The Government has now issued its response to the Hargreaves Review, which sets out a number of suggestions for the reform of English intellectual property law in order to keep up with new developments in computer technology and the internet age. In its response, full details of which can be found here, the Government proposes reform in two areas which are likely to benefit the HE sector; orphan works and text mining. If implemented, both these proposed changes will open up previously unavailable resources to researchers, academics and students.
Works for which no owner can be found or contacted - “orphan works” - are an untapped source of information as researches have not been able to reproduce any of the material in their own work to correctly reference it. The proposal is to introduce a scheme which will allow both commercial and cultural use of these orphan works where the owner of the work cannot be contacted after a diligent search.
Text mining is a process by which researchers search large amounts of published works to extract information relevant to their research. Currently, owners of copyright can effectively veto the use of text found in this way even where the text was obtained lawfully. The Government regards this effective veto power of publishers as inappropriate where the activity itself is for the public benefit, for example medical research. The Government therefore proposes a reform of the rights to use copyright material and a widening of the exception for non-commercial research.