IFLA supports copyright exceptions for Text and Data Mining

Yesterday International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) issued a welcome statement on TDM: http://www.ifla.org/publications/ifla-statement-on-text-and-data-mining-2013. Snippets:

IFLA maintains that legal certainty for text and data mining (TDM) can only be achieved by (statutory) exceptions. As an organization committed to the principle of freedom of access to information, and the belief that information should be utilised without restriction in ways vital to the educational and cultural well-being of communities, IFLA believes TDM to be an essential tool to the advancement of learning, and new forms of creation.

We live in an era of “Big Data”. OECD figures show that more digital information was created between 2008 – 2011 than in all previous recorded history (World Economic Forum (2012) ‘Global Information Technology Report: living in a hyper-connected world’ p.59, http://www3.weforum.org/docs/Global_IT_Report_2012.pdf) No human can read such vast volumes of information, which is why “computer based reading”, using tools such as text and data mining, is so important.

Research organisations see TDM as an engine to improve the performance of science by speeding up new potential discoveries based upon existing literature without the need for further laboratory based research.  TDM is a tool also increasingly being used by researchers and creators in the arts and humanities fields, to offer new interpretations of history, literature and art. Libraries are also increasingly undertaking TDM themselves, to improve information services and offer new insights into their collections. Government data sets are also increasingly being made available to researchers, archives and libraries undertaking TDM, as they offer much potential economic value in an era of Big Data. Commercial innovators are also utilising TDM.

The technical act of copying involved in the process of TDM falls by accident, not intention, within the complexity of copyright laws – in fact analysis of facts and data has been the basis of learning for millennia. As TDM simply employs computers to “read” material and extract facts one already has the right as a human to read and extract facts from, it is difficult to see how the technical copying by a computer can be used to justify copyright and database laws regulating this activity.

“That these new uses happen to fall within the scope of copyright regulation is essentially a side effect of how copyright has been defined, rather than being directly relevant to what copyright is supposed to protect.” (Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth (2011), UK Intellectual Property Office, http://www.ipo.gov.uk/ipreview.htm)  

TDM is one of several new tools in the digital environment to which copyright norms devised 300 years ago do not readily apply.


Researchers must be able to share the results of text and data mining, as long as these results are not substitutable for the original copyright work – irrespective of copyright law, database law or contractual terms to the contrary. Without this right, legal uncertainty may prevent important research and data driven innovation putting researchers, institutions and innovators at risk.

IFLA does not support licensing as an appropriate solution for TDM. If a researcher or research institution, or another user accessing information through their library, has lawfully acquired digital content, including databases, the right to read this content should encompass the right to mine. Further, the sheer volume and diversity of information that can be utilised for text and data mining, which extends far beyond already licensed research data bases, and which are not viewed in silos, makes a licence-driven solution close to impossible.