Data miners strike gold on copyright

In a significant victory for data miners, the open access publisher BioMed Central is to waive all copyright over datasets it publishes.

From early September, the biomedical publisher, which is owned by Springer, will publish all datasets under a Creative Commons CC0 licence, which waives all rights to the material.

Data miners, who use software to analyse data drawn from numerous papers, have called for CC0, also known as “no rights reserved”, to be the standard licence for datasets. Even the CC-BY licence, which is required by the UK research councils, is deemed to be a hindrance to data mining: although it does not impose restrictions on reuse, it requires every paper mined to be credited.

In a statement, the publisher says that “the true research potential of knowledge that is captured in data will only be released if data mining and other forms of data analysis and re-use are not in any form restricted by licensing requirements.

“The inclusion of the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication will make it clear that data from articles in BioMed Central journals is clearly and unambiguously available for sharing, integration and re-use without legal restrictions.”

The publisher’s decision follows overwhelming support for the adoption of CC0 in a public consultation it held last year. The results of the consultation have been published in an article in BMC Research Notes.

The article also addresses several expressed concerns about CC0, including that it will increase plagiarism. It notes that BioMed Central will continue to use a CC-BY licence for the text of papers and says miners should still acknowledge the source of their data “whenever it is technically possible to do so”.

“Since public domain dedication maximises the potential for data discovery and reuse we might reasonably hypothesise that open licensing might increase individual credit and citations,” the article adds.

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