FEP follows initiatives and discussions that affect the educational publishing sector. Though education is an area in which the EU has no legislative power, modernisation of education is high on the agenda of the EU Institutions and education policies implemented by individual countries have a significant impact on publishers. The EU plans to establish a European Education Area by 2025, and the Commission is working on the implementation of its recently updated Digital Education Action Plan.

To address the specificities of the sector, FEP collaborates with European members of the IPA Educational Publishers Forum, involving them in advocacy and drawing from their expertise. FEP attends relevant events and presents its position to the EU institutions. FEP has also been invited to the meetings of the IP in Education Network launched by the EUIPO which gathers national IP offices, ministries of education and other experts to increase awareness of the value of IP among students and teachers.

FEP is engaging with the Commission on the implementation of the new Digital Education Action Plan. FEP upholds the value of educational publishers in providing curricula-compliant quality learning materials in all formats, in a competitive environment. FEP maintains that Open Educational Resources (OER) need not be an alternative or antagonist to professionally produced content but can complement it. However, the production of OER with public funds to substitute textbooks constitutes unfair competition to educational publishers and can jeopardise the whole sector, while at the same time being a very inefficient use of resources, as well as a threat to the independence and pluralism of education. Moreover, the notion of OER should not lead to infringement on the rights of educational content producers.

FEP also looks at topics such as use of data and the role of Big Tech in education and calls for research on the impact of digital on learning. These matters overlap with broader discussions on copyright; in this context, FEP looks at the implementation of the exception for illustration for teaching. The EU has addressed the topic of education in several instances, with OER initially in the spotlight.

Examples: EC Communication ‘Rethinking Education’ (2012), with a stated aim to scale up the use of ICT and OER in education; Council Conclusions on Rethinking Education (2013), inviting Member States to optimise ICT-supported learning and access to OER; EC Communication ‘Opening up Education’ (2013), emphasising potential of ICT and OER and encouraging production of public educational materials; EP reports on the Communication (2013), supporting the notion of open resources, and on new technologies and OER (2014); Council debate on OER and digital learning (2013); Council Conclusions (2014), encouraging supply of OER and other digital educational materials, with due regard to copyright and licensing issues; EC/ Council report on New Priorities for European Cooperation in education and training (2015), recommending use of ICT and availability and 20 quality of open and digital educational resources.

Attention then shifted from OER to cross border uses and MOOCs: EC Communication ‘Improving and Modernising Education’ focused on teacher training, quality, inclusion; EC Roadmap ‘An agenda for the modernisation of higher education’ (2017) focused on skills, inclusion, innovation; EC Communication ‘A renewed EU agenda for higher education’ (2017) followed the roadmap, also mentioning the potential of OER; Council conclusions on the Communication (2017) encouraged Member States to make higher education more flexible via blended learning and OER.

The EC’s Digital Education Action Plan (2018), aimed at adapting education to the digital age, marked a partial return of the topic, stating that education could benefit from new tools, materials and OER. Afterwards came: EP reports on modernisation of education (2018), recommending assessing the quality of e-learning, MOOCs and open access resources, and on ‘Education in the digital era’ (2018), insisting on potential benefits of digitising education but also warning against downsides; Council conclusions (2018) on a European Education Area, recommending innovative use of digital technologies.

In September 2020, the Commission adopted an update of the Digital Education Action Plan, and a Communication on achieving the European Education Area by 2025. The updated DEAP’s strategic priorities are to be reached via infrastructure, connectivity and high-quality learning content. There is no mention of OER, but a lot of emphasis on MOOCs and on quality content – and a proposal to develop a European Digital Education Content Framework. The vision for the EEA identifies six dimensions: quality; inclusion and gender equality; green and digital transitions; teachers; higher education; and a stronger Europe in the world. Not much is said about content but the document states that funding available through the Recovery and Resilience Facility should support investments in education, from infrastructure to trainings, digital devices or the funding for OER. The Parliament followed up with a report on Shaping Digital Education Policy (March 2021) and one on the EEA, due in mid-2021. At national level, publishers are concerned by various cases of governmental interference in the educational publishing market, often linked to OER projects in broader education digitisation initiative.

These concerns frequently envisage the substitution of good quality, professionally published educational resources and, in many cases, result in a waste of resources, or worse in the stifling of teachers’ freedom of choice and in the imposition of politicised material