Support for call for changes to Intellectual Property laws to give equal access to knowledge

More than 500 global organisations and individuals have signed up to support The Hague Declaration on Knowledge Discovery in the Digital Age.

The Hague Declaration on Knowledge Discovery in the Digital Age, which calls for immediate changes to IP laws and the removal of other barriers in order to make data more widely and equally accessible, was launched last month in Brussels. At time of writing, more than 500 organisations and individuals have signed up to support its aims. Signatories include LIBER, the Association of European Research Libraries (which led efforts to write the declaration), other library associations such as ARL, CERL, EBLIDA, IFLA and Research Libraries UK, and groups including Europeana and Creative Commons.

According to the Declaration, copyright was never designed to regulate the sharing of facts, data and ideas -- nor should it. The modern application of IP law often limits the right (guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) to receive and impart information. “It (is) essential for researchers and society to be able to use modern techniques and tools to help them make new discoveries” said Kristiina Hormia Poutanen, President of LIBER. “Research practices could be revolutionised and lives could literally be saved, if we can achieve better access to the knowledge contained within Big Data.”

The Declaration points out that current legislative frameworks in different legal jurisdictions may not be cast in a way which supports the introduction of new approaches to research, and in particular content mining, which works by copying large quantities of material, extracting the data, and recombining it to identify patterns and trends.

The Declaration states that all members of  society should be able to benefit equally from advances in the availability of digital technology and content, and this requires the creation of a set of five principles around access to facts, data and ideas:

  • intellectual property was not designed to regulate the free flow of facts, data and ideas, but has as a key objective the promotion of research activity;
  • people should have the freedom to analyse and pursue intellectual curiosity without fear of monitoring or repercussions;
  • licences and contract terms should not restrict individuals from using facts, data and ideas;
  • ethics around the use of content mining techniques will need to continue to evolve; and 
  • innovation and commercial research based on the use of facts, data and ideas should not be restricted by intellectual property law.

According to the Declaration, “It is recognised that while patent law is designed to protect innovations and inventions, this is not meant to encompass facts and data. Restrictions on the use of facts, data and ideas can have a serious impact on innovation and on economic development globally. It can also reduce the ability to use tools and processes which can benefit citizens in the areas of health, science, employment, research, the environment and culture.”

The Declaration goes on to set out a ‘roadmap for action’, including policy and incentives, infrastructure and tools, and advocacy to promote the benefits of content mining.

“The Hague Declaration is an important step in demonstrating the common vision that knowledge discovery and reuse should not be constrained by existing legal frameworks and uncertainty”, said Will Greenacre, Policy Officer at the Wellcome Trust. “In particular, we are advocating for reform of copyright law at European level to permit data and text mining for all uses, both commercial and non-commercial.” 

Find out more about The Hague Declaration here.