|The House of Commons listens in hushed silence|
to a comment from the Minister for Business, Skills,
Education, Skills, Innovation and Business ...
"UK MPs discuss the Hargreaves Review
At yesterday’s parliamentary debate on IP and the Hargreaves Review, John Hayes, the Minister for Skills [his full portfolio is Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, says Merpel, which is why his photo looks so glum] announced that the Government’s response to the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth would be released within a month. The debate allowed MPs to voice their thoughts on the proposals put forward by Professor Ian Hargreaves in his report released in May 2011 and on the UK’s IP regime in general. It was organised by Pete Wishart MP who is not only the Scottish National Party’s Westminster Spokesperson for Culture, Media and Sport, but also a member of Scottish folk rock group Runrig. As this was a House of Commons event, the Minister for IP [her full portfolio is Business, Innovation and Skills, says Merpel, and Thursday marked another of her official Wallace & Gromit engagements, which is why her photo looks so happy] was unable to participate as she does not sit in the House of Commons.
The main take-away messages from the debate are set out below:Thanks Lisa, for this terrific note, says the IPKat. Merpel's a bit suspicious, though. She says either British MPs have become more sensible in their discussions of IP or all the daft stuff she hears them spouting outside the House has been edited out to spare their blushes [this is an evidence-based assertion -- readers may recall David Lammy MP's comments about the legal requirement to rename his favourite football team here].
Evidence-based regulation. MPs agreed with Hargreaves’ suggestion that future regulation should be based on evidence as opposed to lobbying by special interests. However, a number of MPs voiced concerns about Hargreaves’ classification of evidence provided by industry as “lobbynomics” [This point can't sufficiently emphasised, says the IPKat. Evidence does not cease to be evidence by virtue of the fact that it is provided from a partisan source. For example, we could rely less on evidence related to the scale of counterfeiting that comes from victim companies if the folk who do the counterfeting were to submit their own figures as to how much they're copied: but this isn't about to happen]. They want industry expertise to be used and industry to take a leading role in any reform of the IP regime. (However, this may be a challenge given the remark by Ian Lucas MP (Parliamentary Under Secretary for skills in the last Government) that some of the members of Government responsible for our IP regime have weak industry contacts.) Mr Wishart also highlighted the risk of dismissing evidence that doesn’t say what you want it to.
Digital Copyright Exchange. MPs were uncertain about what exactly Hargreaves had in mind when he discussed a Digital Copyright Exchange [On this and other Hargreaves proposals see comments here and here. To be fair, says the Kat, Hargreaves wasn't expected to provide the degree of detail which will make or break this proposal if it is ever to be adopted]. They agreed that a “one-stop-shop” for all types of copyright protected works was a step too far and ignored the progress already made by industry in putting in place sector-based exchanges and databases. They suggested that a better approach would be to establish a central information source which would tell people about the different collecting societies and exchanges that already exist and which would explain how to go about seeking permission to use a particular type of work. Responding to strong concerns from MPs, the Minister for Skills confirmed that any mechanism put in place would be entirely voluntary and that creators would not be penalised for non-participation as the Hargreaves Report had seemed to suggest.
Hargreaves’ proposal that “Government should appoint a senior figure to oversee [the Exchange’s] design and implementation by the end of 2012” was discussed. Most MPs agreed that industry should lead this and other developments and that any “industry champion” appointed by the Government should act as a form of project manager/consultant. Mr Lucas suggested that the Digital Copyright Exchange was a matter on which the Creative Industries Council should take the lead. (The Government announced the creation of the CIC last March, in the Budget speech [is it in existence, wonders Merpel, who just doesn't seem to have found it yet ...?]).
Exemptions. Mike Weatherly MP (European VP of the Motion Picture Licensing Company and presenter of a “House of Rock” show on local radio) took a pro-rights-owner approach. He said that the Government should think long and hard [in these days of instant thought and soundbites, 'long or hard' is as much as we can hope for] before providing for any new exemptions because they deny a creator his or her property rights. With regard to text and data mining, he pointed out that search engines already did this on a commercial basis and he could not see a case for making their lives easier [This is a subject that might qualify for a separate debate]. He argued that creators should be adequately compensated for use of their works in parodies, rather than there being a new parody defence. However, he thought that an exemption to facilitate archiving should be implemented, to assist organisations such as the British Library and also said that format shifting should be made legal. Many other MPs spoke in favour of a levy for format shifting, such as the one placed on copying devices in some other European countries. Many also expressed relief that Hargreaves did not propose a US-style fair use regime".