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IP boost for research takes a step closer

The government is consulting on changing intellectual property law to benefit researchers, in response to recommendations made in the Hargreaves review of intellectual property, published in May this year.

In August the government committed itself to introducing the reforms and on 14 December it published a consultation in advance of introducing formal proposals as part of a white paper next year.

According to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the reforms would include widening the exception for non-commercial research in copyright law to allow data mining.

This involves running association-seeking software across large numbers of documents, looking for trends and patterns within existing data and research. Currently, researchers cannot mine data from journal articles they have already paid to access, without specific copyright permission.

The Wellcome Trust has estimated that at present 87 per cent of the material in the UK PubMed Central database cannot legally be used for text and data mining as it would violate current copyright law.

The proposals also include plans to establish licensing and clearance procedures for ‘orphan works’, material with unknown copyright owners. This would open up a number of works to researchers that lie unused in libraries and museums.

The reforms will also look to modernise rules on exceptions to copyright, including those for education.

The consultation runs until 21 March 2012, with the government set to produce a white paper on the topic later in the spring of 2012.

“The Government is focused on boosting growth and some freeing up of existing copyright legislation can deliver real value to the UK economy without risking our excellent creative industries,” said IP minister Judith Wilcox, in a statement.

The original review was authored by Ian Hargreaves, a professor of digital economy at the Cardiff School of Journalism and a former editor of the Independent newspaper.