Apologies to the Jesuits among you, for mangling the quotation that is attributed to St Ignatius of Loyola. Or to his mate, St Francis Xavier. He/they supposedly said “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man”. Or something similar. Presumably in Latin. Or Spanish. Or perhaps Catalan or French.
Alternatively, we could adapt the quotation attributed to Lenin: “Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.”
In other words, the best way of getting your point across is to teach it to children for several years, and the lesson will stay with them during their adult lives.
The UK Prime Minister has an Intellectual Property Adviser, Mike Weatherley MP. Or rather, he did until recently. One of Mike’s last acts before he resigned from the role was to publish a Discussion Paper, Copyright Education and Awareness. Its main recommendation comprises a paragraph of text that uses too many buzz words for IP Draughts’ taste. They include: “strategic partnership”, “sharing of best practice”, “strategic outreach plan”, “various stakeholders”, “cross-industry working group”, “consult on strategic vision”, “review progress”, and “working together”. Blah blooming blah. The essence seems to be that Government should develop a plan to raise public awareness of IP, and then convene a committee every 3 months to see whether the plan is working. No harm in that, you might think. Why couldn’t they just say it simply?
More interesting, in IP Draughts’ view, are the more detailed or “additional” recommendations, which can be summarised as follows (summary followed by IP Draughts’ reaction):
- Measure. Develop mechanisms to measure the public understanding of IP and how they behave in relation to IP (eg do they download music illegally). [Seems sensible.]
- Introduce IP education into the school curriculum. [Potentially a good idea, if done well.]
- The BBC should create a copyright education programme using online, on-air and face-to-face channels. [Pie in the sky. BBC is not there to lecture people on IP.]
- Provide good information. This recommendation reverts to buzz words like “obvious synergies”, so IP Draughts can’t be bothered to summarise it. [Yawn.]
- Create a fund to incentivise SME digital businesses to educate citizens about IP rights – again too many buzz words for IP Draughts’ short attention span. [Yawn.]
- Create a new IP Education Coordinator or a broader IP Director General role. In other words, there should be an IP czar, similar to the one in the USA. [Hurrah! Or Yawn! Can't decide which.]
- Produce an annual Copyright Education Evaluation Report. If this doesn’t achieve the desired results, introduce a statutory duty on the Secretary of State to “inform and educate on IP and copyright awareness”. [Yawn.]
The most substantive and realistic of these recommendations, at least in IP Draughts’ eyes, is the proposal to increase education in schools and universities. The report discusses some current initiatives in this area, such as the development of copyright materials for inclusion in an AS/A level course in Media Studies. It also records, with regret, the Government’s refusal to include IP law as a subject within the national curriculum.
The report recommends various steps to increase understanding of IP by school pupils, university students, and their teachers. Many of these initiatives are being led by the UK Intellectual Property Office. In general, they are at an early stage.
IP Draughts’ solution would be more radical. He would set up an IP training academy, completely independent of government, and led by experts in IP and education. But who would pay for it?
As with much of government life, successful education of the public about IP will require the expenditure of money. Is public money to be spent on developing educational materials? Who will do it and at what price? Should this be a priority at a time of economic hardship?
IP Draughts has some direct experience of this subject, having been commissioned a few years ago by the European Patent Academy (part of the European Patent Office) to develop “train the trainer” course materials on IP licensing. He was subsequently commissioned to deliver the course, both in a traditional meeting and in series of online, one-hour courses run from his office, using a computer, camera and microphone. Three things have stuck in IP Draughts’ mind about those experiences. First, that the Academy was a well-resourced body in its own right, with its own specialist staff, and not a secondary activity of a Patent Office. Secondly, there was a decent fee for writing the materials (after IP Draughts publicly tendered for the work). And thirdly, the materials went through an intensive peer review process, with 3 reviewers, which greatly enhanced the quality of the slides and notes.
IP Draughts wishes the UK government would take a similar approach to the EPA, but fears that the focus currently is too much on the political and administrative sides – the high-level aspiration and political process – and not enough on making sure that initiatives are well-thought-out, run by professionals, and properly funded. It was ever thus.