Youth research

Enabling the future of youth research through copyright

Sean Flynn. American University, PIJIP
Cross posted on the Education International blog, Link.

This year, World Intellectual Property Day is devoted to the theme of youth empowerment. The focus is on recognizing the role of young people “who rise to the challenges of innovation, using their energy and ingenuity, curiosity and creativity to chart the course for a better future”. Exclusive intellectual property rights can play a certain role in rewarding the innovative activities of young people. But more often than not, exclusive intellectual property rights can work the other way around – posing a barrier to accessing and using the protected materials that young people need to learn, innovate and grow. This is one of the reasons why our attention to intellectual property today must also include limitations and exceptions to intellectual property.

Inappropriate Copyright Laws in the Digital Age: Text and Data Mining (TDM) Research

the Information Justice and Intellectual Property Program (PIJIP) analyzes the extent to which copyright exceptions in each country can enable text and data mining: a computer research method used to analyze large amounts of text or data in articles, books, databases data and other sources for the purpose of discovering patterns and relationships or analyzing semantics. Text and data mining (TDM) research is helping to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges, including the discovery of COVID [1]development of vaccines and treatments [2]and analysis of hate speech and misinformation on social networks [3]. Unfortunately, as the benefits of GDT research become increasingly apparent, so do the legal complexities posed by copyright and other regulations.

A patchwork of laws and regulations determine whether researchers are allowed to use TDM in their research projects. To engage in TDM, researchers must create a “corpus” of material to be extracted, use software to analyze text and data from the corpus (often making temporary copies), but also communicate research results. and the underlying data to researchers. and the public. Sharing material with others is crucial for validation, collaboration and dissemination of results. Often, academic and commercial applications of TDM occur across borders, with researchers, subjects, and materials located in more than one country. All of these activities with articles, books, web pages, social media content, and other research topics are likely subject to copyright.

Copyright Exceptions for Research

One of the ways we enable research with copyrighted works is by limiting the scope of copyright protection or exceptions to the application of copyright for certain purposes. From its earliest days, copyright law has always recognized the need for exceptions to exclusive rights to pursue research and learning. The United States Constitution grants Congress the right to pass copyright law to promote “science”, and the main purpose of the first English copyright law was to promote “the ‘learning”. The 1886 Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works explicitly protected the right of countries to adopt exceptions to copyright for “educational or scientific” purposes. And the more recent 1996 World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty records the goal of “maintaining a balance between the rights of authors and the wider public interest, in particular the education, research and access to information”.

PIJIP research shows that every law includes at least one exception that can be used for research or educational purposes (sometimes referred to as “private” use). The bad news is that many global laws are not suited to the purposes of the digital age.

Our research shows that a distinct minority of countries around the world – including many of the wealthiest – allow the use of text and data extracted from copyrighted materials. Figure 1 shows the results using the following color scheme:

  • Green (46 countries) – only these countries have research exceptions broad enough to allow collaborative TDM research (ie including the sharing of work between researchers) by any user, with any type of work. In all other countries, copyright is an obstacle to at least some uses of TDM.
  • Yellow: (125 countries) – these countries have exceptions that allow certain uses of certain types of certain works sufficient to enable certain TDM projects. But researchers should carefully consider the myriad restrictions on their use rights with respect to any given project. Use only with caution.
  • Red (10 countries) – these countries have no exceptions authorizing the use of entire works for research or teaching purposes. They are essentially closed to legal TDM research unless licensed by copyright holders.

The work of the PIJIP on the analysis of the rights to education and research is not finished. We are currently mapping education exceptions and seeing a similar pattern where only a small fraction of the world allows online use of educational materials.

Towards copyright law reform enabling text and data mining and other forms of research

There are a number of steps policymakers can take to ensure that GDT research is unambiguously permitted under intellectual property laws.

international treaty. One way to ensure that all countries allow SLM research is to enter into a binding international treaty. An international treaty could require all members to adhere to a minimum standard for copyright limitations and exceptions and require those exceptions to apply across borders. It is a long-standing position of Education International.

Interior reform. Laws can also be changed at the national level. The studies noted above show where the biggest problems lie. Advocates could use the information to target requests for law reform or clarification to enable research and other essential uses. Where they do – a key criterion for good law is that exceptions are open to all works, all protected uses and all users. Very specific exceptions are less likely to be useful in the digital environment.

The Way Forward: Education and Research Exceptions in the Digital Age

Young people can help resolve the intellectual property law issues that affect them most. Young people and their advocates and representatives must ensure that policymakers in their countries and in international forums prioritize updating laws in the digital age. Only then can we truly declare that we have done all we can to unleash the knowledge and energy of young people to promote the best vision of our common future.

1. ^ Marc Prosser, How AI helped predict the coronavirus outbreak before it happened, Singularity Hub (05 February 2020),

2. ^ Will Chevalier, Researchers will deploy AI to better understand the coronavirusWIRED (March 17, 2020),

3. ^ “TDM Stories”. OPENED, (last visited March 29, 2022)

4. ^ Sean Flynn, Michael Palmedo, Andrés Izquierdo, Finding Exceptions in Comparative Copyright Law (PIJIP/TLS Research Paper Series No. 72-2021),