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Researchers given 'data mining' right under new UK copyright laws

Copying content from online journals or other texts for the purposes of non-commercial research is no longer an infringement of UK copyright laws providing copiers have lawful access to that content and they, generally, make "a sufficient acknowledgement" of the original work.02 Jun 2014

The new exception to copyright, which relates to text or data mining for non-commercial research, is just one of a number of changes to UK copyright laws that came into force on 1 June.

Copyright holders can require researchers to pay to access their content but cannot then restrict text or data mining for non-commercial purposes thereafter, under the new rules.

However, researchers that use the text or data they have mined for anything other than a non-commercial purpose will be said to have infringed copyright, unless the activity has the consent of rights holders. In addition, the sale of the text or data mined by researchers is prohibited.

Text or data mining are terms that describe how technology can be used to analyse vast amounts of content in an automated way to extract information from it. Researchers were previously prevented using software to read data from journal articles without specific permission from the copyright owners, even if they had already paid to access that material.

Other changes to the law give libraries, archives, museums, schools and other educational establishments the freedom to copy copyrighted works and make them available to the public to access on a "dedicated terminal on its premises" for research or private study purposes.

The new rules also loosen restrictions on the sharing of single copies of copyrighted material between libraries and also allow for copyrighted works to be preserved in digital form without the act of copying by libraries, archives or museums being considered an infringement of copyright.

In addition, the UK's copyright framework now contains a right to use a copyrighted work to illustrate a point during school or university lessons in accordance with the established 'fair dealing' principle. The right is limited to cases where an illustration is "for a non-commercial purpose" and made by teachers, lecturers or students. Generally, it must also be accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement of the original work.

Schools, colleges and universities can also now make copies of radio or TV broadcasts for a non-commercial educational purpose without infringing copyright. Similarly, the act of copying and using extracts of copyrighted material by educational establishments "for the purposes of instruction for a non-commercial purpose" is also permitted under the new copyright laws. In both cases, copiers must generally make a sufficient acknowledgment of the original work.

The right to copy and use extracts does not extend to copying more than 5% of a copyrighted work over the course of a year.

"Many of the changes have rightly been introduced to reflect the modern teaching methods adopted by educational institutions," intellectual property law expert Emily Swithenbank of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said. "Use for distance learning purposes is now allowed and whereas previously only minor acts of copying for non-commercial teaching purposes were permitted if made by hand, this exception to copyright infringement has now been widened to permit copying by digital technology."

"The new exceptions do not however allow educational establishments to disregard existing licensing schemes. The exceptions operate in conjunction with the licences that must be obtained if available but if those licences seek to restrict copying in a way that would now be permitted by the changes, educational establishments can rely on the wider copyright exceptions to use the work without infringing copyright," she said.

Other changes to the UK's copyright laws that have been made include new rules that give disabled people greater access to copyrighted material. Works of general scientific, technical, commercial or economic interest that are already available for public inspection can be copied and made available to access more widely over the internet by public bodies under other amendments that have been made.

"These common sense reforms will update the UK’s copyright system for the digital age, and help to build and maintain public confidence and respect for copyright," Intellectual property minister Lord Younger said in a statement. "These changes bring an end to many instances where people carrying out minor, reasonable acts of copying could have found themselves on the wrong side of the law."

"The text and data mining exception is a particularly important step forward for researchers in the UK and will ensure they have the tools that they need to maintain their competitive edge in an increasingly global marketplace," he said.

The government also said that it remains committed to introducing further changes to the copyright framework which would create new rights to make private copies of copyrighted material and use copyrighted content in works of parody or in quotation. The regulations containing those proposed changes to the law have yet to be approved by the UK parliament.

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Expertise in Copyright

Copyright is an extremely valuable, often unrecognised or misunderstood right which protects a whole range of original materials including written materials, software, artistic materials, music and dramatic works. It arises automatically without the need for registration in most countries and protects these materials from unauthorised copying. It is essential in business to identify such rights, ensure they are owned by the correct entity, properly protected, enforced and exploited.

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