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Brexit: Creative Sector

Volume 791: debated on Wednesday 20 June 2018


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what risks they have identified to the creative sector, especially to the intellectual property it generates, as a result of Brexit.

My Lords, the UK has one of the best intellectual property regimes globally. The creative industries’ concerns focus on copyright, where reciprocal protections are underpinned by international law, and unregistered designs, which the UK will continue protecting. Some EU-derived copyright provisions and the reciprocal EU-UK protection of unregistered designs will be a matter for our future relationship.

My Lords, copyright is of fundamental importance to the creative sectors. They range from music to TV to art to the written word and, indeed, increasingly to traditional businesses, as the digital revolution gathers pace. It has been established, for example, by UK Music that around 17% of music is accessed illegally. At present, the EU provides important protections for copyright. As the UK leaves the EU, could the Minister reassure the House that this protection will be maintained and, if possible, enhanced, for example by online services taking a greater degree of responsibility for clamping down on copyright infringement?

My Lords, my noble friend is right to highlight the importance of this sector, and I want to emphasise just how big the creative industries are as an exporting sector and in terms of what they produce in this country. I stress, as I did at the beginning, that much of our reciprocal copyright protection is underpinned by international law, but obviously there are parts that need protection that involve EU-UK law. That will obviously be a matter for our future relationship, and that is a matter for the ongoing negotiations taking place at the moment.

My Lords, has the Minister read the document from the Intellectual Property Office entitled IP and Brexit: The Facts? There are no facts in it. It says that the Government recognise the concerns of IP professionals, and recognise that owners of registered community design rights “want clarity”. On trademarks, it says that the Government,

“is looking at various options”,

and similarly on the exhaustion of rights. Is it not high time that the Government showed some leadership on IP matters and delivered some certainty to those who need it?

My Lords, the noble Lord and I, and others in the House, debated this matter when the noble Lord had a Question on it, I think, back in March. As I said then and as I repeat now, this is obviously a matter for the ongoing negotiations. The noble Lord will have to wait for the White Paper, which will be coming out shortly. We can then deal with these matters in the negotiations, but as I made quite clear, much of our protection that is already there is underpinned by international law. As I also stressed, we have a pretty good intellectual property regime in this country as it is.

My Lords, that was March and it is now June. Has the Minister really nothing that he can say to suggest that there has been progress in the affairs to which he has just referred in that intervening period?

My Lords, the Minister should be aware, as the DCMS is, that the creative sector has a number of wide-ranging concerns over Brexit, not least those facing freelancers, who make up a significant proportion of the creative industries and IT. What assurances can the Government give to the self-employed, including those running businesses with clients in Europe? They have a real concern that that work will be lost due to reduced access and increased red tape if we do not remain in the single market.

My Lords, I am not going to rehearse all the arguments that we might debate later or on other occasions about the single market or whatever. I have to make it clear to the noble Earl that the negotiations continue. As I said, we have a pretty good intellectual property regime, but there are areas where we need to get things right. We will pursue that in the negotiations.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that, notwithstanding his replies and the squalid stitch-up taking place down the Corridor, we are on our way to disaster if we continue down the road to Brexit?

Is my noble friend aware that the forthcoming White Paper will be extraordinarily welcome not just to the creative sector but to small and medium-sized enterprises in particular? Against that background, will my noble friend double-check that that sector plays a role in the forthcoming White Paper?

My Lords, I can give an assurance to my noble friend that the White Paper will be comprehensive in what it covers. I cannot offer a precise guarantee that I will be able to make sure that SMEs are covered, but I am pretty sure that they are there.

My Lords, the strength of our creative industries is illustrated by the fact that 1,400 television channels produced in this country are shown across many other European countries, using the country of origin principle to enable them to do so. A third of them are licensed by Ofcom. Is the Minister aware that a number of those channels have already chosen to move from this country and base themselves in other European countries? What are the Government doing to give them the confidence that there will a proper deal that enables them to stay in this country and help our creative industries?

My Lords, in advance of the negotiations being completed, I obviously cannot give the guarantees that the noble Lord asks for, but he is right to stress the importance of the creative industries sector in this country and its sheer size. For that reason, it will go on being an attractive place for people to come, just as it has in the past.

My Lords, is the Minister aware of the wide and deep concern across the creative industries? This is not only about rights holders, and I say that as a rights holder. Companies—small, medium and large; orchestras also—fear for their future because of the wide talent pool that comes from across the 27 other countries? Is the Minister aware of those concerns and are the Government addressing them in their negotiations?

My Lords, I thought that I made it very clear at the beginning that we are aware of the concerns of the whole of the creative industries. This goes across government. Obviously, we will take those concerns into account in all our negotiations on our future relationship with the EU when we leave, which we have said we are going to do.