MPs warn against copyright exception for data mining

The government should resist changing copyright law to allow free “mining” of data and text in scientific papers, a cross-party group of MPs has said.

June 27, 2012

A report published today by the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee says that cooperative licensing models – in which licensing can be shared between institutions – should be examined before any wholesale exception is implemented.

The document is part of the committee’s inquiry into Digital Opportunity: A Review of Intellectual Property and Growth, the final report of an independent review, published in May 2011, led by Ian Hargreaves, professor of digital economy at the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies and a former editor of The Independent.

The review recommended that the government extend an exception for non-commercial research in copyright law to allow content mining, a research technique in which software sifts through existing research to identify associations and trends.

At the moment, researchers require specific copyright permission to mine data from journal articles that they have already paid to access.

But Adrian Bailey, chairman of the BIS committee, said that a licensing approach rather than the creation of a complete exception would give the government “the chance to address technical feasibility and security issues while supporting the successful UK publishing sector”.

Earlier this month, the government published a summary of responses to its consultation on copyright in the wake of the review. It is expected to produce a White Paper on the issue later this year.

In the consultation, research institutions argued that copyright was not established to restrict the use of data, and that the added value of these technologies was provided by the actions of researchers, not publishers.

Opponents of the proposal, however, have said that a copyright exception would prevent publishers from ensuring the security of content and might remove their incentive to invest in converting content into the right forms.

A response from one publisher, Reed Elsevier, states: “An exception for the purposes of text mining is an exception that by definition enables and encourages industrial-scale reproduction of content without prior authorisation from rights holders.”

The BIS committee’s report covers various aspects of the Hargreaves review’s recommendations, which were intended to overhaul the UK’s intellectual property framework and change the law to reflect the use of copyrighted material in the digital era.

The document also expresses concern at the government’s failure to respond adequately to proposals to create a unified patent and litigation system within Europe.

The MPs say that the system could bring many benefits but has not been welcomed by practitioners or industry.

“The current proposed framework risks increasing costs and exposure for UK business, and a clear vision of how to minimise those risks is lacking. Given the status of negotiations, this situation needs addressing urgently,” Mr Bailey said.

elizabeth.gibney@tsleducation.com

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