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Mining Barriers

A change in copyright laws in Europe could help researchers who are using automated harvesting techniques to extract relevant data from vast troves of published research papers, a new European Commission report urges.

The report, drafted by a group of legal experts, recommends that researchers in Europe are having a harder time doing text and data mining (TDM) than their colleagues in the US and Asia, most likely because of "disadvantages created by the European legal framework," Nature News reports.

Researchers say that if they have lawful access to papers as readers then they also should have the right to use software to trawl through those papers for bits of interest.

But that is not the case under European law, the report says. Text and data mining requires the permission of a paper's copyright holder, and while publishers have taken some steps to make mining easier, their "piecemeal" approach won’t scale up very well, and it still leaves too much power in publisher's hands, the report says.

The authors recommend that a short term fix would be to create a specific and mandatory legal exception that would enable text and data mining to bypass European copyright laws. A more lasting solution would be to overhaul European copyright law entirely, because as it is it poses barriers to research in the digital age, they say.