in consultation with all stakeholders following an evidence-based impact assessment’ . No direct mention of restricting it to non-commercial use but no direct mention that it should be allowed for commercial use, either.
  • It also raises the issue of VAT on ebooks and calls for the tax neutrality principle to be fully respected for similar goods and services, and for the Commission to submit a proposal as soon as possible, ‘to allow Member States to reduce rates of VAT for the press, digital publishing, e-books and on-line publications in order to avoid discrimination in the single market 

Creative Industries in Scotland

The Scottish Affairs Select Committee has published its report ‘Creative Industries in Scotland’.  The report highlights that creative businesses play an important part in Scotland’s cultural and economic life, and that public bodies based on both sides of the border have roles to play in ensuring that Scotland builds on its existing successes.  The Committee makes a number of recommendations, including on intellectual property and the European Commission’s development of the Digital Single Market.  On the DSM, it particularly notes concerns that some of the Commission’s proposals could adversely affect the creative industries in Scotland, by hampering the ability of IP owners to monetise their property in different ways across Europe. The Committee, therefore, calls on the UK Government to consider and respond to the concerns heard. Other specific recommendations included:

  • UK and Scottish governments should work together to establish a robust assessment of the creative sector and understand what level of funding is currently provided
  • UK Government should review how creative tax reliefs can be of greater benefit for Scotland, and better promotion of their availability to businesses in the creative sector
  • Intellectual Property Office should explore how they can better support Scottish businesses to protect and exploit their intellectual property rights
  • Scotland should be included as a full member of the Creative Industries Council and its England-only remit reconsidered. 

Digital skills

As part of its inquiry into digital skills, the Science & Technology Select Committee has announced an oral evidence session on digital skills in relation to education and schools. This session will examine the role of ICT and the computing curriculum, the STEAM [science, technology, engineering, art and maths] agenda, informal learning and the use of computing clubs, as well as the Computer Science degree.  The Committee will hear from a number of teachers and national coordinators.  For those wishing to attend, it is taking place on Tuesday 26th January at 2.15pm – room to be confirmed.  

IPO Five-Year Plan

The Intellectual Property Office has published it five year strategy ‘Making life better by supporting UK creativity and innovation’.  The IPO says that it aims to boost economic growth and competitiveness through:

  • Strong enforcement actions against counterfeiters and “other IP thieves”
  • A dedicated programme of IP education
  • Joining and shaping an EU-wide patent system 

The strategy is available to read online here.  The press release is available to read online here. 

Value of textbooks

UNESCO has released a new report recommending centralising textbook procurement and pooling demand to boost long-term finance, esp. in sub-Saharan Africa and for governments to invest more in textbooks.  While the report, Every Child should have a Textbook, has a focus on sub-Saharan Africa, it does note the growing body of evidence confirming textbooks’ critical role in improving student achievement. 


As a precursor to an ‘Annual Report on the State of Education in England’, think tank CentreForum has published a pamphlet, in partnership with Education DataLab, which shows that around 43% of children are leaving primary school having not reached adequate levels of reading, writing and maths.The report also suggests that 44% of pupils finishing secondary school are not achieving the national standard of five A* to C grades in GCSEs. The study says that attainment has increased over the past ten years but adds that changes to GCSE grading scales which start in 2017 could see the percentage of children achieving a good pass fall 23% to 35% in English and maths. The fuller report, to be published in the Spring, will provide an in-depth and comprehensive analysis of how well the education system is serving pupils in England. The pamphlet is a consultative document, seeking to initiate debate about expectations and standards in the English education system and so The PA will be in touch to see whether it can assist in any way.  Interestingly, CentreForum is now headed by former Schools Minister, David Laws. The Guardian reported on it here 

Speaking at this year’s BETT edtech show, Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan flagged government’s support for broadband coverage (superfast broadband should reach 90% of the UK this year), and her Department’s championing of coding and computer science in schools, though she added that access to search engines is no substitute for knowledge.  She stressed tech’s role as an enabler rather than an end in itself (‘Where it works, we will back it all the way’) but asked industry for workload innovation, speaking with admiration of assessment tailored to the real-time needs of the student. 


This week we have:

Discussed the Government’s response to the EU’s digital single market strategy directly with both Baroness Neville-Rolfe, the IP Minister, and IPO officials;  discussed Reading for Pleasure activity in 2016 with our literacy and charity partners; caught up with the Society of Authors and the Association of Authors Agents; welcomed our new Chief Executive Stephen Lotinga. 


Next week we will be:

Travelling to Brussels for meetings with DG Research, DG Connect and Mary Honeyball MEP; discussing upcoming joint activity with STM; meeting with the British Library; listening to Culture Secretary, John Whittingdale MP speak at a meeting of the All Party IP Group; meeting with the Copyright Education and Awareness Group at the IPO; attending the Creative Industries Council IP Sub Group.