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From the Newsdesk

Last week in Parliament

This week we have seen the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill go to the House of Lords, Report Stage of the Digital Economy Bill and also two by-elections in heavily contested seats.  

The Conservatives emerged victorious from the Copeland by-election, with Trudy Harrison winning a 2,000 majority over Labour, and Theresa May has been there today to celebrate.  It is worth noting that a by-election win by the governing party has not been seen since 1982, and the seat of Copeland has been Labour since 1935.  A massive achievement for the Conservative party – and a vote of confidence in the Prime Minister – Labour are trying to downplay this by claiming the seat fell from their grasp due to Corbyn’s anti-nuclear stance (the nuclear industry is a huge employer in the area).  Harrison has been living in the area her whole life, has served as a Parish Councillor and according to her campaign website, her priorities are (Protecting local jobs and industry, making the most of Moorside, Making a success of Brexit for Cumbria, Improving rural broadband, skills training and apprenticeships for more local people, flood prevention, infrastructure and better public transport).  I will be keeping an eye on her developing policy interests in Westminster and seeing which APPGs and Select Committees she may be hoping to get involved with!

Elsewhere in Stoke, Labour predictably held on to the seat with UKIP second.  UKIP (with its leader Paul Nuttall contesting) have been downplaying their defeat by claiming the seat was only 72 on their target list, despite it being branded Brexit capital of Britain.  The new MP, Gareth Snell was previously a Newcastle Borough Councillor but it appears unclear what his priorities were in the election campaign.  News articles have him referring to Brexit as a “massive pile of s***”, has accused Labour of ‘neglecting’ the Potteries city and has referred to Corbyn as an “IRA supporting friend of Hamas”.  Snell’s majority was 5,000 votes less than previous MP Tristram Hunt’s majority in 2015, with UKIP, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats all increasing their share of the vote in the constituency.

The latest Guardian/ICM poll has put the Conservatives 18 points ahead at 44%.  Labour are trailing at 26% after losing a point since the previous poll two weeks ago. UKIP have gained a point, whilst the Lib Dems are down two. “According to ICM’s Martin Boon, only three other polls in this series (dating from May 1983, when ICM was Marplan) have given the Tories a higher lead over Labour. Two of those polls were just before the 1983 general election, when Margaret Thatcher crushed Michael Foot, and the other was in June 2008, when Gordon Brown’s premiership was at a low point.” In other opinion poll news, there have been accusations that Corbyn has funded a secret opinion poll on his leadership.  With the party and his office denying the reports, Corbyn himself has claimed the story as ‘fake news’. Despite this worrying news for Labour, shadow frontbenchers seemed to be in high spirits this week with a ‘dab’ performed (possibly for the first time ever?!) in the House of Commons by Shadow Deputy Leader/CMS Spokesman Tom Watson. Bercow seemed unaware of the move – which originated in the US hip-hop scene.

Given all of this news in the past week, all eyes will be on Corbyn and whether there will be another leadership contest. We may even see another leadership contest in UKIP!  British politics has certainly been anything but ‘boring’ in the last year…

Trump news: made up a ‘security incident’ that supposedly happened in Sweden and blamed Fox News for the misinformation, Lt Gen HR McMaster appointed as national security adviser, Defence Secretary Jim Mattis in Iraq to assess clamp down on ISIS, wants the US to be at the “top of the pack” with nuclear arms, claimed that he will not be tuning into the Oscars to avoid the inevitable political speeches, overturned guidance allowing transgender students to use school toilets matching their gender identity, plan unveiled to expel to Mexico all illegal immigrants crossing the US border regardless of nationality, Trump, Farage, Bannon and Conway have all addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.

In other EU news, Michel Barnier (EU’s chief negotiator) has reportedly claimed that trade discussions cannot begin until talks over a £50 billion “Brexit bill” (to be paid in instalments up until 2023) and rights of expatriate citizens have concluded with suggestions that these talks will go on until December. There have also been murmurings that Jean-Claude Juncker could step down as President of the European Commission as early as next month, despite his five year term expiring in 2019. The EU has also agreed this week that there should not be a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Westminster Hall debate: President Trump State Visit

MPs were given the opportunity this week to debate President Trump coming to the UK on a State Visit later in the year.  Predictably there were numerous clashes, and many MPs wished to speak.  Minister for Europe and the Americas (Sir Alan Duncan) responded stating that

“…such visits are a rare and prestigious occasion, but are also our most important diplomatic tool.  They enable us to strengthen and influence the international relationships that are of the greatest strategic importance to this country and to other parts of the world… The relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States is built around a common language, the common principles of freedom and democracy, and common interests in so many other areas. Our relationship is undoubtedly special. On security, defence, trade, investment and all such issues, the United Kingdom and the United States are and will remain the closest of partners. The United States is the world’s greatest power. In the light of America’s pivotal role, it is entirely right that we should use all the tools at our disposal to build common ground with President Trump.”

and also covered the issue of whether offering President Trump a State Visit would be seen as validation for his unkindly comments, the Minister confirmed that

“…I do not accept that the process of a state visit will be seen as such validation” and that “there lurks a fundamental principle that Members of this House should consider very seriously—the principle of freedom of speech. President Trump was democratically elected by the American people under their own constitutional system. To have strong views about him is one matter, but to translate a difference of opinion into a demand to ban him is quite another.”

At the same time of the debate, there were protests in Parliament Square, Edinburgh, Manchester, Liverpool, Cardiff and Newcastle.

Digital Economy Bill: Report Stage House of Lords

This week, Amendments relevant to the Alliance were debated in Report Stage of the Digital Economy Bill.

I would also like to bring your attention to the following that were also covered in yesterday’s debate:

  • IPO call for views on “Illicit IPTV streaming devices” which closes on 7th April.  We will be responding and will be in touch with members in due course
  • Lord Clement-Jones is asking a question in the House of Lords on Tuesday afternoon on PIPCU funding

19: Before Clause 28, insert the following new Clause—

“Lending of e-books by public libraries

(1)    In section 5(2) of the Public Lending Right Act 1979 (interpretation) for the definition of “lent out” substitute—““lent out” means made available to a member of the public for use away from library premises for a limited time (including by being communicated by means of electronic transmission to a place other than library premises) and “loan” and “borrowed” are to be read accordingly;”.(2) Section 40A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (lending of copies by libraries or archives) is amended as follows.(3) After subsection (1) insert—“(1ZA) Subsection (1) applies to an e-book or an e-audio-book only if— ​(a) the book has been lawfully acquired by the library, and(b) the lending is in compliance with any purchase or licensing terms to which the book is subject.”(4) In subsection (1A)—(a) for “subsection (1)” substitute “subsections (1) and (1ZA)”;(b) after paragraph (a) insert—“(aa) “e-audio-book” means an audio-book (as defined in paragraph (a)) in a form enabling lending of the book by electronic transmission,”.”

As mentioned in last week’s monitoring report, the Government had tabled its own Amendment on the above.  In Wednesday’s session, Baroness Buscombe argued that the

“Amendment fulfils a manifesto commitment to enhance the public lending right by extending it so that authors of e-books and audiobooks have the right to receive payment from a government fund for the remote lending of these books from public libraries across the UK. The new clause also amends the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to enable rights holders to include appropriate terms in respect of e-books and e-audiobooks to reflect the differences between digital and physical books and ensure that e-lending by public libraries mirrors physical lending. This will mean that current protections for authors, publishers and booksellers can be maintained.”

During the debate, there were concerns about the wording “lawfully acquired” within the Government’s Amendment that differed to Lord Clement-Jones’ Amendment previously, and The Earl of Clancarty suggested that the additional words “for the purpose of library lending” would clarify the Amendment. Baroness Buscombe assured the House that

“The Government have considered the suggested wording from the sector and our amendment seeks to reflect stakeholder views, although we have achieved the intention ​of enabling terms to be applied by rights holders to e-books and e-audiobooks for lending through an amendment to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. Rights holders will therefore be able to make e-books and e-audiobooks available with clear terms about whether these are available for lending and, if so, what conditions on library lending would apply, such as one loan to one user at a time or that the book will be available to lend for a limited overall lifespan.”

Amendment 19 was agreed.       

20: Clause 28, page 29, line 23, at end insert—

“(7) If it appears to the Secretary of State that the extent of the manufacture of unauthorised decoders or similar equipment for sale or hire imported into the United Kingdom (otherwise than for private and domestic use) or distribution otherwise than in the course of a business has reached a level which is likely to affect prejudicially the owners of copyright works, the Secretary of State may bring forward regulations made by statutory instrument which prohibit such activities.(8) A statutory instrument containing regulations made under subsection (7) may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.”

Lord Stevenson introduced the Amendment on Digital TV Piracy, and reflected on the Minister’s previous assurances about Government taking action. However, he said that it may seem sensible to equip Government with powers to bring forward appropriate action if it appears that it is necessary to do so, and suggested “if there are not sufficient remedies within the existing statutory framework, clearly the Government will have to seek an opportunity to create them.” Lord Clement-Jones spoke in support and said:

“Those who have spoken to us have universally said that a new offence is needed and that the existing powers are not adequate. Certainly the Motion Picture Association, Sky and others made the point that enforcement agencies, such as trading standards and PIPCU, are unable to pursue strong cases due to the lack of an appropriate offence.”

Baroness Kidron reflected on the issue that some Digital TV Piracy comes with inappropriate advertising that young children may be exposed to.

Responding, Baroness Buscombe said that the Government takes the issue very seriously, and also announced the Government’s Call for Views that was published earlier today, and closes on Wednesday 5th April.  This would help inform the Government of what action – if any – is needed at the present time.  She also confirmed that the IPO is working with countries around the world – often the country of origin for the manufacture of set top boxes – to explore what can be done.

Following a division, Amendment 20 was disagreed 182 to 133 votes.      

21: Clause 30, page 29, line 38, at beginning insert—

“( ) Any creator who has transferred his or her cable retransmission right to a broadcaster shall retain the unwaivable right to receive equitable remuneration for the exercise of the retransmission right.”

This probing Amendment by Lord Clement-Jones was responded to by Baroness Buscombe who confirmed that Section 73 will be repealed without a transition period and that no compulsory structure for licensing needs to be introduced.  She said:

“In response to the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, I want to make it clear that underlying rights holders already have in place rights agreements with broadcasters. Section 73 only ever applied to cable networks, so the value of underlying rights will have been factored in for transmission on all platforms.”

Amendment 21 was subsequently withdrawn

24: After Clause 30, insert the following new Clause—

“Transparency and fairness obligations

(1) Authors, artists and performers (“creators”) shall receive on a regular basis timely, adequate and sufficient information on the exploitation of their works and performances from those to whom they have licensed or transferred their rights as well as subsequent transferees or licensees, and the information shall include information on modes of exploitation, revenues generated and remuneration due.(2) The obligation in subsection (1) may be met by complying with a code of practice collectively bargained between relevant representative organisations of creators and the representative organisations of those who exploit their works, taking into account the characteristics of each sector for the exploitation of works.(3) Any such code of practice is to provide that each creator is to be entitled to a statement of income generated under such licence or transfer arrangements at regular intervals during each annual accounting period, and provide an explanation as to how the creator’s remuneration has been calculated referencing any contract terms relevant to the calculation.(4) In the event of failure of a transferee or licensee mentioned in subsection (1) to comply with a code of practice, or in the absence of such a code of practice, the creator shall be entitled to apply to the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court for a detailed account of revenues due to the creator generated from the modes of exploitation referred to in subsection (1), and in the event of failure, the Court may award damages in the amount of any shortfall in the total amount due to him.”

In support of Lord Clement-Jones’ Amendment, Baroness Jones of Whitchurch summarised nicely:

“As both previous speakers have said, it is a really important issue for authors, writers and musicians, who are operating in an increasingly complex world where it is very hard to keep tabs on the use that is being put to their own creative work and the way it is being distributed and accessed. As a result, many in the sector feel that they are not properly rewarded for their creative endeavour. It is obviously crucial to us that we encourage them to continue to be creative and help them to be fairly rewarded because, as we increasingly begin to recognise, that creativity is ​not only important to them but will be an essential bedrock of the UK’s future prosperity in the years to come.”

Responding, Baroness Buscombe confirmed:

“the Government are currently in the process of negotiations on the draft copyright directive, and I continue to hold the view that we should allow this process to reach a conclusion before considering the case for domestic intervention… The proposals from the European Commission include an ability for member states to adjust or restrict the transparency obligation in certain cases, taking into account, for example, the contribution of an individual creator to an overall work, or the proportionality of the administrative burden. Views on the benefits of these powers are mixed, and are likely to require careful consideration with the creative industries at sector level if the directive comes into force in the UK. However, I believe that it would be imprudent to accept an amendment at this stage that does not appear to provide the Government with similar flexibility.”

Amendment 24 was subsequently withdrawn

25: After Clause 30, insert the following new Clause—

“Code of practice on search engines and copyright infringement

(1) The Secretary of State may impose by order a code of practice (“the code”) for search engine providers with the purpose of minimising the availability and promotion of copyright infringing services, including those which facilitate copyright infringement by their users.(2) Any order made under subsection (1) must include appropriate provisions to ensure compliance with the code by the providers.(3) Before imposing the code under subsection (1), the Secretary of State shall publish a draft of the code and consider any representations made to him or her by—(a) search engine providers,(b) rights-holders and their representatives, and(c) any other interested parties.(4) The Secretary of State shall regularly review the code to ensure that it provides the most appropriate mechanism to satisfy the purposes set out in subsection (1).”

Lord Stevenson acknowledged the recent signing by rights holders and search engines of the Voluntary Code of Practice, but questioned whether those less able to exercise their rights (i.e. those who have individual or small parts of rights in small productions) will have any voice.  He also questions any real commitment within the Code to tackle the issues it concerns, and if it would work in practice.

Baroness Buscombe responded by confirming that the Government does not see the need for a backstop power at present, and reiterated that it is a collaborative process between all parties.

Amendment 25 was subsequently withdrawn

25A: After Clause 30, insert the following new Clause—

“Review of sale on the internet of counterfeit electrical appliances

(1) Within six months of the coming into force of this Act, the Secretary of State must commission a review of the sale on the internet of counterfeit electrical appliances.(2) The review must consider whether operators of trading websites that allow individual sellers to use those websites to sell electrical items should be required to report to the police and trading standards authorities any instances of the selling of counterfeit electrical appliances which are arranged through their website.(3) The Secretary of State must publish the report of the review, and lay a copy of the report before each House of Parliament.”

Baroness Janke resubmitted this Amendment as the Government’s previous assertion that counterfeit goods is being tackled within the remit of Operation Jasper was untrue.  Lord Ashton responded that since Committee Stage where the issue was last discussed, the IPO has continued to push on with the work outlined in the Government’s IP enforcement strategy.  In addition to this, IPO officials have met with representatives of all the main online sales platforms in the UK to discuss what steps are being taken to tackle the sale of counterfeit goods.  He also mentioned of the ongoing work being undertaken within Operation Jasper involving the sale of counterfeit items through social media platforms.  In sum, he said that the Government believes it to be unnecessary to have a statutory commitment to review and report on counterfeit electricals at this time.

Amendment 25A was subsequently withdrawn

House of Lords: EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill

The EU Bill had its Second Reading in the House of Lords this week, with the Prime Minister keeping an eye on proceedings in person in the Chamber during the first sitting.  A record number of 187 Peers spoke during the Second Reading, beating the previous record of 182 who spoke in the debate on the House of Lords Bill in 1999. Peers from all sides of the House spoke passionately, with Lord Hague warning that Britain would be plunged into its biggest turmoil in over a century if Peers attempt to thwart Brexit, and Lord Lamont stating “either you believe in democracy or you do not”.

The Bill is expected to complete its passage through the House of Lords by Tuesday 7th March, but if amendments are made, the Bill will return to the House of Commons to debate them resulting in ‘ping-pong’ between the Chambers.  However, the Government has thought ahead and have set aside 13thMarch and 14th March for ‘ping-pong’.

Some of the best soundbites so far:

Lord William Hague (Conservative) warned that Britain would be plunged into its biggest turmoil in over a century if peers attempt to thwart Brexit

Lord Lamont (Conservative) “either you believe in democracy or you do not”

Baroness Falkner (Liberal Democrat) has rebelled against the Lib Dem position of calling for a second referendum

Baroness Kramer (Liberal Democrat) told peers that leaving the future of EU nationals as an uncertainty during the negotiations is “not compatible with British values”

Dates for your diary:

27th February – EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill HoL Committee Stage

28th February – Backbench Business Debate on the importance of intellectual property to the British economy (you can watch the debate live here – please note that it will be in Westminster Hall rather than the House of Commons Chamber)

28th February – Lord Clement-Jones question in the House of Lords on PIPCU funding (you can watch the question live here – timing not specified but sometime after 14:30)

1st March – EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill HoL Committee Stage

7th March – EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill Report Stage and Third Reading

9th and 10th March – Theresa May meeting with EU leaders at the European Council, possibly notifying them of Britain’s intention to trigger Article 50

13th, 14th, 15th March – EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill Amendments passed in the Lords considered in the Commons

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