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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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google: ....

    All your politicians are belong to us.

  2. Sammy Smalls


    What else is there to say.

  3. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    If the governmennt does not want to pay royalties on textbooks ...

    ... they can hire an author to write a textbook. They could require their teachers to spend one hour per month updating a wiki that becomes a set of textbooks and pay a software consulting firm £130,000,000 per year to maintain the wiki. Plenty of solutions without resorting to copyright infringement.

    By the way, ideas are not concrete objects. If the supermarket has 100 bottles of wine, and I steal 10 copies of each, and the supermarket still has 100 bottles of wine then the laws that apply to ideas could bear some relation to the laws that apply to property. Until someone can demonstrate such a theft, the term intellectual property remains an oxymoron.

    1. John Lilburne
      Thumb Down

      Arsehole ...

      Wine is renewable give it a year and you can have another bunch of grapes. So what if I've taken your current supply the vines are still there, and even if I'd grubbed them out you can still replant scions, all you have to do is wait a few years, you haven't actually lost any thing. Not evebn the bottles as I dumped them in the recycle bin.

      1. Paul RND*1000

        Re: Arsehole ... (rhymes with dumb troll)

        That is the stupidest argument in favour of theft I ever saw!

        "So what if I've taken your current supply"

        Because that supply cost something to produce. Land, raw materials (the vines, stuff to help make the vines grow), harvesting, production (grapes don't squeeze themselves you know), marketing, shipping...

        The grapes may, literally, grow on vines. But without all the other things (which cost time and money) they won't be becoming wine any time soon.

        In the meantime, while I wait for those grapes to grow back, what am I going to do about the supply which I paid to create and which I'm not going to get any income from because you stole it? Well, your skin is renewable too, maybe I can peel you and use it as fertilizer. Don't worry, it'll only be a minor inconvenience, it'll grow right back and you haven't lost anything really.

        1. John Lilburne

          Re: Arsehole ... (rhymes with fell dowm hole)

          Do you not think that books also take time to create, and if some one has copied and distributed the work they have effectively destroyed the market? Films also take time to create, a large number of people may have been involved in creating the costumes, and the props, and the soundtrack. If someone has copied and distributed the work then they again have destroyed the market for the work.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Arsehole ... (rhymes with fell dowm hole)

            Can you name any successful authors, musicians or film makers that have stopped writing books, making music or releasing films primarily because someone "destroyed the market" for their product?

            Funny, neither can I.

        2. Evan Essence

          Re: Arsehole ... (rhymes with dumb troll)

          There's probably a word for "failure to recognise irony".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If the governmennt does not want to pay royalties on textbooks ...

      re: Ideas...

      If I ride on a train without paying for the ticket, or park a car in a car park, without paying, I've not lost anyone anything. Why should they object?

      I think a better way is to look at who profits on whose efforts.

      If I park my car or take the train, I profit from something which it is generally accepted I should actually have to pay for. A company doesn't profit from a service provided, but you know it was inconceivable that I would be paying for that service because it's not of sufficiently high quality and/or it costs too much.

      If I copy a book, I profit, again from something which it is generally accepted that I should pay for. Furthermore, it's likely that the author will start to not bother about writing any more books, if people don't bother paying for them, or they may just write vampire trash as the lowest common denominator where they have the best chance to sell their work.

  4. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    All your royalties are belong to us

    That's not really the lesson I wanted them to learn from the freetards...

    Beer, when will it be free?

  5. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

    Not very much apparently

    I love the internets:


    From: Fuck you <>

    Subject: Reg reader comment: Top Brit authors turn flamethrowers on barmy IPO

    Date: 8 March 2012 09:30:21 GMT

    To: Andrew Orlowski <>

    A Reg reader has the following comments to make on the story Top Brit authors turn flamethrowers on barmy IPO. The request to send this message came from the IP address 212.---.---.---

    Fuck you.


    1. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Not very much apparently

      We have comments - you get this.

      We may not agree - we may agree - no excuse for rudeness.

    2. Ian 56

      Re: Not very much apparently

      Sort of a shame then that you chose to start your article with an insult.

      "Moral high ground" Look it up.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not very much apparently

      Wtf? Did I miss something? You didn't even express an opinion.

      No wonder there's no FotW anymore. Nobody cares about quality these days.

  6. Alan Bourke

    I don't know if it's the same in the UK

    ... but here in Ireland the textbook publishers have a lovely little scam going where they change the textbooks every year, so that they can't be passed on second-hand. Also a lot are of the type where you have to write into the actual textbook, so even if you could pass them on, they'd be useless. This is the sort of thing governments should be looking at.

    1. JC_
      Thumb Up

      Re: I don't know if it's the same in the UK

      Indeed, the only changes to the text are minor layout modifications (so page & line number references are no longer the same). Replace the practise questions & answers in the back, give the teacher the new edition for free and all then the students have no choice but to buy it.

      1. LateNightLarry

        Re: I don't know if it's the same in the UK

        Minor revisions in textbooks have been common in the states for over 40 years now... Used to be every 2-3 years, the author/publisher would come out with a new edition, the college professors would get a free copy, and then would specify that only THAT particular edition could be used in the class... Meanwhile the price of textbooks has gone into the stratosphere... Back in the late 60's when I was in college it would cost me $100-150 for the textbooks for a year. Now you're lucky to get off with less than $300-500 PER SEMESTER. It's not unusual for one textbook to cost $150, and the instructor requires the textbook, a workbook, and maybe some other book or two, which you'll open one time. And there's a new edition every year.

        I need a glass of wine, but I guess horse piss will have to do.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The book business has no intention of making the same mistakes as the music business

    ...such as suing members of the public – and it is welcoming digital markets rather than fighting them.

    What said that?

    1. ChrisPW

      Re: The book business has no intention of making the same mistakes as the music business

      They may not be making exactly the same mistakes as the music biz, but they are still making some bloody stupid ones.

      It is ridiculous that several years after the release of a book the ebook prices will often still remain at the launch (hardback or sometimes more) pricing, I've seen cases where an electronic copy of a book costs over double the cost of the paperback, even taking shipping into account! Seems fairly hard to justify that one to me ...

  8. TheDuck

    Garbage ...

    If this ever came into law I can see authors explicitly stating that their body of work is not for use by and/or sale to education establishments.

    1. Mark 75

      Re: Garbage ...

      My thoughts exactly. If I were an author, which sadly I'm not, I would explicitly state that my works were not for sale in schools/colleges etc.

      1. JC_

        Re: Garbage ...

        That would be a problem for the 2 seconds it would take to pass a law that voids any such restrictions.

        Regardless of whether this is fair or not (and I'm not saying it is), it's refreshing to hear discussion about copyright being made more limited, rather than extended again and again and again...

  9. dotdavid

    Yes, true, but

    "I'm pretty sure if I went to my local supermarket, stole 19 bottles of wine and sold them outside, I wouldn't be walking free today."

    Well, no you wouldn't. But while it doesn't excuse the bootleggers' behaviour, to do what they did to your books you'd have to go into your local supermarket, make 19 cheap copies of bottles of wine and sell them outside. Not theft but fraud, and a more appropriate analogy should really be used.

  10. irish donkey

    EBooks versus Traditional Books

    I believe this debate is around how many reuses a electronic book should be allowed within a school and are eBooks as worthwhile for authors as traditional books.

    Currently when a school receives a paper book they are allowed to wrap it in stiff plastic wrapper to extend the books life through many sets of grubby little hands. This usually gives a book an average life of 10 uses. Some are longer some are shorter. Depends how well the book is made and how popular it is with the kids .

    Book houses are proposing that when electronic books are issued to schools the digital books are restricted to 6 uses as well as a time frame before a book has to be repurchased with no regard for how many times it is issued.

    I believe Julia is more concerned with the closing of traditional library's as she will sell much less traditional books. Moving schools to electronic books holds nothing for authors as they won't be repaid for reissues as the electronic licenses will remain with eBook house which are different organisations from the traditional book houses.

    The current moves of the ConDem government is to get better value from schools is driving the move to eBooks as they are cheaper. No Library, No Librarian's, no storage, no transport cost. Fixed costs every year. Perfect for the ConDem world.

    So i think this is less about copyright but more around this governments efforts to rid this fine country of our Library's and free access to education.

  11. Is it me?

    Not just text books.

    There is an argument that various bits of Government use from time to time.

    "Because you are writing this for the Public Sector, the IPO belongs to us, because you wouldn't write it if we werem't there"

    This is so that they think they can collect the royalties if you resell it, usually what happens when they win the argument, is that they demand far more in royalties than a commercial organisation would do, and thus never sell another copy.

    It's the obvious next step, in the mind of a cost saving government Agency. Don't pay for IPO, and then market it as you own.

    1. The First Dave

      Re: Not just text books.

      Not all schools are public-sector.

  12. DaddyHoggy

    Lobby the IPO

    The link to comment directly to the idiots at the IPO is here:

  13. g e


    So it's OK for the gov to steal royalties from starving artisans but not joe public when a rich (and generous-to-politicans) corporation gets its shit downloaded by Joe Public who may never actually have bought it otherwise anyway...

    Tidy, as they say in the Western Land of the Druids

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Ooookaayyyy

      Two wrongs make a right, you say?

      1. irish donkey
        Thumb Down

        Re: Ooookaayyyy

        No but is it reasonable that eBooks cost the Public Sector more than the current paper based versions?

        So any saving made by the Government in closing Library's and detrimentally affecting our children's future is fed to MegaCorp.

        I'm supporting Library's and our children's future as well as the public purse.

        1. BoldMan

          Re: Ooookaayyyy

          Solution: Use proper books and don't close libraries. Simples.

        2. The Indomitable Gall

          Re: Ooookaayyyy

          @Irish donkey

          "is it reasonable that eBooks cost the Public Sector more than the current paper based versions?"

          Until the reuse license issue is sorted, vs wear and tear of physical books, the relative value of paper vs ebooks is still debatable.

          1. irish donkey

            Re: Ooookaayyyy

            Good point but if eBooks are going to cost the same as Paper Books. Why spend all the money on eBook readers and infrastructure to support their use. Sounds more like another Gubbermint IT Elephant

            Using eBooks should be cheaper and easier because I for one enjoy a good paper book.

            And what would Christmas be like. Here I bought you a eBook. I'll email it to you. Its hardly the same

            Just keep Library's open and then every child in the country can enjoy a real book.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ooookaayyyy

      How many starving artisans spoke at this Publishers Association Seminar?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Buy the IP for the books...

    The government could just pay a fixed sum and buy out the IP. So set up an open tender to pay for the IP for already created content (ie not paying for 'writers' and a 'writing process'). Then provide the content as open source with wiki-style editing, possibly paying an editor to ensure harmonisation and appropriate revision.

    1. David Hicks


      I don't see why they don't do this now. Pay some people to create the books for them, then copy as many times as they like.

      No problem.

      These authors probably ought to shut up quick-sharp, before everyone realises they're unnecessary.

      1. The Indomitable Gall

        Re: Abso-bloody-lutely

        They don't do this now because that would be against "the market". It would be "big government", which is Satan's own political system eh wot, doncha know.

        Funnily enough, there is one area where educational materials *are* centrally funded: Gaelic-medium education in Scotland. The Mail, the Tax-Payers' Alliance et al will immediately jump up and down about the thousands being spent on a-language-that-isn't-God's-own-English, and completely fail to do the sums... under which they'd find that centrally commissioned material is actually head-for-head cheaper than stuff subject to market forces.

        You can explain this to an economist in two words: "reduced risk", yet somehow the idea that reducing competition reduces efficiency (which is generally true, but not applicable here) leaves them incapable of accepting this simplest of simple law of economics.

      2. hplasm

        Re: Abso-bloody-lutely

        Why don't you just do it then?

        Oh- lack the talent, perhaps; they say that everyone has a novel in them...but that's where 99% of them should stay.

        1. David Hicks

          Re: Abso-bloody-lutely

          I'm not talking about novels, I'm talking about text books which do not require creativity in anything like the same order, and can be commissioned to order.

          I'm suggesting that these are written like software - to order, by employees or contractors, so that the commissioning party owns the result. As a software engineer I don't own the IP to the software I create as part ofd my job. I don't see why this model can't be applied to textbooks.

    2. auburnman

      Re: Buy the IP for the books...

      Lot of sense spoken there, which is why it won't be listened to. After all, why change the way you source educational material? That sounds like a lot of work when you can rewrite the rules to stop paying without changing your behaviour.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One Rule for Them, One for Us

    It seems the bureaucrats are allowing legalized piracy simply because they can yet, on the other hand there's sanctions against illegal downloads of music. Why should people respect the law if the IPO can circumnavigate it to the government's benefit (as presumably they can shave millions off the education budget) whenever they like?

  16. Turtle

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

    "The book business has no intention of making the same mistakes as the music business – such as suing members of the public – and it is welcoming digital markets rather than fighting them."

    It won't help them all that much. As e-reading becomes more popular, expect piracy to further undermine authors' ability to make a living from writing.

    Incidentally, there is and was no strategy that the music industry could have implemented that would have prevented the situation they are now in: what they were and are up against is the tech companies that massively profit from piracy, and end-users who want everything they want, for free. What kind of business strategy could overcome that? Any remedies must come from legislation and law enforcement.

    If there is one factor that might mitigate the effects on piracy on the publishing business, it is that a physical book and an e-book are vastly different experiences, as opposed to music being the pretty nearly same irrespective of its being listened to as a stolen file on an mp3 player or on a cd player as a purchased, physical item. (And don't tell me about bitrates and frequency response; I know all about it. Few people care.)

    And, of course, the amount of music one can consume vastly outstrips the number of books one can consume.

    And someone will have to explain to me why suing downloaders is a bad strategy. After all, by definition, someone who is downloading files illegally is hardly a paying customer. Actually it seems to me that the risk of being sued might be the only possible way to deter downloaders. (I seem to recall reading a study that said that those RIAA lawsuits actually had helped to either reduce or slow the growth of piracy, but I can not find the link now.) After all, what is a downloader going to do? Stop listening to music? Download again and riskget sued again? Boycott the music? What difference would boycotting the music make, if the boycotters stealing rather than purchasing, anyway?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      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: what they were and are up against is the tech companies that massively profit from piracy, and end-users who want everything they want, for free. What kind of business strategy could overcome that? Any remedies must come from legislation and law enforcement."

      There has always been music piracy and piracy is easier than ever. But instead of trying to offset that by taking advantage of tech's ability to reduce distribution costs and make it easy to consume, what did they do?

      They competed to monopolize the market instead of collaborating to create a better market. On top of that they thought digital meant they could protect IP with DRM. Then what happened?

      Companies took them up on their offer, and then became dominant suppliers who could start dictating terms back to them.

      They were one good, open API from success and blew it.

    2. Daggersedge

      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 ( and Flander's Company ( 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 (, 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 ( 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.

  17. graeme leggett Silver badge

    Dodgy reporting

    Having read the document on exemption for educational purposes ( there are a number of options listed

    Option 0 – Do nothing

    Option 1 – Expand the types of works covered by education exceptions and enable copies to be communicated to students via interactive displays

    Option 2 – Increase the proportion of a copyright work that can be copied under the education exceptions

    Option 3 – Expand the definition of current education exceptions to enable distance learners to access educational materials over secure networks.

    Option 4 – Widen the definition of an ‘educational establishment’

    Option 5 – Remove the ability of licensing arrangements to restrict the use of exceptions

    Option 6 – Implement all of Options 1-5

    And for option 5, the IPO states clearly.

    "Copyright owners will experience costs due to lost licensing income. The extent depends upon how many of Options 1 to 4 are implemented in combination with this Option, and how much of the uses covered by Options 1 to 4 are covered by existing licensing schemes. Owners of literary copyright could lose up to £24.6m p.a. (CLA payments); broadcast copyright owners could lose up to £7.2m (payments from ERA), but it is likely costs will be lower (see p20). Other rights owners may be less affected."

    So its not like they are hiding things. And who will decide the law - the MPs not the IPO.

    i've have been more impressed if you'd mentioned that you can write to "Taffy Yiu" at the IPO.

  18. Citizen Kaned

    bummer. i am writing (of getting some ideas down) for a childrens book that i want to write for my son.

    it would be annoying for all schools to suddenly be able to give out free copies if it goes well.

    on the other hand - was mine the only school to just photocopy anything it wanted and only have 1 of certain books?

    ref the Gruffalo woman - not much sympathy. we have 2 of the books as my son likes them. i saw the DVD in asda. £9 for 26 minute cartoon seems a rip-off to me!

    why do kids need ebooks anyway? they are more expensive to buy, the ereaders cost more to initially purchase too and im sure little kids will break them easily. surely with austerity measures to us all we dont need to be wasting cash on such things? what is wrong with actual cheap books?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Childrens' book

      Do yourself a favour once you've written that book, and get someone else to proof-read the punctuation eh?

      1. Citizen Kaned

        Re: Childrens' book

        @ Do yourself a favour once you've written that book, and get someone else to proof-read the punctuation eh?

        yeah, i was in a rush. i wrote it in notepad whilst doing other things and didnt check it over. i dont think internet threads are the right place for nicely constructed prose to be honest.

        i also dont bother with apostrophes either when online, as you can see :)

        1. Anonymous Dutch Coward

          Re: Childrens' book

          Or capitalize I or initial letters in sentences.

          Does give your posts that nice "I don't care you have problems with how it looks, be glad I'm replying at all" feel...

          I do think internet threads are the right place for proper punctuation and spelling - it does help in more easily understanding what somebody said... But who knows, I might be wrong, being a foreigner and all...

          PS: in contrast to others in the optional punctuation department, you did reply, tell us your viewpoint and... it must be said, quite coherently. Kudos for that.

    2. Ros

      Your school probably wasn't doing anything wrong. The Copyright Licensing Agency sells licenses to schools so they can do that sort of thing. They monitor what gets copied and sort out these hard-to-collect payments on behalf of authors.

      I agree with you about giving primary school kids ereaders, it's not going to be cost effective unless they're reading a lot of books that are out of copyright. They could get broken deliberately or break down, and they're not as accessible as paper, especially when you forget to charge them. And of course they're nowhere near as visually appealing as a shiny new book illustrated in full colour.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    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.

  20. Law

    "Julia Donaldson, who wrote the The Gruffalo"

    A Gruffalo ... what's a Gruffalo?

    1. irish donkey

      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.''

      1. Stuart Gepp

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

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

        1. irish donkey

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

          I claim fair use.

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

          1. Stuart Gepp

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

            Miss! Miss! He did it again!

      2. Citizen Kaned

        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! :)

    2. Anonymous Coward

      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....

  21. Tom 7

    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.

    1. HelenaHandcart

      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.

    2. PatientOne

      @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.

  22. Red Bren

    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.

    1. HelenaHandcart

      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.

  23. This post has been deleted by its author

  24. AdamWill

    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:

    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.

    1. irish donkey

      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:

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

      Well done

    2. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      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?

  25. T J

    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!!!!

  26. Jeff 11

    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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