Championing Copyright – Inside the British Copyright Council

The AOI is a member of the British Copyright Council (BCC). The BCC was founded in 1965 to protect and promote the principles of copyright in the UK. It’s an invaluable, and influential organisation in our work around copyright.
Lis Ribbans has recently taken the helm as Director of Policy and Public Affairs – and we talk to her about her role, what the BCC has on its plate and how the AOI can play its part.



Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’ve spent most of my life in journalism, starting as a teenager with a weekend job for a sports news agency, then moving on to local evening newspapers as a reporter and sub-editor. In the 1990s, I joined The Observer and The Guardian, becoming managing editor of The Guardian newspaper in 2008. Along the way, there’s been a good amount of freelance writing, including many enjoyable years contributing to Graphic News in London — providing the words, not the clever infographics, I must confess! I’ve also worked in public relations in local government and national politics. After leaving The Guardian five years ago, I rather fell in copyright and found it so fascinating that I returned to university to study for a postgrad diploma in copyright law.

Away from the day job, I write poetry for pleasure and a few years ago had great fun collaborating with the wonderful Spanish illustrator Rocío Gomez on a self-published book of children’s verse.

What drew you to the role at the BCC?

As a journalist I always knew that copyright mattered for creators, but I don’t think I really understood its central value to economic and cultural life, and once I did I wanted to get more involved. When I saw the BCC was looking for a director of policy and public affairs, I leapt at the opportunity. I love the variety, which means that on any given day I might be working with our members on policy developments at UK, EU and international level, meeting government officials, talking to overseas counterparts, attending IP events or helping shape a new strategy for spreading the copyright message.

Why is the BCC so important for illustrators?

For more than 50 years the BCC has been the champion of copyright in the UK, which means it’s the champion of a right that’s fundamental to enabling illustrators, like other creators, to earn a living from their work and have control over how it’s used. In the digital age, it’s all too easy for images to whizz around the web without your permission and at the same time very hard to keep track of them. With the breadth of our membership, which includes professional associations, industry bodies, collecting societies and trade unions that together represent hundreds of thousands of authors, creators, performers, publishers and producers, we can really amplify the voice of illustrators and all right holders to those who influence policy.

What are some of the biggest challenges you are tackling?

Brexit, of course. But there is also a copyright directive going through the EU which is really important to the creative sector because it seeks to ensure a fairer deal for creators in the digital era. Time is running out for it to become law before we hit elections for a new EU parliament in mid-2019, so we were disappointed when earlier this month — following protests that involved a good deal of popular misconception and pressure from some of the tech giants — the proposals failed to progress to their final negotiating stage. The EU parliament will now be debating the directive in detail in September, and voting again, so we’ll be working hard in the coming weeks to see this chance for long overdue copyright reforms is not lost.

What will copyright look like post-Brexit?

With only eight months to go, the simple fact is we still don’t really yet know. There’s no reason why there should be major changes as Brexit doesn’t require the UK to change its laws, except for some re-wording where the EU is mentioned, although the UK would of course be free to do so. There’s also the question of how much case law will diverge if the UK is no longer bound by the CJEU. (CJEU is the Court of Justice for the European Union.  It ensures EU law is abided by, interpreted and applied the same in all EU countries.) The UK must always abide, however, by international copyright treaties, such as the Berne Convention. A lot depends on the terms of our withdrawal from the EU, but what we need to watch is that our protections don’t get weakened. BCC members are particularly concerned, for example, that intellectual property doesn’t become a bargaining chip as we negotiate new trade deals with non-EU countries, some of which may have lower standards of protection or enforcement than we do. So, this is something we’re actively engaged in talking to the Department for International Trade about.

How can illustrators support your work?

That’s kind of you to ask! Through the AOI, our aim is to support illustrators but of course the more virtuous the circle the more effective we’ll be. So I would say to keep in touch with the AOI on copyright issues, so that they can raise them with the rest of the copyright community here at the BCC — it helps greatly to have that input. Also, please help us reach even more people by sharing campaign messages from the BCC and AOI onwards to your friends and peers. Whether that’s via social media or in everyday conversation, it all makes a real difference.

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24th July 2018

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