Open Access Groups Aim to Revolutionize Law Around Big Data in the Digital Age

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Open Access Groups Aim to Revolutionize Law Around Big Data in the Digital Age

By honoring new Declaration, 'research practices could be revolutionized and lives could literally be saved,' says IP expert
(Photo: Mark Rain/flickr/cc)

"The right to receive and impart information and ideas is guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but the modern application of IP law often limits this right, even when these most simple building blocks of knowledge are used." (Photo: Mark Rain/flickr/cc)

More than 50 organizations on Wednesday released the groundbreaking Hague Declaration on Knowledge Discovery in the Digital Age, aimed at eliminating the barriers that stop humans from accessing and analyzing the "mountains of data" being produced each and every day. 

"In the current era, we are producing data in far greater quantities than ever before," according to the Declaration's website—a full 90 percent of the world's data has been created in the last two years. "Harnessing the data deluge has been recognized as having the potential to help find solutions for some of society’s biggest challenges, such as climate change, health and demographic change, depleting natural resources, and globalization."

"The right to receive and impart information and ideas is guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but the modern application of IP law often limits this right, even when these most simple building blocks of knowledge are used."
—Association of European Research Libraries

However, it continues: "Whilst the benefits of access to data and the use of techniques such as Text and Data Mining (TDM) to analyze data have been widely acknowledged, the reality is that there are major barriers preventing access to and exploitation of data."

These issues, according to the groups behind the Declaration, include prohibitive intellectual property laws, a lack of legal certainty around copyright protections, a skills gap, and a lack of infrastructure for mining and sharing what the Declaration refers to as 'Big Data'.

According to a press release (pdf) from the Association of European Research Libraries, or LIBER, which led the drafting of the document, "[C]opyright was never designed to regulate the sharing of facts, data and ideas‒nor should it. The right to receive and impart information and ideas is guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but the modern application of IP law often limits this right, even when these most simple building blocks of knowledge are used."

To combat such challenges, 25 global experts in everything from metadata mining to information sharing to contract law gathered in December 2014 to craft the set of principles now known as the Hague Declaration, which they believe "will help shape ethical research practice, legislative reform and the development of open access policies and infrastructure."

By achieving these goals, said LIBER president Kristiina Hormia-Poutanen, "[r]esearch practices could be revolutionized and lives could literally be
saved."

Among the Declaration's signatories is the non-profit organization Creative Commons—under whose Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License Common Dreams content is published—which said in a statement:

One of the key principles recognized in the declaration is that intellectual property law does not regulate the flow of facts, data, and ideas–and that licenses and contract terms should not regulate or restrict how an individual may analyze or use data. It supports the notion that “the right to read is the right to mine”, and that facts, data, and ideas should never be considered to be under the protection of copyright. To realize the massive, positive potential for data and content analysis to help solve major scientific, medical, and environmental challenges, it’s important that intellectual property laws and private contracts—do not restrict practices such as text and data mining.

Visit the Hague Declaration website for an infographic that illustrates both the problem, and what can be done to fix it.

The Declaration's backers also produced this short video:

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