Association law

UK Publishers Association opposes copyright exception

The post-Brexit introduction of a new copyright exception by the UK government is raising alarm among publishers.

On Hampstead Heath in London on August 7, the grasses turned brown in the drought that affected southern and eastern England. Image – Getty iStockphoto: VV Blows

By Porter Anderson, Editor | @Porter_Anderson

At issue: text and data mining as an exception to copyright

A A new ‘copyright hotspot’ seems to have emerged on the publishing scene, and it’s in one of the world’s most accomplished book markets with a strong copyright framework. recognized internationally: the United Kingdom. The issue deserves careful and close monitoring by the global industry.

In an open letter sent to Publication prospects and available for download here (PDF), UK industry trade organisation, the Publishers Association, joins a group of sister publishing-focused entities to protest against the government’s introduction of a new exception to the copyright.

The publishers association and neighboring organizations collectively speak to what is called the publishers content forum to say that the newly determined copyright exemption “would allow free text and data mining of any subscription-based content for commercial purposes“, underlines ours.

The Content Forum says the proposed exemption is inconsistent with the “three-step test” of the Berne Convention of 1896 – Berne is presented here by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) – and with Article 13 of the agreement on commercial aspects of intellectual property. Intellectual Property Rights or TRIPS.

The coalition of organizations signing the letter includes:

  • Association of Publishers of Learned and Professional Societies
  • Independent Publishers Guild
  • News Media Association
  • Access to NLA media
  • Press database and licensing network
  • Association of Professional Publishers
  • Association of Publishers
  • Publisher Licensing Services

And here is a very brief history of what these organizations envision.

The government statement

In particular, the government’s “results of the consultation” document on this decision – which you can find and read here – relates to three positions that the Intellectual Property Office takes in relation to “artificial intelligence and intellectual property”.

In two of the three posts, one involving computer-generated works and the other involving AI-designed inventions, the Intellectual Property Office says it is not proposing any changes to existing legislation.

It is in the second of the three positions – “copyright licenses or exceptions for text and data mining (TDM), which is often important in the use and development of artificial intelligence – that the office has raised red flags, from the collective perspective of Content Forum editors.

Here is what the Intellectual Property Office writes:

“For text and data mining, we plan to introduce a new copyright and database exception that allows TDM [text and data mining] for whatever purpose.

“Rights holders will always have safeguards to protect their content, including a lawful access requirement.”

Under the title “Exploration of texts and data”, the government document discusses the government’s inquiry into the consultation period and various elements of the response. In the last point of his summary (numbered 38), we read:The government has decided to introduce a new copyright and database exception that allows TDM [text and data mining] for any purposein the sense of option 4. This option is the most favorable to AI and innovation in the broad sense”, the emphasis being ours again.

“We believe the government’s decision to create a broad copyright exception will seriously undermine the UK’s intellectual property framework, conflict with international law and unintentionally provide international rights holders and research organizations with not based in the UK a competitive advantage.”Publisher Content Forum

An “options and answers” section and another titled “other mining issues” then follow this summary.

Finally, in conclusion, several points stand out. For example, the government writes that the ‘copyright and database law exception’ which it has ‘decided to introduce’ ‘will bring benefits to a wide range of stakeholders in the UK. These include researchers, AI developers, small businesses, cultural heritage institutions, journalists and engaged citizens.Targeted products and services will benefit businesses and customers.Research results could also benefit the general public. This could be, for example, by supporting research and innovation in public health. Some in the creative industries also use GDT and AI to understand their market or create new works – they will also see the benefits. The benefits will reduce the time needed to obtain permission from multiple rights holders and no licensing fees to pay. This will speed up the GDT process and development of AI.”

And, for those of our international readership who may be wondering if Brexit has any bearing on this, this is confirmed in point 60: “These changes make the most of the greater post-Brexit flexibilities. They will help make the UK more competitive as a location for data mining companies.

The Publishers Content Forum protest

The publishing community leaders’ response letter to the government was dated July 25 and sent to Kwasi Kwarteng, the secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy.

The Publisher Content Forum writes:

“We believe the government’s decision to create a broad copyright exception will seriously undermine the UK’s intellectual property framework, conflict with international law and unintentionally provide international rights holders and research organizations with non-UK based competitive advantage.

“The proposed exception will have a serious negative impact on UK rightsholders and create an unfairness that will benefit those who use the content for text and data mining purposes. The immediate consequences of the exception will be that, without the ability to license and receive payment for the use of their data and content, some companies will have no choice but to exit the UK market or apply paywalls where the Access to content is currently free.

“The UK’s world-leading copyright framework is fundamental to the success of the UK publishing industry, as well as the wider creative economy. It allows individuals and businesses across the country to invest in and create a multitude of different products, from novels to academic journals, databases to newspapers.

“We welcome the government’s recognition of the strength of this framework and its commitment to maintaining its status. In a response to a written parliamentary question published on June 1, 2022, the Minister for Business, Energy and Corporate Accountability said that the UK’s intellectual property framework is consistently ranked among the best in the world and confirmed that the government intended it to stay way.

“The UK’s strong national copyright framework has played an important role in trying to raise copyright standards around the world through free trade agreements. Promoting high standards of copyright abroad is essential for the protection of UK content that is so widely exported.

The conclusion of the publishing industry coalition is that “the proposed exception would not only damage the UK’s copyright framework and its publishing industry, but also its reputation abroad. as a world leader in copyright”.

What follows is an exercise in diplomacy, with the member associations of the Publishers Content Forum stipulating their common desire “to be a constructive voice in any discussion of how copyright can help the growth of innovation in the Kingdom -United”.

The coalition points out: “After reviewing the responses to the government’s consultation, we do not recognize much of the criticism of the licensing system” and asks for confirmation that “in reviewing the decision you will consider the evidence provided on the impact of the proposed exception and the current licensing market.

The publishing group concludes by requesting a meeting with Kwarteng “to further discuss our concerns, present data to show how the licensing system works and the size of the market, and provide information on potential opportunities that licensees rights may have to contribute to the successful achievement of government AI and innovation objectives.

To learn more about the British Publishers Association, click here, click here to learn more about the UK market, and click here to learn more about copyright and the debates surrounding it.

To learn more about the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and its impact on international book publishing, click here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident member of Trends Research & Advisory, and was named International Business Journalist of the Year at the London Book Fair’s International Excellence Awards. He is the editor of Publishing Perspectives. He was previously associate editor of The FutureBook at The Bookseller in London. Anderson was a senior producer and anchor for, CNN International and CNN USA for more than a decade. As an art critic (National Critics Institute), he has collaborated with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which is now owned and operated by Jane Friedman.