Copyright reforms to aid research

Sweeping reforms to copyright law are set to open the door for greater access to research papers.

August 3, 2011

Business secretary Vince Cable announced today that ministers have accepted recommendations on intellectual property made in a review of the issue by Ian Hargreaves, professor of digital economy at Cardiff Business School.

Among the proposals put forward by the review, which reported its findings last December, is the introduction of an exception to copyright for search and analysis techniques known as “text and data mining”.

Mr Cable said research scientists are hampered from working on data because it is illegal under copyright law to do this without permission of copyright owners.

He cited the example of a Thai-based research unit, which wanted to make 1,000 journals available for data miners looking for insights into treating malaria.

However, many authors were unknown, which made it is impossible to establish who owns the copyright to them. The papers, therefore, remained unavailable to researchers.

Procedures will be made to open up a range of works locked away in libraries and museums and unavailable for consumer or research purposes, Mr Cable said.

About 87 per cent of the material housed in the UK’s main medical research database is unavailable for legal text and data mining, according to the Wellcome Trust.

The Liberal Democrat business secretary said the changes will also lead to new services for film and music fans, boosting the economy by up to £7.9 billion.

He said the move would bring copyright law into line with the “real world”, and with consumers' “reasonable expectations”.

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