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. Continue reading