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All-Party Intellectual Property Group announce new Inquiry

The All-Party Intellectual Property Group of MPs today announced that it is to conduct an inquiry into the role of Government in protecting and promoting Intellectual Property.

Since the Gowers Review it has been clear that the UK Government has a rather schizophrenic attitude to Intellectual Property, on the one hand introducing in the Digital Economy Act severe sanctions against illegal downloaders of music and audiovisual files, and on the other commissioning the Hargreaves Review with what appears to have been the preconceived intention of weakening copyright and authors’ rights.

Responsibility for developing IP policy is now centred on the Intellectual Property Office, an executive agency of BIS.

Note that they claim to be ‘the official government body responsible for granting Intellectual Property (IP) rights in the United Kingdom.’ They’re not, because they can’t be: copyright is granted automatically as a human right, moral right and property right by all signatories to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Berne Convention.

All along, when dealing with Government departments responsible for IP, creators’ representative organisations have had the distinct impression that their arguments, examples, suggestions, recommendations and pleas have largely fallen on deaf ears. We have come to the view that the IPO are heavily biased against creators and the creative industries, operating as we do existing, viable businesses, and strongly favour 'tech startups' and the theoretical growth they represent.

The IPO's Consultation Document is riddled with assumptions, false statements, leading questions, 'preferred options', and bias, despite assertions from Ministers that policy remains open and that Hargreaves carried out no more than a 'signposting' assignment.

Stop43 have good relationships with several individual IPO officials. However, as a body corporate we have a profoundly sceptical view of the organisation's methods and operations - and it's dealings with creators. Stop43 has very little trust in the IPO being an impartial 'honest broker' in this whole Hargreaves process, and know for a fact that the publishing, music and audiovisual sectors agree with our view.

The inquiry will attempt to answer the following questions:

  1. What should the objective of IP policy be?
  2. How well co-ordinated is the development of IP policy across Government? Is IP policy functioning effectively on a cross departmental basis? What changes to the machinery of government do you believe would deliver better IP policy outcomes?
  3. There have been numerous attempts to update the IP framework in the light of changes brought about by the digital environment. How successful have these been and what lessons can be learnt from these for policy developments?
  4. How effective is the Intellectual Property Office and what should its priorities be?
  5. UK IP policy sits within European and supranational agreements. How should the UK government co-ordinate its policy at an international level and what should it do to promote IP abroad to encourage economic growth? Do you have examples of good and poor practice in this area?
  6. Protecting, and enforcement of, the IP framework often sits in very different departments to those that develop IP policy and those that have responsibility for the industries most affected. What impact does this have and how can it be improved?

This is a short inquiry: the All-Party Group wants to feed its findings into the White Paper due in early summer. Submissions are limited to four pages. Deadline for submissions is March 30th. You might want to read this before submitting.

Get cracking.