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back to article Top Brit authors turn flamethrowers on barmy IPO

Britain's best-loved storytellers turned their fire on the People's Revolutionary Council of Newport yesterday – otherwise known as the Intellectual Property Office. The IPO wants to use the power of the state to rob authors of the right to see any royalties from sales into education. Just like that. And no, this is not a joke. …

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Pirate

Re: The same mistakes, or different ones, lead to a similar outcome

'Incidentally, there is and was no strategy that the music industry could have implemented that would have prevented the situation they are now in' : this is NOT true. There is a way to make money from music, films, and books and still offer it for free. It's called providing value-added services on top of the free offerings.

This is NOT a theory. I live in France and here we have a station that provides for free (as long as you pay your broadband access subscription to your provider - not the station) web series such as Noob (http://noob-tv.com/accueil_prod.html) and Flander's Company (http://www.info-graphik.com/flanders/). You can also find these series on the web and watch them for free. Absolutely free. Yet the groups who produce these series make money. How? They sell DVDs of the series - yes, people buy them and I certainly do. They sell bandes dessinées (graphic novels), mugs, t-shirts, and, in the case of Noob, a compilation of music used in the series and novels. They have made enough money to keep going for some years now: Flander's Company is working on producing season 5 and Noob is in the middle of showing season 4.

In addition, the station that shows these series, Nolife (http://www.nolife-tv.com/), finances itself from subscriptions. That's right: although people can get it without having to subscribe to it itself (just their service provider), they still pay to keep it going. It has been going for some years now.

As well, some web comics also use this model. I am thinking specifically of Dave Kellett's comic, Sheldon (http://www.sheldoncomics.com/). Access to the comic is free, but that doesn't stop people from buying his collection book, t-shirts, and posters.

The big corporations whether they are in the music, film, or publishing industry, are just lazy. They don't want to do the extra work it would take to make money while providing free access. They are so lazy, in fact, that they want to use force to prop up their business model. This is pure, outright thuggish behaviour. Copyright should be severely limited. If companies want our money, they should have to work for it. If individual authors want our money, they should have to work as well.

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Silver badge

What a brilliant way...

... to choke off the writing of new textbooks. Overnight.

I don't care what anyone says, those people we have running our country deserve the big bucks.

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Law
Coat

"Julia Donaldson, who wrote the The Gruffalo"

A Gruffalo ... what's a Gruffalo?

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Boffin

Re: "Julia Donaldson, who wrote the The Gruffalo"

A gruffalo! Why, didn't you know?

He has terrible tusks, and terrible claws,

And terrible teeth in his terrible jaw.''

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Trollface

Re: "Julia Donaldson, who wrote the The Gruffalo"

Miss! Miss! Irish Donkey stole Julia's IP!

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Re: "Julia Donaldson, who wrote the The Gruffalo"

:) man, i almost know the book off by heart already :)

gruffalos are also very naive and to be honest, big pansies! :)

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Happy

Re: "Julia Donaldson, who wrote the The Gruffalo"

I claim fair use.

or..... I'm Stick man I'm Stick man......

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WTF?

Re: "Julia Donaldson, who wrote the The Gruffalo"

The Gruffalo is still in copyright? Wow.

That was in school before I was there (and that's more years than I care to mention.) It's not really a very good example to use to justify copyright in this case....

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Trollface

Re: "Julia Donaldson, who wrote the The Gruffalo"

Miss! Miss! He did it again!

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Silver badge

Choke off the writing of new textbooks? I hope so.

When I work for a company that company owns my work.

As a teacher working for the people my work is my own????

I'm not saying that the books studied in an english course should be hijacked for free but 90% of what teachers use should be prepared by teachers and shared by teachers and improved by teachers and it should NOT be in book form.

We've got how many teachers re-inventing the wheel every year? They make the railways look efficient!

And when the government changes the curriculum THEY can point to the starting points in the existing material.

Schools and colleges and universities are for educating our children in not making revenue streams for civil servants or book companies or lecturers. Or shit IT companies.

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Re: Choke off the writing of new textbooks? I hope so.

Most people who write books for children are not teachers although some may be former teachers. This news item is not only about textbooks but also novels, story-books, picture books and children's non-fiction.

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@Tom 7

You are mistaken.

If I work at home, in my own time, with my own materials and tools, on a project I am doing for me, then that work is mine. If I choose to market the results of that work, then the rights and royalties are mine, too. Only if I use work resources, or do the work during the hours I'm officially at work for my employer do they have any claim to rights over that work. I am aware of some of the dodgy clauses in employment contracts, but I am equally aware of the legality of said clauses: They generally don't stand up in court.

If, as a teacher, I write a book during a holiday, then the rights to that book are mine. If I decide to use that book as part of a course I'm employed to run then, by implication, I am granting the school a fee free license for them to use the book (copy and distribute). They do not, however, have the rights to market that book themselves - and this is what this IPO idea would change. This is dodgy, in my view, but it plugs a source of abuse that some might be exploiting by forcing schools to buy books written by their teachers (which was happening when I was at University, only the University put a stop to it by requiring rights to such works be transferred to the University before they were used. Strangely, when the University started charging for copies of the texts, the lecturers writing the texts started giving the copies out free for 'proof reading'...)

However, what it also seems to be saying is that if I go write a book on programming and a school decides they want to adopt it as a text book, they can do so without paying me a penny, even though there has never been a contract between us, nor is there any implied license granted them by myself. That, in my view, really is copyright theft.

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Linux

School Books

If we're talking about text books, do these have to comply with the National Curriculum? In which case are the authors/publishers paying royalties to the government for using it's intellectual property?

If we're talking about fiction, should the authors/publishers be paying for the publicity of having their books pushed to a captive audience?

There's a golden egg supply here, both sides need to be careful not to kill the goose.

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Re: School Books

Textbooks do not have to 'comply' with the National Curriculum; it's not that prescriptive. However, books that fit into the National Curriculum are more likely to sell. For example, the National Curriculum puts quite a lot of emphasis on the Home Front during WWII and as a result almost all town/city museums have a display about life during WWII because that will attract school parties. There's also a strong school-based market for both fiction and non-fiction books about WWII for children. So... if you write a children's book about the experience of a WWII evacuee (following the success of 'Goodnight Mr Tom') you could be accused of cashing in on the National Curriculum but not using the government's IP.

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This post has been deleted by its author

FAIL

What a load of cobblers.

"Britain's best-loved storytellers turned their fire on the People's Revolutionary Council of Newport yesterday – otherwise known as the Intellectual Property Office. The IPO wants to use the power of the state to rob authors of the right to see any royalties from sales into education.

Just like that. And no, this is not a joke."

It may not be a joke, but it _does_ appear to be a lie. Or, at least, a misunderstanding.

I actually took the time to go and read the references, and - now I've woken up again - the document in question appears to be this one:

http://www.ipo.gov.uk/consult-ia-bis0317.pdf

which proposes six different options for 'extending copyright exceptions for educational use'. It does not endorse any of these options - in fact, it specifically states that, so far, the committee has no preferred option ("It not clear at this stage, based on current evidence, what the total impact on rights holders and ERA of these options will be if taken together. We would like to explore these options with stakeholders before deciding our preferred option."). One of the options, option 1, is "Do nothing". So right from the start, everything is fairly heavily hedged about.

More importantly, however, I cannot see how any of the proposals taken alone, or even all of them taken together, could possibly have the impact Andrew claims.

As things stand, there are certain exceptions to copyright law for educational use. What's important to understand is there is _not_ any exception which allows the wholesale reproduction of copyrighted works. As far as outright reproduction and distribution goes, at present, you're allowed to reproduce and distribute '1% of a copyrighted work' for educational purposes - in a specific way: effectively, you can photocopy (or hand copy) 1% of a book, play, poem, newspaper article or piece of music and hand it out to students. You can't copy it in any other way (e.g. digitally). You can't transmit it digitally remote learners. You can't copy anything that isn't basically written - recorded music, or video. It's a very specific and restrictive exception, and in many cases is pretty useless.

Apparently, as things stand, the copyright exceptions for education are so narrow and restrictive that educational institutions don't use them; they have a licensing agreement with some major publishers which allows them somewhat more extensive reproduction rights (5% via photocopying, it seems). Further, such licensing agreements can apparently _override the educational copyright exceptions_: if a work is covered by one of these licensing agreements, schools that are signed up can't exercise the exceptions under the Copyright Act any more. Even to copy 1% of a covered work, they have to pay the licensing fee.

So the five active proposals in the document split into two. Four of them are various proposals for extending the exceptions. All of these proposals are reasonably modest; none of them goes remotely so far as to grant the right for wholesale copying for 'educational purposes'. There is a proposal to either increase the proportion of work that could be copied - from, say, 1% to 5% - or to replace the hard percentage with the 'fair dealing' concept that is used in other similar laws. There is a proposal to extend the types of work covered by the exceptions beyond essentially printed materials, out to audio and video recordings, and to extend the ways in which copying could take place. This is hardly radical; it's merely updating the law to modern technologies. There is a proposal to allow access to 'excepted' material via 'secure distance learning technologies' - again, this is really just updating the law for modern technology; distance learning didn't exist when it was written. Is it really so terrible for someone studying an OU course to get access to legitimately excepted course materials over the internet? And there's a proposal to expand the definition of 'educational establishment' to cover, say, museums and galleries, so long as they're reproducing work for educational purposes. This is, again, hardly radical.

Then there's a proposal to no longer allow collective licensing agreements to override copyright law exceptions, so that even if a school is signed up to a CLA, it can exercise the right to copy excepted material without paying the license fee. That proposal is obviously of a different type to the others.

Even if you took all these proposals together - so schools could copy, say, 5% of a work, that work could be a movie or song as well as a book, they could copy it on a computer as well as on a photocopier (how else are you supposed to excerpt an ebook, after all?), they could transmit it to distance learners, they could maybe be a museum not a school, and they could do so even if they had a CLA in place covering more extensive covering of the same material - is this truly a massively radical proposal? Does it come even close to the characterisation Andrew gives it - "The IPO wants to use the power of the state to rob authors of the right to see any royalties from sales into education."? Even if you ignore all the hedging around the possible options and the explicit refusal to endorse any or all of them? No, no it really does not. If you read the document, aside from being incredibly boring, it clearly reads like an analysis of potential ways to modernize the intent of old legislation. It does not at all read like some kind of radical agenda for copyright abolition.

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Happy

Outstanding Analysis.... thank you.

I often find many of Andrew's articles inflammatory and certainly divisive. Some of his articles about Piracy are just shocking and are designed for nothing else than to create conflict.

I offered him this article on the BBC as a way to appear to provide a balanced argument on eBook copyright:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-17300074

Interesting to see if will he go for it. But I think we already know the answer to that.

Well done

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(Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge
FAIL

It's a long time since you lived in the UK

So I can excuse you being out of touch. But if you understood copyright exemptions you would understand what they really mean.

But why not write to Don Foster MP and tell him he's got it all wrong?

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T J
Mushroom

Yeah But No But Yeah But No But

Yes Copyright needs to be bitterly flogged back into a corner and made to behave, just like Capitalism. But the solution IS NOT TO INTRODUCE COMMUNISM!!!!

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The insanity of the IPO aside, the distinction between theft and IP infringement does need to be made. The two are absolutely not the same, and the analogies that others have mentioned are irrelevant. Before the digital age theft was the material deprivation of property from an individual or company.

Getting on a train without paying invokes a material loss in fuel/energy in transporting the extra mass of the passenger as well as depriving a paying customer of a space, causing delays etc. Parking in a car park without paying deprives a paying customer of a bay. Both of these offences cause quantifiable losses of revenue - IP infringement does not. What these DO have in common with IP infringement is the devaluation of the services or properties for the owner or rights holder; copying a book or DVD causes no material loss to the rights holder but the availability to pay nothing for a good or service makes that good or service that little bit more worthless. Render something worthless and no-one will bother producing it, so there's a definite need to do something about IP. That's a certainty. But there's a middle ground to be reached here and both sides are so polarised that the argument between them has become too simple.

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