On Senator Norris's question on whether the scheme will be implemented, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment is putting through the legislation and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is responsible for the operation of the scheme. It is preparing regulations at present and intends the scheme to be in operation from January 2009.
Copyright and Related Rights (Amendment) Bill 2007: Committee Stage (Resumed).
That is its intention and it is our intention that it will operable——
I take that as a qualified "Yes".
Will the Senators allow the Minister of State to finish?
On amendment No. 4, it is the intention of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to establish an advisory committee representing all stakeholders involved, including authors, editors and illustrators, to advise on policy and the operation of the scheme. This undertaking has already been made publicly by the Minister. The Minister contends there is a need to maintain flexibility with regard to participation in that committee. As experience shows, particular organisations often change over time and it would not be appropriate to be so prescriptive in primary legislation as the amendment proposes. However, the commitment to establish the advisory committee is a fair concession to meeting the Senators' concerns. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government does not exclude representation by the bodies mentioned in the amendment.
While I certainly accept the spirit of amendment No. 5, also in the names of Senators David Norris, Joe O'Toole and Feargal Quinn, I do not consider it appropriate for inclusion in primary legislation. It is the intention of An Chomhairle Leabharlanna to minimise costs where possible and, in this regard, it is drawing on the experience of the UK public lending rights authorities in respect of joint registration, software, sharing of operating systems etc. We need to allow for contingencies in the future, such as additional EU requirements, particular forms of training for staff or the once-off purchase of information technology, and it would be therefore unwise to insert a prescriptive limit of the nature proposed.
I am sure the Minister of State will forgive my scepticism regarding his reply. When a Minister or Minister of State — I refer to none in particular — states in the House that he wants flexibility on an appointment, I usually smell a rat. When he claims he does not want a prescriptive clause, I become even more suspicious. Senator David Norris's suggestion that there be a prescriptive right accorded to the Irish Writers' Union, the Irish Copyright Licensing Agency and, perhaps, others is perfectly reasonable because these bodies are eminently well-qualified and non-political. They should, almost by right, be allowed to participate in the body in question.
Neither the present Government nor any other in the history of this State has a proud record regarding political appointments. The legislation implies the appointees of the Minister rather than those with independent expertise in this area will have the right to be on the advisory board. Having noted similar cases so often, I believe this board will be in danger of becoming another convenient outlet for political patronage.
I do not recognise any sign of the Government being unwilling to make prescriptive appointments in other areas. We have a social partnership industry in this State where the prescriptive rights of trades unionists and employers to various meaningless committees or State boards or agencies that carry overpaid salaries for very little work are almost embedded in the law and regulations.
In respect of the body in question, the Minister of State wants to maintain what he refers to as "flexibility". It would be far more sensible if this Bill, which is uncontentious politically, allowed those with expertise in this area rather than those who may have political expertise and political loyalties to honour to have rights to sit on the advisory committee.
I welcome that the Minister of State has indicated clearly that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will set up a small committee or board to oversee the distribution of the funds. We could go through a long list in the House and in doing so, I would have to say the Library Association of Ireland should be a stakeholder because it represents all the public libraries.
This body includes appointees who have been elected by the people to serve on councils. I always find it quite difficult to understand why people with expertise in a field must be debarred from membership of an organisation because they have been elected as members of local authorities. We cannot go through a list of all the bodies that could be represented on the committee. A quite small sum of money is involved and we are making a mountain out of a molehill regarding this Bill. I appreciate that this is one of the first Bills to pass through the new Seanad and we are anxious to sink our teeth into larger ones, such as the companies Bill, in this session.
Will the Minister of State bear in mind the recommendations of this House? At this point it is impossible for this House to compile a list of those who would be suitable to serve on the body being established. The Minister of State may decide, after due reflection, that it would be worthwhile to provide for the establishment of the board in this legislation. The Bill should not refer to the specific membership of the board, but it should allow the appropriate Minister to establish a board to oversee and monitor the distribution of funds. Perhaps the Minister of State and his officials will consider such an approach.
I will clarify one aspect of this matter. When I was Minister of State in the Department of Industry and Commerce, which is now known as the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, it was the lead Ministry responsible for bringing all European legislation into Irish law. People do not realise that the Department dealt with all other Departments. I appreciate the background to this problem. The Minister of State, Deputy Michael Ahern, is introducing this Bill because it is a copyright Bill. However, the implementation of the Bill is the responsibility of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, who is responsible for the library services. That is quite understandable.
The Minister of State may decide he needs to bring regulations before the House for consideration before this legislation is enacted. Senators recommend that he should consider including in the Bill a provision whereby the monitoring committee would be established under this legislation. The officials should consider this proposal in advance of Report Stage. We should not have to depend totally on the Minister of the day to introduce regulations to establish the monitoring committee. I make that point respectfully as someone who worked in the Minister of State's Department. I understand that this Bill is urgently needed — we are under starter's orders as far as Europe is concerned. Perhaps all of us share responsibility for the failure to introduce this legislation in the past. We got derogations for everything at EU level for quite a long time; we got derogations in this regard as well. Some worthwhile points have been made to the Minister of State and his officials today. I ask them to consider the various possibilities before Report Stage.
I am sure the Minister of State will agree that Senators Norris and Ross have made some fair and equitable points. I do not think they disagree with the point about the Library Association of Ireland that was so ably advanced by Senator Leyden. We need to reflect on the core objective of this Bill. When one considers the expertise and knowledge of the Irish Writers' Union and the Irish Copyright Licensing Agency, it is clear that they have the greatest right to act on behalf of the writers who own the copyright to their material. It should almost be a sine qua non. I fully support the amendment in that respect.
I will make the views of Senators Norris and Ross known to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Some of the insinuations made by Senator Ross about people who have been appointed to boards by all parties over the years were totally overboard.
They were true.
The people in question, who were well-qualified, have done their duties and I am sure those who are appointed to this board will do likewise.
While I do not doubt the Minister of State's word, I remind the House that the appointments made by many of his predecessors, who had given me similar assurances, were absolutely nakedly political. I have made these exact points to many Ministers over the years but they have continued to make nakedly political appointments thereafter.
I disagree with the Senator.
Is amendment No. 4 being pressed?
I will withdraw it in light of the Minister of State's indication that the Government has a real commitment to introducing a public lending right scheme.
His words are on the record of the House. I am grateful to the Minister of State, who has acted in a courteous manner as usual. This is an important issue. The Seanad has shown its relevance by teasing this matter out and getting the Minister of State's commitment clearly on the record of the Parliament. I accept that commitment absolutely and I am glad that it has been given. It also means I was correct to follow his invitation to withdraw my suggestion that the Government had tampered with the Cathaoirleach. Like Senator Ross, I am inclined to be cynical. I have not spent anything like the amount of time in the Seanad that Senator Ross has spent here.
That has not been for the want of trying.
He has been here since time immemorial, as he has admitted. I am happy to accept what the Minister of State has said. He has done us a service by indicating, as I understand it, that the Government does not have any difficulty with the substance of these amendments. I thank Senator Leyden, who is qualified in this area and has a long-standing interest in and professional acquaintance with it, for expressing his support. It is significant that such support is coming from the Government benches. I know the Minister of State will carry that back to his colleague in the other Department. I will not name the two distinguished gentlemen in the Visitors Gallery who have given briefings in this area. Having taken the opportunity to slither from the backbenches to whisper in their ears, I understand they are reasonably satisfied with the assurances given by the Minister of State. On that basis, I am happy to withdraw the amendments. I may return to the amendment about the board because I was somewhat tempted by what Senator Leyden had to say.
As amendments Nos. 6 and 7 are related, they may be discussed together, by agreement. I understand that Senator Alex White will move an amendment to amendment No. 6 in due course.
This Bill, as initiated, proposes to repeal section 58 of the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000 in its entirety. Since the Bill was published, I have received and reviewed observations about the proposal. The commission took particular exception to the provision in section 58 that under the section and any statutory instrument made under it, all public libraries and educational establishments were, in effect, exempt from the requirement to remunerate authors for the lending of their works. While it is intended to introduce a public lending right in respect of the lending of works in public libraries, the exemption in respect of educational establishments should remain in place if such establishments are not involved in public lending but are in the nature of advancing teaching and research in our schools and universities. Senators might recall that during my Second Stage speech, I flagged my intention to introduce an amendment to this section involving an amendment to section 58, as opposed to its repeal. I hope the amendment will be accepted given that it is intended to continue with the exemption in respect of public lending for educational establishments.
I move amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 6:
In the inserted section 58, to delete "by an educational establishment" and substitute the following:
", subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by the Minister, by an educational establishment which is so prescribed for the purposes of this section or comes within a category of educational establishment that is so prescribed".
My amendment to amendment No. 6 has been tabled because that amendment proposes, in effect, to remove educational institutions from the operation of the new legislation altogether. The purpose of the amendment I suggest is to limit in two ways this blanket exemption for educational establishments. First, I propose that the Minister be given the right to prescribe conditions for the loans. Second, I propose that the Minister be given the power to prescribe categories of establishment. We are all familiar with educational establishments, such as universities, and the great libraries associated with them. There is no difficulty in agreeing to the Minister of State's proposal in that regard. Is there anything to prevent a video shop or some other similar retail outlet from rebranding itself as a video educational institute and starting to lend videos without having to respect the rights of the owners of intellectual property being given out by way of loans? Whereas we all understand the spirit of the Minister of State's intention, the use of the term, "educational institution" may not necessarily cover all eventualities. We have all seen new outlets and new retail bodies springing up and it is not certain that one of them might not one day decide it is an educational institution. This is the basis for the proposal.
This raises the question of private institutions and educational establishments. The Houses of the Oireachtas have an excellent library. Would this be defined as an educational or a public library? It is a type of private club but Members of the Oireachtas are elected representatives, even though they are the only people entitled to take out books on loan. Will such libraries be governed by this Bill?
I refer to the library of the RDS, which is one of the finest libraries in the city of Dublin. It was established before these Houses and its books are very valuable. Will that library's copyright rights or charges be covered by the Government? It would be difficult for the RDS to continue lending books from its library if it were required to pay copyright to authors. I note the excellent university libraries and school libraries are covered by the Department of Education and Science, but I await the Minister of State's view on the case of private libraries such as the RDS lending books to the public.
The RDS library only lends to its members. It is not a public library.
I thank Senator Alex White for raising this matter. On a point of clarification, my advice indicates that the phraseology in the Government amendment is more succinct in that the term, "educational establishment", is already defined in section 2(1) of the principal Act. An order has been made under that section identifying the establishments covered by this definition.
With regard to the point raised by Senator Leyden, the legislation deals only with public libraries which are accessible to the public and libraries such as the Oireachtas Library or the RDS library are not covered. Consequent on the advice, I do not propose to accept the amendment to the Government amendment.
I am unable to put my hand on the definition section of the principal Act but I take the point made by the Minister of State. He seems to be meeting the point because he says it has been already dealt with in the definitions in the principal Act. I will take it in good faith that this is the case and I am happy to withdraw the amendment to the amendment on that basis, but I will return to it on a future occasion.
This provision provides a statutory basis for An Chomhairle Leabharlanna to administer a public lending remuneration scheme on behalf of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
I move amendment No. 9:
In page 3, lines 12 to 13, to delete "TO CONSEQUENTIALLY" and substitute "CONSEQUENTIALLY TO".
This amendment is to do with the split infinitive in the Title of the Bill. When I was thinking about the sorts of things I would have to do as a Member of the Seanad, I never thought I would have to make a speech about the perils of the split infinitive, so I hope this amendment will speak for itself and will be accepted.
I am happy to say I will accept the amendment.
I am delighted.
When is it proposed to take Report Stage?
Next week. I expect it to be Thursday, 11 October.