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Monday, 19 July 2010


Before anyone else excitedly emails the IPKat to tell him, let him announce on this weblog of record that the new UK Business Secretary Vince Cable has today axed a number of Department for Business quangos -- the top of the list being the Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property policy (SABIP). The body -- along with everyone else -- must have foreseen its demise, since it has already posted this statement on its own dissolution:

"On 19 July the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills announced changes in order to streamline its partner organizations by reducing the number of 'Arm's Length Bodies'. This includes the dissolution of the Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property Policy (SABIP).

In building the evidence base to inform IP policy, and bringing external strategic thinking to policy questions, SABIP achieved much since it was created in 2008. Many organizations and people contributed to these achievements but they were due above all to the work of the SABIP Board members. The Government is very grateful to them.

The Government intends to build on SABIP's work. Its research programme will be integrated into the Intellectual Property Office's research work. The Office intends to ensure that there continues to be external oversight and challenge to IP research work, and input to strategic IP policy. Arrangements to achieve this may include use of informal panels of experts to steer research, and discussion events hosted by third parties to support the development of policy thinking. Further details on the specific structures, including how they will be overseen by the IPO's Board, will be announced in due course".
The IPKat has had a number of encounters with SABIP, not all of which were particularly pleasurable, and has been unhappy about it for a number of reasons since its inception. Having said that, he believes that its members have made a big effort to discharge their duties in the most difficult of circumstances and they have certainly contributed to the ongoing debate regarding the interface between IP in practice and the policy considerations that should drive it in future. He was also pleased to hear their repeated refrain that IP reform should be evidence-based. He wishes its board and secretariat every success in the future, and hopes that they will always cherish fond memories of the IP communities of which they were, so briefly, a notable part.

Life after death here
Evidence-based life after death here
Copyright after death of author here
Copyright after death of copyright here


MTPT said...

Cutting SABIP seems odd, in that it runs counter to the Coalition's introduction of non-executive steering boards to help "professionalise" Whitehall. The argument for some kind of advisory committee seems strong, so I'll be interested to see how the government implements the "...external oversight and challenge to IP research work, and input to strategic IP policy".

Anonymous said...

SABIP was killed off, we read. But what of the Intellectual Property Institute (the famous IPI we always read about in your blog)? Did it commit suicide or die of natural causes?

Anonymous said...

Another evidence based institute bites the dust, and/or its work gets sidelined and ignored by the organization that commissioned it, as recently happened to Hugenholtz et al at the EC.

Anyway, who needs real and challenging evidence, independence and intellectual rigour when there are so many pleasant lobbyists around to provide back of the envelope based statistics and theories over fancy lunches on how "piracy" is bringing the world as we know it to an end? This "data" gets recycled and appears in glossy reports that are gobbled up by elected officials and public servants because it is all so easy to understand and is repeated so often that it must be right, right?

And look at all the money the taxpayers save by relying on such lobbyist provided “research”...

It looks like SABIB's swan song will be its massive study on copyright and contracts led by Martin Kretschmer available here:

Hopefully, the IPKat will critique this study soon....

It’s bottom line is that:

Overall, it remains an open question whether there is a negative or positive relationship
between the strength of copyright protection and the total earnings of creators. We also do not know if there is a negative or positive relationship between the strength of copyright protection and the distribution of earnings of reators. Although the orthodox economic theory of copyright law
assumes that there is a harmony of interests between creators and intermediaries (such as
publishers and producers), much of the attempted legal regulation of copyright contracts assumes
that the incentives of creators and intermediaries
are not aligned.

The contractual bargaining outcomes are tilted
towards bestsellers. Creators with a track record
of success are able to negotiate contracts
preserving their interests. For most others, in
particular new entrants to the entertainment
industries, assignments of rights are common.

Lord Macaulay, in his 1841 speech, had recognised only two means to remunerate authors: patronage and copyright.136 Even if we accept, with Macaulay, that neither ntrinsic motivation nor accidental private wealth are sufficient to ensure the supply of a desirable mix of cultural products, (i) copyright and (ii) patronage are not the only alternatives.

The financial position of creators may also be improved (iii) as the result of collective
negotiations with publishers or producers (facilitated by the professional bodies of cultural
workers), (iv) as the result of regulatory public policy measures, such as a favourable tax, insurance or benefit system, (v) by directly funding desirable products through grants, or
indirectly via bodies with a public service mission (e.g. broadcasting quotas for certain contents). Options (ii), (iv) and (v) have been beyond the scope of this review.

Anonymous said...

SABIP was rapidly becoming a playground for anti-copyright academics, in disregard for SABIP's actual mandate, which was to promote the UK economy. The previous post exemplifies such bias. For some reason, academics proceeding from an anti-business and anti-IP prejudice are "independent", businesses which depend on a rational use of IP are not - the recent paper on Economics and Copyright was a lamentable instance of this anti-business bias. Frankly, despite the excellence of the officials involved, we are well rid of SABIP.

Anonymous said...

I don't know any "anti-copyright academics." I know lots of thoughtful pro-copyright academics who believe that too much copyright is just as bad as too little.

Just like such hardly radical organizations as Microsoft, Google, Yahoo etc. who via CCIA just released this study on the economic importance of exceptions and limitations in the EU.

Anonymous said...

It is, obviously, essential that we have evidence-based policy-making in IP. The nature of IP law, based as it is on the social and economic effects of its consequences, demands that we have continuing, and independent analysis of those effects. I am sad that SABIP has met its demise. Every time we have a change in technological capability and/or business models, we must review, from a disinterested standpoint, the nature of the IP laws which are in force at the time. Given the importance to the UK economy of intangible assets, I would have thought this would be something of a priority for government. The IP Institute's Stephen Stewart lecture series, and especially the fairly recent lecture from Prof. Vaver? demonstrates this most eloquently (the lecture notes are, or were, published on the IPI web site). If we lose this kind of discussion forum (a platform for the best thinkers) we lose much. What has happened to the IPI? What does the IPI think about the loss of SABIP?

Anonymous said...

Too bad that the new UK Government is apparently still pandering to the usual old lobbyists. One might have hoped that the Mandy days were over.

These lobbyists probably now figure that Mandy was dandy and Cable is able.

Anonymous said...

It looks like it's safe to short any recommendation in Gowers: first capitulation on cliff richard, now sabip - copyright levies next?

Anonymous said...

re Gowers, don't forget abandonment of the recommendation to have standard IP licence agreements.

Anonymous said...

UK copyright policy in a nutshell?

Mandy was dandy,
But Cable is able.
And lucre is succor.

(That may even be a Haiku.)

Anonymous said...

"such hardly radical organizations as Microsoft, Google, Yahoo etc."

Very droll.

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