Tue, Jun 08, 2021

Research Libraries UK, SCONUL and UCL Library Services join EARE

We, Research Libraries UK, SCONUL and UCL Library Services*, welcome the fact that the European Commission has included an exception for Text and Data Mining (TDM) in the draft directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market (Article 3). TDM is the process of using advanced computer techniques to analyse vast amounts of data in many different formats in order to arrive at new insights and to discover new relationships. It enables analysis on a scale that was not previously possible because of the time and resources required.

It is equally significant that TDM encourages the development of entirely novel techniques of data analysis. These techniques are of increasing importance in many fields of research, including medicine, physical sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities. TDM has the potential to give a distinct advantage to European Research but in order to be effective, the exception needs to be as generous as possible without damaging the interests of rights owners. It is important to foster a research environment where the development of those innovative techniques is encouraged to the full.

Currently the UK and France are the only EU member states which have TDM exceptions in place so the proposal is a big step forward. The positive aspects of the draft exception are firstly that because it is mandatory it will apply across the EU member states and secondly it does not place any restrictions on the type of research to be permitted under the exception. Also very significant is that the exception cannot be overridden by terms in a contract.  However, in the original proposal TDM is only permitted when carried out by a “research organisation” as narrowly defined in Article 2 of the draft directive. We are very pleased to see the amendment proposed by the Rapporteur of the EP Legal Affairs Committee, Ms Comodini Cachia which removes the “research organisation” restriction and allows “any person” with legal access to the material to make use of the TDM exception.

Access by any person opens the way for the exception to assist start-up companies, more established businesses and indeed individual researchers in carrying out Text and Data Mining provided they have legal access to the material. It also removes any doubts about whether the exception (as originally worded) would cover collaborative projects between a “research organisation” such as a university and a commercial organisation. Given that there are many EU initiatives which positively encourage such collaborations, the amendment brings much added clarity and consistency to the Directive and we would like to add our support to the reworded TDM exception.

Research organisations, including those that we represent, are frequently engaged in research partnerships across borders and, crucially, beyond the university with commercial research organisations, other partners and individuals. We have joined EARE to strengthen the voices calling for TDM to be available to any person with legal access so that it can live up to its full potential.

*Research Libraries UK, SCONUL and UCL Library are among the member organisations of Copyright for Knowledge, a cross-sectoral body which aims to work with government at both a UK and European level to achieve a balanced copyright regime in Europe. Briefings from Copyright for Knowledge which discuss TDM and other aspects of European copyright reform can be found here.

Contacts for this blog post: Chris Holland, Copyright Support Officer, UCL Library Services,  and Fiona Bradley, Deputy Executive Director at Research Libraries UK (RLUK),