Copyright Advocacy and Text and Data Mining: Do We Really Need a New Exception?

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Friday, June 1, 2018, 9:30-10:00 Room 1700

Graeme Slaght – University of Toronto


Text and data mining (TDM) is a small but growing research activity at many universities and colleges, as well as in the private sector. Library-licensed resources are but one type of material that is being mined; others include social media, financial and government data, and any material that can described in a manner that machines can read. Libraries, publishers, and other organisations have each begun to support this still-nascent research methodology in a variety of ways, both traditional and innovative.

At libraries, there are two types of materials that can typically be mined: 1) library-hosted digital collections and 2) collections that libraries license from elsewhere. Supporting this research presents challenges to the current service and technical infrastructures of both libraries and publishers, and in response to slowly growing demand, many publishers have begun to offer their own services and APIs for researchers to gain access to licensed materials to perform TDM.

This year’s Copyright Act Review will likely consider whether to create a specific exception for TDM research. Other jurisdictions have already done this (the UK), or are in the process of doing so (the EU).  The US, on the other hand, has incorporated TDM into its fair use jurisprudence.

This paper will provide a brief overview of current support for TDM at the University of Toronto, which has included the effort to increase institutional knowledge of the “right to mine.” It will examine the results of advocacy efforts elsewhere, in order  to ask whether our 2018 advocacy efforts are best focused on advocating for a specific TDM exception, or rather on the continued ‘large and liberal’ incorporation of TDM into fair dealing. A specific exception would create a powerful user’s right; on the other hand, it also might delimit the scope of other existing exceptions under which TDM, even for commercial purposes, could already be safely performed.


Graeme Slaght is the Copyright Outreach Librarian, University of Toronto Scholarly Communications & Copyright Office

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