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New copyright laws give researchers right to conduct 'electronic analysis' of copied content

Researchers that wish to conduct "electronic analysis" of copyrighted content for non-commercial purposes will have a right to copy that information under proposed new copyright laws.

The Government has set out draft new legislation that would introduce a new exception to conduct data analysis for non-commercial research (3-page / 72KB PDF) into UK copyright law.

The new exception would provide non-commercial researchers with a right to make a free copy of published information that is freely accessible or to which they otherwise have a right to access. However, the exception has been drafted in a way that would allow publishers to put in place a paywall to prevent researchers' making copies of their material for free.

Under the proposals anyone conducting non-commercial research who has "lawful access" to copyrighted material would be able to make a copy of the material "for the purposes of carrying out an electronic analysis of anything recorded in the work" so long as they provide "sufficient acknowledgment" of the rights holder where it is possible to do so.

"The Government intends to amend the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 so that it is not an infringement of copyright for a person who already has a right to access a copyright work (whether under a licence or otherwise) to copy the work as part of a technological process of analysis and synthesis of the content of the work for the sole purpose of non-commercial research," the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) said in its consultation paper.

"A licence governing access to a work will not be able to prevent or restrict use of the work in accordance with this exception, but it may impose conditions of access to the licensor’s computer system or to third party systems on which the work is accessed. Therefore the exception will not prevent a publisher from applying technological measures on networks required in order to maintain security or stability, or from licensing higher volumes of access to research outputs at an additional cost," it said.

The new exception would apply to the practice of 'content mining'. This involves the use of technology to go through vast amounts of content in an automated way to extract information from it. Researchers are currently not permitted to use some software to read data from journal articles without specific permission from the copyright owners, regardless of whether or not the researcher has already paid to access that article.

The IPO has also unveiled its proposals to change the rules around the copyright exception that applies in education (5-page / 85KB PDF) and the exception for research, libraries and archives (13-page / 119KB PDF).

Earlier this month the IPO unveiled other proposed changes to copyright law. Draft legislation that would introduce a new quotation exception, a limited private copying right and a right to use copyrighted material in works of parody were among the measures announced. 

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