Press release

Wellcome Trust welcomes Hargreaves Review on reform of UK copyright system

The Wellcome Trust supports the recommendations of the Hargreaves Review for reform of the UK copyright system. Such reform is urgently needed to update a system that is no longer fit for purpose in the digital age and acts as a major barrier to research and innovation.

In particular, we strongly endorse the need for a specific exception to copyright legislation to enable text and data mining for non-commercial research purposes. This will enable researchers to efficiently identify new insights and connections from the wealth of information contained in published scientific literature and data. Accelerating discovery and innovation and sparking new breakthroughs will benefit both human health and the UK economy. With the amount of research data doubling every three years, data and text mining tools are becoming an ever more integral component of the scientific enterprise.

The present copyright system also obstructs efforts to make valuable historical collections accessible for legitimate research uses. For example, a case study presented in the report describes how giving researchers access to information contained in a collection of research papers detailing one-off experiments on malaria undertaken in the first half of the twentieth century could enhance our understanding of the disease and open up new avenues for treatment. The current system - which requires identifying rights owners of individual works and negotiating permissions - creates a major barrier to initiatives of this type.

We therefore support the Review's call for new legislation to enable access to so-called "orphan works" and the introduction of an archiving exception to allow copying for preservation purposes. We also welcome the recommendation to create a digital rights exchange, which could greatly simplify the process of identifying rights-holders.

To ensure that legitimate exceptions to copyright are realised, we also strongly support the need to enact supporting legislation so that these exceptions cannot be overridden through contractual terms.

Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, says: "We welcome the recommendations of the Hargreaves Review in identifying the key actions required to bring the UK copyright system into the 21st century and address the barriers it creates for research and innovation. We urge the Government to move without delay to implement these much-needed reforms."