A significant number of groups who support knowledge policies for the public good, including ourselves, have signed and published a letter of concern arising from one of the working groups of the Licences for Europe – A Stakeholder Dialogue meetings in Brussels.

This particular working group was Working Group 4, which was set to discuss ways and means of enabling Text and Data Mining (TDM) for research. I was present as both a user of mining techniques in my academic research and official representative of the Open Knowledge Foundation, as participant in the discussions.

The letter expresses concerns that in this TDM meeting we were presented “not with a stakeholder dialogue, but a process with an already predetermined outcome –namely that additional licensing is the only solution to the problems being faced by those wishing to undertake TDM”

We believe that this dialogue should fairly include discussion of copyright limitations and exceptions for such TDM activity. The Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes (pictured above) made a speech shortly before the working group meeting which indicated this would be an option to consider on the table of discussion:

But keep your minds open: maybe in some cases licensing won’t be the solution

It was also in the notes published in advance of the working group meeting that discussion would explore:

the potential and possible limits of standard licensing models

(emphasis mine)

Yet when we started discussions, all our attempts to discuss copyright exemptions for TDM, as successfully practised in the US, Japan, Israel, Taiwan and South Korea, were quickly shut-down by the dialogue moderators. It was made crystal clear to us that any further attempts to discuss this as a solution to the problems of TDM access would not be entertained. Many of us left the meeting feeling extremely frustrated that we were prevented from discussing what we thought was a reasonable and optimal solution practised elsewhere, and were only allowed to discuss sub-optimal cumbersome options involving re-licencing of content or collective licencing.

Thus the letter of concern finishes with 3 simple requests:

  1. All evidence, opinions and solutions to facilitate the widest adoption of TDM are given equal weighting, and no solution is ruled to be out of scope from the outset;
  2. All the proceedings and discussions are documented and are made publicly available;
  3. DG Research and Innovation becomes an equal partner in Working Group 4, alongside DGs Connect, Education and Culture, and MARKT – reflecting the importance of the needs of research and the strong overlap with Horizon 2020.

The greater than 50 participants & signatories of the letter include a Nobel Prize winner (Sir John Sulston), and top representatives of most European research funders, libraries and even smart tech companies with an interest in this area like Mendeley. We sincerely hope the European Commission takes action on this matter.


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Ross is a postdoc at the University of Bath, using content mining techniques to extract and re-use data from the academic literature. He is also a former Panton Fellow, trying to encourage data sharing / Open Data ethos in his research community. Making baby steps… e.g. in palaeontology