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Professional publishers concerned about data exception in UK's IP plans

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This summer the UK government accepted the recommendations of an independent review into copyright, which included an exception for data and text mining. Joe Hames of the Professional Publishers Association argues that such an exception could be damaging for many publishers

Almost all publishers, regardless of the sector they operate in, will be aware that legal experts consider the UK’s copyright laws to be well behind what is needed in the digital world. Britain’s £20 billion publishing industry is an important part of the government’s growth agenda, and so in order to give publishers a more suitable legal framework in which to operate better commercially in the 21st Century, a timely review was commissioned in October 2010 by the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron.

As reported earlier in the year, the intellectual property reforms led by Ian Hargreaves published its official recommendations in May 2011. While the Professional Publishers Association (PPA) and the publishing industry as a whole warmly welcome the majority of the recommendations in the Hargreaves Review, there is one recommendation that is a matter of concern for many PPA members and, potentially, Research Information readers.

While Hargreaves makes it clear in his recommendations that policy decisions should be based on commercial evidence, the Government appears to have disregarded this when addressing the scope of copyright exceptions for the act of text or data mining in regards to non-commercial research.

The Hargreaves report states: ‘We recognise that some publishers view the licensing of text mining as a legitimate commercial opportunity’ but then goes on to say (without reference to any evidence to support the claim) ‘we are not persuaded that restricting this transformative use of copyright material is necessary or in the UK’s overall economic interest’.

Many PPA members have built business models around granting research-focussed permission requests to mine data. It is a new area of business for publishers and important to future growth. Those who seek licences often do so with a view to their own profit. If data mining were suddenly excluded from copyright as recommended in the Hargreaves review, it would have very severe consequences on a publisher’s ability to generate revenue from its datasets.

The PPA is currently consulting with Government on the Hargreaves Review, with a particular regard to data mining copyright. Further details, as well as the PPA’s position paper on the subject of Hargreaves can be found at www.ppa.co.uk/business.