Copyright laws ‘mean EU risks falling behind on data mining research’

Scholars in countries with a permissive approach are three times more likely to use the technique

September 8, 2015
'Copyright' padlock around book

Academics in countries adopting a permissive attitude under copyright law to data mining are three times more likely to publish research based on the technique than colleagues in countries with a more restrictive approach.

That is according to a study, presented at the annual conference of the European Policy for Intellectual Property association, which has prompted warnings that academics in several leading European Union countries risk falling behind in a key area of growth for the social sciences.

Authors Christian Handke, of Erasmus University Rotterdam, Lucie Guibault, of the University of Amsterdam, and Joan-Josep Vallbé, of the University of Barcelona, used Thomson Reuters’ Web of Science database to calculate that 18,441 articles were published worldwide using, or on the subject of, data mining between 1993 and 2014.

In countries that make exceptions from copyright law for researchers undertaking data mining of journal articles or other datasets, such as the United States, Singapore and Taiwan, data mining articles still accounted for only 0.2 per cent of the total number of articles published. 

But this was triple the proportion of articles published based on data mining in countries that do not make copyright exceptions for academic research, including many EU nations such as Germany, France and the Netherlands.

The conference, held at the University of Glasgow on 2 and 3 September, heard that the proportion of articles based on data mining was also comparatively high in countries that do not make copyright exceptions but that are also perceived to be unlikely to enforce infringements, such as Portugal, Greece and Spain.

Dr Handke, an assistant professor of cultural economics, said that a number of additional countries had adopted more permissive copyright rules covering data mining over the course of the study period. These include the UK, China, South Korea and Canada.

He said that data mining “makes information available in areas that simply couldn’t be researched for decades”.

“We are pushing boundaries of what is possible in research and European researchers are not participating as much as they have in other kinds of research,” Dr Handke said. “They are falling behind in what is one of the biggest growth fields in the social sciences.”

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