I urge my MEPs to reform European Copyright – please do the same

I have written to my members of The European Parliament to argue for reform of Copyright to allow Text and Data Mining (TDM, “ContentMining”) for commercial and non-commercial purposes. This issue has been very high-profile this year and Commissioner Oettinger will present his  recommendations soon, so it’s important that we let him and MEPs know immediately that we need a change in the law.

I urge you also to write to your MEPs. Its’ easy – just use write writetothem.org and it will work out who you should write to. You can use some of my letter, but personalise it to represent your own views and goals. MEPs take these letters seriously – and they are critical evidence against all the lobbying that they get from vested interests

Dear Geoffrey Van Orden, Stuart Agnew, Vicky Ford, Tim Aker, Richard Howitt, Patrick O’Flynn and David Campbell Bannerman,

Reform of European Copyright to allow Text and Data Mining (TDM)

I am a scientist at the University of Cambridge and write to urge you to promote the reform of European laws and directives relating to Copyright; and particularly the current restrictions on Text and Data Mining (“ContentMining”). The reforms [1] that MEP Reda promoted to the European Parliament earlier this year are sensible, pragmatic and beneficial and I urge you to represent them to Commissioner Oettinger before he produces the policy document on the Digital Single Market (expected in early December 2015).

Science and medicine publishes over 2 million papers a year and billions of Euro’s worth of publicly funded research lie unused, since no human can read the current literature. That’s an opportunity cost (at worst people die) and potentially a huge new industry. I and colleagues have been working for many years to develop the technology and practice of mining (especially in bio- and chemical sciences) . I am convinced that Europe is falling badly behind the US. “Fair use” (see the recent “Google” [2] and “Hathi” books case) is now often held to allow the US, but not Europeans (with only “fair dealing” at best), to mine science and publish results.

Over several years I and others have tried to find practical ways forward, but the rightsholders (mainly mega publishers such as Elsevier/RELX, Springer, Wiley, Nature) have been unwilling to engage. The key issues is “Licences” , where rightsholders require readers to apply for further permissions (and maybe additional payments) just to allow machines to read and process the literature. The EC’s initiative “Licences for Europe” failed in 2013, with institutions such as LIBER, RLUK, and British Library effectively walking out [3]. Nonetheless there has been massive industry lobbying this year to try to convince MEPs , and Commissioners, that Licences are the way forward [4].

The issue is simply encapsulated in my phrase “The Right to Read is the Right to Mine”; if a human has the right to read a document, she should be allowed to use her machines to help her. We have found scientists who have to read 10,000 papers to make useful judgments (for example in systematic reviews of clinical trials, animal testing, and other critical evaluations of the literature. This can take 10-20 days of highly skilled scientist’s time, whereas a machine can filter out perhaps 90%, saving thousands of Euros. This type of activity is carried out in many European laboratories, so the total waste is very significant.

Unfortunately the rightsholders are confusing and frightening the scientific and library community. Two weeks ago a NL statistician [5] was analysing the scientific literature on a large scale to detect important errors in the conclusions reached by statistical methods. After downloading 30,000 papers, the publisher Elsevier demanded that the University (Tilburg) stop him doing his research, and the University complied. This is against natural justice and is also effectively killing innovation – it is often said that Google and other industries could not start in Europe because of restrictive copyright.

In summary, European knowledge workers require the legal assurance that they can mine and republish anything they can read, for commercial as well as non-commercial purposes. This will create a new community and industry of mining which will bring major benefits to Europe. see [6]

Peter Murray-Rust

Reda Report draft – explained

EU parliament defends Freedom of Panorama & calls for copyright reform

[2] http://fortune.com/2015/10/16/google-fair-use/
[3] https://edri.org/failure-of-licenses-for-europe/, http://ipkitten.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/licences-for-europe-insiders-report.html
[4] The use of “API”s is now being promoted by rightsholders as a solution to the impasse. APIs are irrelevant; it is the additional licences (Terms and Conditions) which are almost invariably added.
[5] “Elsevier stopped me doing my research” http://onsnetwork.org/chartgerink/2015/11/16/elsevier-stopped-me-doing-my-research/
[6] http://contentmine.org/2015/11/contentmining-in-the-uk-a-contentmine-perspective/
Yours sincerely,

Peter Murray-Rust