Friday 30 January 2015

UK government speaks on copyright

This Blogger, having been out of the UK for a short time, has returned somewhat surprised by how much the outgoing UK government has had to say about copyright in the last few weeks and thought that a round-up might be worthwhile.

It started off with the first published speech by the new IP Minister, Baroness (Lucy) Neville-Rolfe at an event called the "Intellectual Property Annual Seminar Mentor Dinner" (no, me neither) on 8 January, which you can read in full here.  This is really a round up of all of the activities of the outgoing administration in the IP arena, with very little forward-looking vision, save that, the Baroness observed 
"So what are the challenges for the next 5 years? 
Our focus will continue on strengthening the UK IP framework to maximise support for business innovation and help drive growth.
There will be an increasing concentration on the European and international scene. 
We are working with the EU on the successful delivery of the unitary patent and the Unified Patent Court, with its pharmaceutical division to be based here in London.
And we will be making sure that proposed copyright reform and digital single market meets the interests and needs of the UK."

Building on this theme, it later emerged that on the very same day, David Cameron wrote to Commission President Juncker sending a document setting out the UK priorities for the reform of the Digital Single Market.  That document - which apparently in international relations terms is not a paper, but a "non-paper" was published last week.  You can experience it as a jazzy website here including an embedded version of Vince Cable's "Robert Schuman lecture" at the Lisbon Council on 20 January or download as more prosaic text here

This is a high-level vision piece, which it would be wrong to characterise as primarily about copyright, but it does have some interesting things to say on copyright topics, in particular:

Consumers should be able to buy a wide range of digital products and services and use them wherever they are in the EU, just as they can with physical products. Their online subscriptions to music or film should still be available when they travel and they should be able to buy [So - this is not just about free movement but an actual obligation to supply; outside of market power situations, it is rare for the EU to legislate to require companies to supply, indeed it is not clear where the Government thinks this power lies in the TFEU, or that this is an approach which one would expect from a libertarian centre-right government] online content not easily accessible from a home provider [who decides what is easily available?  does that mean I can have access to parts of Netflix France, but only the bits which have programmes not on Netflix UK?]: Europe’s creative output is one of its richest resources, and those who want to enjoy it should be able to pay to do so, even when it is only sold in another Member State [but not, apparently, if it is supplied other than for sale? such as ad supported VOD?]. At the same time, Europe needs to maintain choice and diversity by protecting intellectual property in a way that ensures a flourishing and innovative creative sector. Our enforcement of the intellectual property regime must have teeth. The Commission should ensure that consumers can access lawfully-available content on fair and reasonable terms across borders [again - no talk of removing barriers, but a positive obligation to ensure access].

 ...the EU should support copyright exceptions to allow research, education and text and data mining to take place across the market, and reject copyright levies in all forms [now there is a very direct statement of intent], providing a major boost to European innovation

In case anyone wonders what that means the Govt position is, yet another minister Ed V popped up earlier this week at an event called "Let's Go Connected" saying (according to Advanced TV Markets) that "the continued existence of the [audiovisual] sector depends on the ability of creatives to monetise their work ... and that requires a robust and properly-enforced copyright framework ... to ensure that creatives were fairly rewarded for their endeavour." 

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