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CLARIN seminars on legal issues in Pisa

Blog post by Aleksei Kelli (University of Tartu) and Riccardo Del Gratta (Institute of Computational Linguistics “Antonio Zampolli” ILC of Italian National Research Council )

The CLARIN Mobility Grant helped to organise the competency building seminars and case study sessions (from 5th to 7th of November 2019) in Pisa (Italy). The event was organised by the Institute of Computational Linguistics “Antonio Zampolli” ILC of Italian National Research Council and coordinated by Dr. Monica Monachini and Dr. Riccardo Del Gratta. Seminars and case studies were conducted by Professor Aleksei Kelli form the University of Tartu who shared his experience in the field of intellectual property, personal data protection and open science and data. The aim was to enhance competencies relating to legal aspects of language research and strengthen interdisciplinary cooperation within CLARIN.

The event started with two introductory seminars covering copyright and personal data issues relating to language research. During the workshops, basic concepts of copyright and personal data protection were interactively discussed. Particular attention was given to legal bases to use language data. Generally speaking, legal bases for use in copyright and personal data fields can be divided into two main categories: 1) consent; 2) research exception. The main focus of presentations was on the latest developments in the field such as the adoption of the Directive (EU) 2019/790 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2019 on copyright and related rights in the Digital Single Market and the General Data Protection Regulation. The introductory seminars created a framework for the analysis of different case studies. Participants became aware of the main legal issues.

The participants had diverse backgrounds covering (computational) linguistics, (computational) philology and computer science. Each participant was a representative from different research laboratories at the ILC. The participants explained their cases and received feedback. Each presented case study had the same structure: research needs, legal issues, possible solutions. According to participants, the prior seminars were beneficial since they made them more aware of legal issues which have implications for their research.

Furthermore, the proposed solutions offer them many alternative opportunities to continue their research and made aware of legal situation. From the methodological point of view, our adopted approach proved to be functional. It is useful to have introductory lectures to cover basic legal concepts before case analyses. This helps participants to explain their legal problems more in-depth and focused manner.

The case study sessions were organised for the entire day. We covered several cases. Personal data protection was a popular topic. A couple of case studies related to the General Data Protection Regulation. One concerned the use of social media data and the other personal data contained in the logs of offered services.

There was also a need to explain the distinction between ownership of material objects and copyright. The case concerned the use of materials owned by a foundation. It is important to emphasise that the ownership of a manuscript does not mean that its owner has copyright and can publish the material.

There was a case which showed that used materials may have different legal regimes. Critical editions and oral archives fall into this typology. Critical editions integrate various sources with different legal regimes (some of material is in public domain (it is not protected by copyright anymore) and some of it copyright-protected). The creation of critical editions involves creativity which expression is copyright-protected. For instance, when editors of critical editions make a conjecture or an interpretation of a word in text, this conjecture or interpretation is her protected original creation.

One case served as an example that legal issues are not limited to copyright. The performer’s rights are relevant, as well. The case concerned oral archives containing ethnomusicological materials. In the case of oral materials, there is a need to address performers’ rights in addition to copyright.

Trade mark law is not usually seen as a relevant branch of law when it comes to language research. However, the last case was connected to trade marks and their use in language resources. It is a well-known linguistic process when a proper noun becomes a synonym of a common noun. The trade mark owner wants to avoid this situation because this can result in the loss of a trade mark. According to the Directive (EU) 2015/2436 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2015 to approximate the laws of the Member States relating to trade marks trade marks are declared invalid if they “consist exclusively of signs or indications which have become customary in the current language” (Art. 4 (1) (d)).

In such cases, there could potentially be a legal dispute if a trade mark has been reduced to a common word and as a common word distributed in a dictionary. The Trade mark directive even has a specific regulation how to deal with the use of trade marks in similar situations: “If the reproduction of a trade mark in a dictionary, encyclopaedia or similar reference work, in print or electronic form, gives the impression that it constitutes the generic name of the goods or services for which the trade mark is registered, the publisher of the work shall, at the request of the proprietor of the trade mark, ensure that the reproduction of the trade mark is, without delay, and in the case of works in printed form at the latest in the next edition of the publication, accompanied by an indication that it is a registered trade mark” (Art. 12).

During the last day, we had a concluding seminar which addressed and categorised the main problems discussed in the case study sessions. The final presentation concentrated on issues relating to the dissemination of language data and open data policies.

The visit had many positive outcomes. Firstly, it helped to enhance participants’ competencies in the field of copyright and personal data protection. Secondly, the visit provided opportunities to strengthen future cooperation. Specific steps as co-authored publications were planned. All this was possible because of the CLARIN mobility grant.