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CLARIN's vision on copyright reform in the EU

In december 2013, the European Commission launched a public consultation as part of its on-going efforts to review and modernise EU copyright rules. The consultation invited stakeholders to share their views on improving the availability of copyright-protected content online in the EU. 

In response to this request, CLARIN ERIC has submitted its vision on copyright reform. Krister Lindén and Erik Ketzan, chairs of the CLARIN Legal and Ethical Issues Committee (CLIC), explain why this is such an important topic.

Research on 'big data' is of crucial importance for scientific progress in Europe. Scholars of arts and humanities, information science, and social studies do research on language material such as films and TV series, lyrics, music, e-books, magazines, journals and newspapers.

Much of the currently licensed language material for this research is bound to institutions or research groups which have made individual deals with news corporations and publishing houses. As a consequence, the access is typically limited to these research groups, which cannot provide access to their material to other scholars via research infrastructures like CLARIN.

From a research perspective, an additional big obstacle is the copyright protection on language material from the 1860s onward. The copyright of this material, which is often out of print, may not yet have expired and its owners are likely to be traceable only at costs exceeding by far the business interests the copyright is intended to protect. Essentially, such material is lost to current researchers as it would be too costly to curate, if the aim is to do research in the humanities of social sciences.

The simplest way to solve this situation is to introduce a mandatory exception for research on copyrighted material in all EU Member States.

Such exceptions are already available in the US, the UK and Australia, thus consolidating these countries dominance of research and innovation with regard to the English language.