Whether there’s pressure to be applied in respect of upcoming changes in policy or long-term plans for modifying legislation, at least a few times a year news breaks of rightsholders having private meetings with officials. Most of the time, however, the head-to-heads fly under the radar.
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This week, however, the UK government published a response to a Freedom of Information Request which asked for details of meetings between the government and copyright owner organizations, enforcement organizations, and collection societies (think BPI, MPA, FACT, Publishers Association, PRS, etc) including times, dates and topics discussed.
The request asked for details of meetings held between May 2016 and April 2017 but the government declined to provide all of this information since the effort required to extract the information “would exceed the cost limit.”
Given the amount of data published, this isn’t a surprise. Even though the government chose to limit the response to events held between January 16, 2017 and April 17, 2017, the meetings between the government and the above groups number in their dozens.
January 2017 got off to a pretty slow start but week three and beyond saw a flurry of meetings with groups and companies such as ITV, BBC, PRS for Music, Copyright Licensing Agency and several other organizations to discuss the EU’s Digital Single Market proposals.
On January 18, 2017 Time Warner had a meeting to discuss content protection and analytics, followed a day later by the Premier League who were booked in to discuss “illicit streaming devices” (a topic mirrored in March during a meeting with the Audiovisual Anti-Piracy Alliance).
Just a few days later the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit held a “Partnership Working Group Meeting involving industry” and two days after that the police, Trading Standards, and the EU Police Agency convened to discuss enforcement activity.
January 26, 2017 saw an IP Outreach Workshop involving members of the IP Crime Group. This was potentially a big meeting. The IPCG consists of several regional police forces, PIPCU, National Crime Agency, Crown Prosecution Service, Department of Culture, Media and Sport, Trading Standards, HMRC, IFPI, BPI, FACT, Sky TV, PRS, FAST and the Publishers Association, to name just a few.
As the first month of the year was drawing to a close, Amazon met with the government to discuss “current procedures for removing copyright, design and trademark infringing material from their platform.” A similar meeting was held with eBay on February 1 and on February 20, Facebook had its turn on the same topic.
All three companies had come in for criticism from copyright holders for not doing enough to stem the tide of infringing content available on their platforms, particularly so-called Kodi boxes that provide access to movies, shows, and live TV.
However, in the months that followed they each responded positively, with eBay, Amazon and Facebook announcing restrictions on devices sold. While all three platforms still have a problem with infringing device sales, the situation appears to have improved since last year.
On the final day of January 2017, the MPAA attended a meeting to discuss the looming Digital Economy Bill and digital TV piracy. A couple of days later they were back again for a “business awareness seminar” with other big shots including the Alliance for IP, the Anti-Counterfeiting Group, Trading Standards and the Premier League.
However, given the dozens that took place, perhaps one of the more interesting meetings in terms of the mix of those in attendance took place February 7.
Titled “Organized Crime Task Force Meeting – Belfast” it was attended by the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the National Crime Agency, Trading Standards, HM Revenue and Customs, the Border Force, and (spot the odd one out) the Federation Against Copyright Theft.
This seems to suggest that FACT (a private company) is effectively embedded at the highest level of law enforcement, something that has made people very uncomfortable in the past.
Later in February, there was a roundtable meeting with the Alliance for IP, MPAA, Publishers’ Association, BPI, Premier League and Federation Against Copyright Theft (again) to discuss Brexit, the Digital Single Market, IP enforcement and industrial strategy. A similar meeting was held in March which was attended by UK Music, BPI, PRS, Featured Artists Coalition, and many more.
The full list of meetings, which number in their dozens for just a three-month period, can be found here pdf. Whether the volume is representative of other three-month periods isn’t clear but it seems reasonable to conclude that copyright organizations have the ears of government officials in the UK on an almost continual basis.