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PA's PA 9th December 2016

PA's PA 9th December 2016

Welcome to this week’s PA’s PA in a week in which we saw Brexit taking centre stage simultaneously in the House of Commons, through a Labour Opposition Day Debate, and in the Supreme Court as the legal challenge over whether the Government could trigger Article 50 by using parliamentary privilege reached the highest court in the UK.  Both MPs and the Supreme Court Justices were at pains to stress that neither activity was about whether or not we left the EU but the mechanism by which it happens, and in the case of MP’s the level of involvement and transparency parliamentarians are permitted as the process unfolds.  This week also saw yet another by-election, but with no upset this time as the Conservative’s comfortable held the Sleaford and North Hykeham seat.  The by-election had been triggered following the resignation of Stephen Phillips, a pro-leave Conservative who disagreed with the Government’s subsequent approach to ‘how’ the UK would leave.  The big story, therefore, of the night was the poor performance of Labour, slipping to fourth behind UKIP and the Lib Dems, in a seat they came second in only 18 months ago.   

In this week’s edition:

Judgment in Delhi University appeal case

The High Court in Delhi has ruled on the appeal lodged by a number of our members in their continuing legal action against Delhi university for copyright infringement following a copy shop on the university campus copying sections of, and in some instances entire, textbooks and selling them as course packs.  In summary, the appeal court has determined that course packs do not infringe copyright, provided they are tailored for instructional use, and are not published or sold for profit. There is no restriction on the number of copies that can be made or the amount of material that can be copied. The case has been sent back for trial on the facts to determine whether these specific course packs meet this instructional use test. 

We are still analysing the details of the judgment, and while it cannot be regarded as perfect , it does appear to narrow the very broad ruling of the earlier decision in at least two important ways:

  • The decision is now clearly limited to course packs. The much wider interpretation following the original decision that any copying for educational purposes was permitted is now reined in.
  • Whether the person doing the copying is making a profit is a clear factor in determining whether there is copyright infringement. 

While the judgment is being considered, we are continuing to stress the commitment of publishers to the ongoing creation of high quality knowledge and learning materials across all disciplines and subjects, and our commitment to finding ways to enable students and researchers around the world to access these materials on an equitable basis. However, such access can only be ensured on a long term and sustainable basis with the support of a fair and balanced framework of reciprocal rights and obligations that enables all those involved in the provision of learning and communication of scholarly research to be acknowledged for the contribution they have made. 

4th China-UK High-Level People-to-People Dialogue

The PA formed part of the UK delegation to the plenary session of the 4th China-UK High-Level People-to-People Dialogue in Shanghai.  Chaired, on the UK side by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP, the meeting heard report from different aspects covered by the dialogues, including: culture, sport, education, health, research and youth.  On the culture side, Culture Secretary Karen Bradley MP stressed how the UK creatives industries were global, innovative and ready to do business with China.  Justine Greening MP, Secretary of State for Education, referenced the ongoing teacher exchange programme and the UK’s four year programme to scale up the teaching of Shanghai-based maths mastery in the UK primary schools.  The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s Chief Scientific Officer, Professor John Loughhead, reported that developments over the past year has enabled more research partnerships, supported interdisciplinary research and has seen early career researchers from China working with researchers in the UK.  He commented that with science and innovation core to the UK’s industrial strategy now was the right time for a joint strategy between the two countries. 

The previous day, the PA had participated in a Creative Industries Innovators Forum, organised by the Department for International Trade.  At a private lunch attended by senior Chinese government and business figures, including Vice Minister Tong Gang of SAPPRFT (the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of the People's Republic of China) we had the opportunity to raise our concerns regarding the restrictions in place limiting the activities of UK publishers in China to sales and marketing activities only.  We suggested that, as a first step, this could be relaxed in the academic publishing space to allow the UK’s global expertise benefit Chinese research and researchers.  We also raised the difficulties we encounter in enforcement given the need to evidence high quantities of material, and how the ability to sample would greatly improve this. 

Inaugural Parliamentary Book Awards

The PA and BA (Booksellers Association) hosted the inaugural Parliamentary Book Awards in Parliament this week.  The awards, created to enable the role of booksellers and publishers to be promoted to a political audience, were across four categories and voted on by parliamentarians themselves.  To a packed room, the following winners were announced by The Times’ Matt Chorley: 

  • Best Memoir by a Parliamentarian: The Long and Winding Road by Alan Johnson
  • Best Non-Fiction by a Parliamentarian: Called to Account by Margaret Hodge
  • Best Fiction by a Parliamentarian: Now is the Time by Melvyn Bragg
  • Best Political Book by a non-Parliamentarian: Citizen Clem by John Bew

Consultation on the second Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021)

The four UK funding bodies for higher education have published a joint consultation on the arrangements for research assessment in a second Research Excellence Framework. The proposals seek to build on the first REF conducted in 2014, and to incorporate the principles identified in Lord Stern’s Independent Review of the REF which reported in July 2016 and included recommendations on the principles that should shape future REF exercises. The review concluded that a substantial reinvention of the REF would increase uncertainty, workload and burden at a challenging time for UK higher education. It agreed that the processes used to assess research excellence – including measures of output, impact and environment – are well understood by the community and have, broadly speaking, delivered well in their objective to improve quality.

The funding bodies starting point is, therefore, that the REF remains the most appropriate mechanism for continuing to support the UK’s world-class research base through selectively allocating funds and by providing robust reputational and accountability information.  The consultation document confirms their shared policy aim for research assessment is to secure the continuation of a world-class, dynamic and responsive research base across the full academic spectrum within UK higher education. They expect that this will continue to be achieved through the threefold purpose of a future REF:

  • to provide accountability for public investment in research and produce evidence of the benefits of this investment
  • to provide benchmarking information and establish reputational yardsticks, for use within the HE sector and for public information.
  • to inform the selective allocation of funding for research.

Responses are invited from higher education institutions and other groups and organisations with an interest in the conduct, quality, funding or use of research by noon on Friday 17th March 2017. The PA will be consulting its members on a response. 

Digital Single Market Update

The PA has responded to the Intellectual Property Office’s Call for Views on the European Commission’s draft legislation to modernise the European copyright framework.  In summary, we believe the draft legislation achieves a good balance between protecting the needs of those who create and invest in intellectual property while ensuring that content can be accessed by those wishing to make use of it; the proposed reforms appear, in the most, measured, limited, and targeted on areas which require some element of reform.  We questioned, however, the relevance for the UK of the draft proposals on copyright exceptions following the reforms undertaken in 2014 as a result of the Hargreaves Review (which saw the UK copyright framework updated to take into account the sort of technological changes this directive is designed to do), and also set out a number of amendments and clarifications that are needed to ensure that there is no adverse effect on the publishing industry.

European Update

The Competitiveness Council, which brings together ministers responsible for trade, economy, industry, research and innovation and space from all the EU member states, met recently. It deals with four policy areas: internal market, industry, research and innovation and space.  Baroness Neville-Rolfe represented the UK at the Council on 28 November where issues relating to the internal market were discussed and Jo Johnson MP represented the UK on the 29 November for research discussions.  A report can be found here.  On the copyright reform package, the UK highlighted the importance of delivering the actions in the Single Market and Digital Single Market Strategies, and set out the approach being taken to deliver the UK’s own Industrial Strategy.  On research and the Commission report on the implementation of the strategy for international cooperation in research and innovation, the UK stressed the need for EU research funding to remain focused on excellence and open to the world and that the UK would continue to collaborate with the Commission on science diplomacy in countries where relations were strained.

PISA rankings published

The latest results from PISA (OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment) show the UK still coming in behind the lead countries in the rankings.  PISA tests 15-year-olds in more than 70 countries in maths, reading, science, collaborative problem solving and financial literacy every three years.  This time the UK has come in at 27th for maths (down from 26th), 22nd for reading (up from 23rd), and 15th for science (up from 21st).  Singapore is top in all three, with Asian education systems taking most of the other higher places.  Commentators have pointed out that it could be another decade before rankings show what’s happening in today’s classrooms.  

Library funding down £25m

CIPFA (the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accounting) has released its latest survey of libraries which showed funding for local libraries continuing to fall.  The figures, which show a reduction of £25m in funds from local authorities, also revealed that the council-run services have also experienced a decline in visitors, with 15 million fewer visits in 2015/16 compared with the previous year.

Key findings include:

  • Expenditure on books, newspapers, periodicals and magazines fell by 8.4% from £64m in 2014-15 to £58.8m in 2015-16.
  • Online and electronic expenditure also decreased, down 2.7% from £12.2m in 2014-15 to £11.8 in 2015-16.
  • Number of libraries fell by 1.7% year on year, from 3,917 (2014/15) to 3,850 (2015/16).
  • Total visits dropped 5.5%, from 265 million (2014/5) to 250 million (2015/16).
  • Total expenditure for Great Britain library services fell by £25m, from £944m (2014/15) to £919m (2015/16).
  • FTE paid library staff fell by 5.3% between 2014/15 and 2015/16, from 18,028 to 17,064. Volunteer numbers rose by 7.5% during the period, from 41,402 to 44,501.

Coming a week after the report from the Library Taskforce and the announcement from the Government of a £4m innovation fund, Rob Whiteman, Chief Executive of CIPFA, was keen to stress that “despite the grim outlook, libraries are continuing to transform and innovate, adapting to changing visitor habits and providing a raft of new services and offerings.”

BBC regulation

Ofcom has published a statement explaining how they will prepare to undertake their new regulatory duties from the planned effective date, 3 April 2017.  They confirm that regulation of the BBC will sit within Ofcom’s existing teams and will focus on three core areas as laid out in the Charter: content standards; protecting fair and effective competition; and reviewing the BBC’s performance.  With regards to protecting fair and effective competition (a particular interest to education publishers), the statement confirms that Ofcom will assess the effect of the BBC’s activities on audiences and the UK media sector, and set rules as to how the BBC should behave, and that they will impose requirements on the BBC to avoid the relationship between its public-service activities and commercial subsidiaries distorting the market, or creating an unfair competitive advantage for the BBC’s subsidiaries.  The PA is getting in touch with Ofcom to arrange a meeting to discuss issues around the BBC’s formal education output.  

This week we have:

Attended the China-UK People to People Dialogue in Shanghai; met with the British Library to discuss proposals to reintroduce INCD (International Non-Commercial Document supply service); hosted with the BA the Parliamentary Book Awards at an event in the House of Commons; discussed book banding with the Department for Education; met with Labour’s Shadow Deputy Culture Secretary, Kevin Brennan MP. 

Next week we will be:

Meeting with DCMS and members of the Library Taskforce elending working group to discuss plans to extend payment of PLR to ebooks lent remotely; meeting with the Creative Industries Federation to discuss activity in 2017; attending the Shadow Culture Media and Sport team’s Christmas reception; meeting with the Academic Book of the Future Strategy Board.