Welcome to this week’s PA’s PA in week in which the Chancellor is probably asking himself, what went wrong? Starting the week announcing Bill Gates’ commitment to eradicating malaria by 2020, and quickly following this up with an announcement that the Government was finally going to get Google to pay at least some tax in the UK, he was probably expecting a flow of positive headlines. However, a combination of it being pointed out that Gordon Brown got in there first with Bill Gates with a similar announcement in 2007 but with a 2015 deadline, not only the European Commission but a number of his own MPs (Boris Johnson among them) criticising the Google deal, and the Taxation Commissioner sensing an opportunity to take aim at Britain’s zero percent VAT rate, Osborne must be pleased the week has finally come to an end.
European Commission review of VAT
In a difficult week for relations between the UK Treasury and the Commission, Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, added further fuel to the fire by raising the questions about whether the UK should continue to have the right to waive sales duty on certain goods. The Commissioner was answering questions about the parameters of his forthcoming review of value added tax set for later this year and confirmed it would consider ending states’ ability to set tax at zero. His comments should however, be taken in the wider context that the EC has no power to enforce such a shift in policy as this would be covered by the UKs veto. If anything his comments will only strengthen the UK Treasury’s resolve to maintain the current regime as the Chancellor cannot afford to be seen to concede anything to the Commission while being so closely scrutinised by the Brexit camp of the referendum campaign. Rather than genuinely seeking to start a debate on the current state of UK VAT affairs, Commissioner Moscovici’s comments came at a time when he appeared to be deliberately making life difficult for George Osborne. This may in large part due to the fact that Britain and Ireland have been blamed for blocking any progress on Moscovici’s proposals for a single European tax return for companies such as Google.
Jo Johnson, CaSE Lecture and science funding
The Science and Universities Minister has been vocal this week on Britain’s future membership of the European Union. While he refused to state whether he was ‘in’ or ‘out’ in the Q&As following his keynote at this year’s CaSE (Campaign for Science and Engineering) Lecture in London, he did comment that Brexit would damage UK research (the UK’s access to the EU research budget as a key driver behind this) and that the campaigners wanting to leave had serious questions to answer about how UK science would flourish outside the EU. He said: “No one doubts that Britain could stay a science player outside the EU, but the risks to valuable institution partnerships, to flows of bright students, and to a rich source of science funding mean that the leave campaign has serious questions to answer”. Johnson also used this opportunity to announce a doubling of the Newton Fund for international science to £150million per year by 20121. He also announced a new £30 million fund for science centres and attractions that would be jointly supported by the government (£20 million) and the Wellcome Trust (£10 million). He said that UK research offered an excellent “return on investment”, but stressed the need for efficiency savings as part of the government’s austerity drive. He spoke briefly about the upcoming changes to research councils, and said they would receive individual budgets by mid-February. Read more here and here.
We now understand that the announcement from Jo Johnson expected on 20th January will take place on 11th February and encompass both the publication of the review of the government’s OA policies and priorities undertaken by Professor Adam Tickell of Birmingham University and the Minister’s response to this review. We are speaking to the department about the format (speech, written statement?) and content of this announcement.
Digital Single Market Update
The PA has this week had conversations with both DG Research and DG Connect on text and data mining which provide an opportunity to seek further information on the Commission’s plans for ‘legal certainty’ following the still rather broad comments in December’s Copyright Communication. While the Commission lead on this policy area is DG Connect, as any proposal will need to be approved by all Commissioners the views of DG Research are important. DG Connect is sticking to their line that nothing has yet been decided and that all options remain on the table – exception, technical protection measures, co-regulation – and points to language such as the need for users to already have lawful access and for it to only apply to ‘public interest research organisations’ as evidence that they are listening to our concerns. DG Research, however, remains unconvinced that any legislation should be limited to non-commercial TDM. We will be continuing our conversations with DG Connect and ensure they have the evidence they need to support their non-commercial approach.
The Commission has published a summary of the findings of its consultation on Online Intermediaries and Tackling Illegal Content. It contained no stand-out surprises:
- Views are divided among those who consider the liability regime under the E-commerce Directive still fit for purpose and those who request clarification and guidance for its implementation, or a rebalancing of interests, including via the establishment of further categories of intermediary services, besides mere conduit/caching/hosting.
- A majority of respondents consider that different categories of illegal content require different policy approaches as regards notice-and-action procedures. This is particularly the case for infringements of intellectual property rights, child abuse content and racist and xenophobic speech.
- While notice providers (e.g. rights holders and enforcement authorities) are in favour of a "take down and stay down" principle for illegal content, intermediaries do not support this. The latter are also reluctant with regards to specific duties of care for certain categories of illegal content.
- A large majority sees a need for more transparency of the content restriction policies and practices of online intermediaries
- The next steps are three additional studies – one specifically addressing the value gap – and a final report taking into account everything spring 2016.
All Party IP Group evidence session with Culture Secretary and IP Minister
Following their fact-finding trip to Brussels, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on IP held a panel with Rt Hon John Whittingdale OBE MP (Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and previous Chair of the APPG) and Baroness Neville-Rolfe (IP Minister.) Parliamentarians, Andrew Bingham MP, Jim Dowd MP, Lord Clement-Jones, David Warburton MP and Group Chair Pete Wishart MP questioned the Ministers on their plans to protect the interests of the creative industries through copyright in the UK and EU. The discussion broke into two halves, the first concerned the Digital Single Market and the second developments within the UK.
Regarding the DSM, Whittingdale affirmed the Government’s support of the portability proposals while recognising the concerns about defining the word ‘temporary’ as well as the proposed implementation schedule. He highlighted the possible room for negotiation on these issues with the Commission which became evident during a recent meeting with Commissioner Ansip. Neville-Rolfe explained that the UK Government engaged with a broad range of stakeholders in Brussels about the DSM and was confident that the UK had provided sufficient evidence that utilised expertise from industry leaders to inform any further developments in the area.
When questioned about the broader group of exceptions it was clear that the Government has been focusing on portability but there was agreement from both the Minister and Secretary of State that significant changes to exceptions are not desirable. Neville-Rolfe appeared to suggest on TDM that it was possible that there might be scope for different countries to implement reform differently.
The IP Minister went on to highlight how the UK Government was engaging with a broad range of stakeholders in Brussels on the DSM discussions and was building coalitions with other Council members. She highlighted the fact that it was positive that she always attended competitiveness council meetings as that meant she was able to build good relationships (other Member State Ministers often don’t). She also mentioned the group in IPO who were working extensively on these issues.
The session also afforded an opportunity for the Minister and Secretary of State to update the Group on UK policy developments on enforcement, search, and the potential Digital Bill. Of particular interest was the comment from Whittingdale that the forthcoming Digital Bill, which he hoped would be granted time, may provide an effective mechanism for the UK to get intermediaries to avoid publishing or promoting illegal content, and the statement that, following UK Music’s successful legal challenge, there were no plans to resurrect the private copying exception.
DCMS new stats on creative industries
DCMS has released its new figures on the value of the creative industries to the UK economy. Overall, the statistics are very positive and show an increased in nearly all areas. We will certainly make sure all new letters or briefings include the updated statistics. The key headlines figures are:
- The GVA of the Creative Industries was £84.1bn in 2014 and accounted for 5.2 per cent of the UK economy.
- Creative Industries GVA increased by 8.9 per cent between 2013 and 2014, compared to 4.6 per cent for the whole of the UK. This was a higher rate than for any Blue Book sector with the exception of Construction.
- Creative Industries GVA increased by 37.5 per cent between 2008 and 2014, compared to an increase of 18.2 per cent for the UK economy as a whole.
- Between 2008 and 2014, the GVA of the Creative Industries rose by more than any Blue Book sector.
- Between 1997 and 2014, GVA of the Creative Industries increased by an average of 6.0 per cent each year compared to 4.3 per cent for the UK economy
- In 1997, GVA of the Creative Industries was 3.9 per cent of UK GVA rising to 5.2 per cent by 2014.
This week we have:
Met with DG Research and DG Connect on TDM; met with Mary Honeyball MEP on elending; discussed joint lobbying activity with STM; attended the IPO’s Copyright Education and Awareness Group; discussed issues of joint concern with the British Library; attended the All Party IP Group’s meeting with John Whittingdale MP and Baroness Neville-Rolfe.
Next week we will be:
Planning for Academic Book Week 2016; meeting with the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU); catching up with the Booksellers Association; attending the IPO’s roundtable on the Commission’s IP enforcement proposals; meeting, with FEP colleague, the European Deposit Libraries (CENL).