Open Letter regarding the Commission’s stakeholder dialogue on text and data mining

In January Communia was invited to participate in the European Commission’s ‘Licenses for Europe‘ stakeholder dialogue. This stakeholder dialogue is one part of the Commission’s agenda to ‘modernise copyright in the digital economy‘. Communia participated in Working Group 4 on Text and Data Mining for Scientific Research Purposes.

Unfortunately the first meeting of this working group which took place on the 4th of February in Brussels did not live up to the expectations raised by the Commission’s earlier announcement. It quickly became evident that the stakeholder dialogue is based on a flawed assumption (‘more licensing will bring copyright in line with the requirements of the digital economy’) and that the process was designed to prevent a serious discussion about how to unlock the potential of scientific text and data mining.

Given this the participating organisations representing academia, researcher community and civil society (including Communia), have decided to make these concerns public in the form of an open letter to the Commissioners Barnier, Geoghegan-Quinn, Kroes and Vassiliou (re-published at the end of this post). The letter which was published today raises a number of concerns that need to be addressed before the stakeholder dialogue on text and data mining can continue.

Chief among these concerns is the belief that in order to have an open discussion about the reform, possible solutions cannot be limited to licensing. From our perspective text and data mining cannot be solved by re-licensing texts to libraries, researchers or the public. What Europe needs is clarity that text and data mining works that are lawfully available does not require permission by rights holders. A stakeholder dialogue that simply declares this position off limits can hardly be called a dialogue at all. In the case of Public Domain content, there is a risk that a focus upon licensing will lead to unlawful re-licensing of content that is out of copyright.

In addition the whole process needs to become more transparent and needs to include all stakeholders (including academics and the Commissions own Research and Innovation Directorate General, which is currently being limited to attend as an observer).

The open letter has been published in the hope of getting the Commission to change the terms under which the stakeholder dialogue is being conducted. Should this not be the case, Communia and the other organisations that have signed the letter are very likely to step away from the dialogue. As the list of supporting signatories shows this is supported by a growing number of academics who are rightfully concerned about the prospects for conducting data driven research in Europe.

Dear Commissioners Barnier, Geoghegan-Quinn, Kroes and Vassiliou,

“Licences for Europe – A Stakeholder Dialogue” Working Group 4: Text and Data Mining

We write to express our serious and deep-felt concerns in regards to Working Group 4 on text and data mining (TDM). Despite the title, it appears the research and technology communities have been 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 of content to which they already have lawful access. Such an outcome places European researchers and technology companies at a serious disadvantage compared to those located in the United States and Asia.

The potential of TDM technology is enormous. If encouraged, we believe TDM will within a small number of years be an everyday tool used for the discovery of knowledge, and will create significant benefits for industry, citizens and governments.McKinsey Global Institute reported in 2011[1]that effective use of ‘big data’ in the US healthcare sector could be worth more than US$300 billion a year, two-thirds of which would be in the form of a reduction in national health care expenditure of about 8%. In Europe, the same report estimated that government expenditure could be reduced by €100 billion a year. TDM has already enabled new medical discoveries through linking existing drugs with new medical applications, and uncovering previously unsuspected linkages between proteins, genes, pathways and diseases[2]. A JISC study on TDM found it could reduce “human reading time”by 80%, and could increase efficiencies in managing both small and big data by 50%[3]. However at present, European researchers and technology companies are mining the web at legal and financial risk, unlike their competitors based in the US, Japan, Israel, Taiwan and South Korea who enjoy a legal limitation and exception for such activities.

Given the life-changing potential of this technology, it is very important that the EU institutions, member state governments, researchers, citizens, publishers and the technology sector are able to discuss freely how Europe can derive the best and most extensive results from TDM technologies. We believe that all parties must agree on a shared priority, with no other preconditions – namely howto create a research environment in Europe with as few barriers as possible, in order to maximise the ability of European research to improve wealth creation and quality of life. Regrettably, the meeting on TDM on 4th February 2013 had not been designed with such a priority in mind. Instead it was made clear that additional relicensing was the only solution under consideration,with all other options deemed to be out of scope.We are of the opinion that this will only raise barriers to the adoption of this technology and make computer-based research in many instances impossible.

We believe that without assurance from the Commission that the following points will be reflected in the proceedings of Working Group 4, there is a strong likelihood that representatives of the European research and technology sectors will not be able to participate in any future meetings:

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;
All the proceedings and discussions are documented and are made publicly available;
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 annex to this letter sets out five important areas (international competitiveness, the value of research to the EU economy, conflict with Horizon 2020, the open web, and the extension of copyright law to cover data and facts) which were raised at the meeting but were effectively dismissed as out of scope. We believe these issues are central to any evidence-based policy formation in this area and must, as outlined above be discussed and documented.
We would be grateful for your response to the issues raised in this letter at the earliest opportunity and have asked susan.reilly@kb.nl(Ligue des Bibliothèques Européennes de Recherche) to act as a coordinator on behalf of the signatories outlined below.

Yours sincerely,

Participants:

Sara Kelly, Executive Director, The Coalition for a Digital Economy
Jonathan Gray, Director of Policy and Ideas, The Open Knowledge Foundation
John McNaught, National Centre for Text Mining, University of Manchester
Aleks Tarkowski, Communia
Klaus-Peter Böttger, President, European Bureau of Library Information and Documentation Associations (EBLIDA)
Paul Ayris, President, The Association of European Research Libraries (LIBER)
Brian Hole, CEO, Ubiquity Press Ltd.
David Hammerstein, Trans-Atlantic Consumer Dialogue

The arguments set out in this letter are also supported by the following individuals and organisations:

Prof Dr Kurt Deketelaere, Secretary General, League of European Research Universities (LERU)
Dr Karl Dittrich, Chair, Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU)
Nicola Dandrige, CEO, Universities UK (UUK)
Prof Kirsten Drotner, Chair, Scientific Committee for the Humanities, Science Europe
Prof Richard Frackowiak, Head Department of Clinical Neurosciences University of Lausanne / Chair, Medicine Sub-Committee of Science Europe
Prof Dr Thomas Risse, Chair of the Academic Committee on Social Sciences, Science Europe
Dirk Inzé, Chair of the Scientific Committee for Life, Environmental and Geo Sciences, Science Europe
Dr. Ir. Véronique Halloin, Secretary General, Fonds de la RechercheScientifique (FNRS)
Prof Emilio Lora-Tamayo, President, National Spanish Research Council (CSIC)
Professor Rick Rylance, Chair, Research Councils UK (RCUK)
Lisbeth Söderqvist, Associated Professor, Swedish Research Council
Dr Rolf Zettl, Managing Director, Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Dr Wim Liebrand, Director, SURF
Prof Martyn Harrow, CEO, Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC)
Prof József Pálinkás, President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences
AndrasKornai, Computer and Automation Research Institute, Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Professor Sally Wyatt, eHumanities Group, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts & Sciences
Dr Wilhelm Krull, Secretary General, Volkswagen Foundation
Prof Dr Jos Engelen, President of The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)
Dr Petr Škyřík, National Cluster of Information Education, Czech Republic (NAKLIV)
Sir John Sulston, Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation (iSEI)
Dr Simon Chaplin, Wellcome Trust
Dr Tim Hubbard, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute
Dr Rolf Apweiler, Associate Director, European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI)
Alicia López Medina ,Confederation of Open Access Repositories
Alma Swan, Director of Advocacy Programmes, SPARC Europe
Dr Victor Henning, Co-founder & CEO, Mendeley
Dr Harald Müller, Library Director, Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law
Associate Professor Dr. Lucie Guibault, Institute for Information Law (IViR), University of Amsterdam
Prof Dr Mireille van Eechoud, Institute for Information Law (IViR), University of Amsterdam
Dr Stef van Gompel, Institute for Information Law (IViR), University of Amsterdam
Prof Charlotte Waelde, Chair in Intellectual Property Law, University of Exeter
Prof Lilian Edwards, E-Governance,University of Strathclyde
Prof Dr Rainer Kuhlen, Chair, European Network for Copyright in support of Education and Science
Teresa Hackett, Electronic Information for Libraries
David C Prosser PhD, Executive Director, Research Libraries UK
John Dolan, Chair of Council, Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals
Tim Padfield, Chair, Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance
KimmoTuominen, President, Finnish Research Library Association
Kristiina Kontiainen, Finnish Library Association
Ap de Vries, CEO, Netherlands Public Library Association
Bas Savenije, President, FOBID Netherlands Library Forum
Andrew Green, CEO, LlyfrgellGenedlaetholCymru / National Library of Wales
Joy Palmer, Library and Archival Services, Mimas, University of Manchester
Ann Rossiter, Executive Director, Society of College, National and University Libraries
Michel G Wesseling, President, NVB: The Dutch Association of Information Professionals
Natalia Manola, University of Athens, Greece on behalf of OpenAIRE
Dr. Evi Sachini, Head, Strategic Planning & Development Department, National Documnetation Centre Greece (EKT)
Kevin Ashley, Director, Digital Curation Centre (DCC)

 

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