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EU copyright reforms to facilitate text and data mining and bolster publishers' rights

Research bodies are to be given new rights to extract and reproduce copyright material from publications, datasets and other content they already have lawful access to under a reformed EU copyright framework.

Under new proposals outlined by the European Commission, a new mandatory text and data mining exception would be written into EU legislation. EU countries would have to implement the new exception into their own national laws.

The new EU exception would enable "reproductions and extractions made by research organisations in order to carry out text and data mining of works or other subject-matter to which they have lawful access for the purposes of scientific research", according to the draft new directive.

Text and data mining is a term defined under the proposals as "any automated analytical technique aiming to analyse text and data in digital form in order to generate information such as patterns, trends and correlations".

Universities and research institutes are among the organisations that stand to benefit from the new rights.

The new text and data mining exception goes beyond existing exceptions that apply to uses of copyright material for scientific research purposes. The Commission said that rights holders sometimes prohibit text and data mining in licensing terms they agree with researchers when facilitating their access to their materials. Under the proposed new regime, however, the use of such contractual restrictions would be barred.

Rights holders will retain the right to "apply measures to ensure the security and integrity of the networks and databases where the works or other subject-matter are hosted" but will be encouraged to work with research bodies to "define commonly-agreed best practices concerning the application of the measures".

The proposed reforms would benefit researchers by providing them with "a clearer legal space to use innovative text and data mining research tools", the Commission said.

Carlos Moedas, EU commissioner for research, science and innovation, said: "Science needs a copyright law that reflects the reality of the modern age. We must remove barriers that prevent scientists from digging deeper into the existing knowledge base. This proposed copyright exception will give researchers the freedom to pursue their work without fear of legal repercussions, and so allow our greatest minds to discover new solutions to major societal problems."

In 2014 a new text and data mining exception was introduced into UK copyright laws. That exception allows context to be copied from online journals and other texts for the purposes of non-commercial research providing copiers have lawful access to that content and they, generally, make "a sufficient acknowledgement" of the original work.

The UK exception does not apply to text and data mining activities undertaken for commercial research purposes.

Press publications also stand to gain new rights regarding the "digital use" of their content under the planned new EU copyright regime. The press will have qualified rights to control reproductions of their works or the making available of their content online for 20 years from the beginning of the year that follows publication of the material. Existing exceptions that allow copyright material to be used for free without rights holders' permission will continue to apply, however.

Under the proposed reforms, online platforms that facilitate the public's access to "large amounts" of copyright material or the uploading of other "subject-matter" by their users will be obliged to enter into licensing agreements with publishers to be able to use the content. Rights holders will be able to prohibit those platforms from using the material within those agreements, according to the proposals.

Separately, the Commission has also published a draft new regulation which, if introduced, would introduce "a principle of country of origin" to transmission of broadcast content online.

The proposed measures would mean that the licensing of that content would be based on the concept that the material has been communicated to the public or otherwise made available to them from within the EU country "in which the broadcasting organisation has its principal establishment".

The measures represent an extension of existing broadcasting rules which do not account for cases where TV or radio broadcasters make their content available online as ancillary services.

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