National and EU text and data mining exceptions: room for coexistence?

If only all mining activities
were these cheerful!
A few days ago this blog reported that Irish Government has recently proposed the introduction into Irish law (new section 53A of the Copyright Act) of a copyright exception for text and data mining (TDM).

From an EU standpoint, the most interesting aspects of the Irish proposal are probably the following:
  • First, its timing: while it is true that a TDM exception was first proposed in the 2013 Modernising Copyright Report, an actual initiative of that Member State's Government comes at a time when discussion is well underway to introduce a mandatory TDM exception at the EU level [Article 3 of the Proposal for a Directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market - on the EU proposal see further here and here]
  • Secondly, the different scope of the Irish exception [which would be derived from Article 5(3)(a) of the InfoSoc Directive] and the EU exception, in the sense that the former – while only allowing non-commercial TDM – would not limit the catalogue of beneficiaries. The EU exception – at least in the version proposed by the EU Commission - would instead be available to ‘research organisations’.
Following the publication of the IPKat post, I have engaged in some discussions on whether and to what extent national TDM exceptions – having a different scope from the EU one – would survive after the introduction of an EU exception. Another question would be whether EU Member States could continue to rely on Article 5(3)(a) of the InfoSoc Directive to introduce their own TDM exceptions following the introduction of an EU exception.

These questions do not have an easy answer, especially if one looks at the text of the directive as originally proposed by the EU Commission.

Dreaming of freedom ...
The Commission’s version

Arguably, the text of the original Commission’s proposal does not leave room for national TDM exceptions.

If in fact one looks at Recital 5, the goal seems to be one of maximum harmonization, in the sense that other directives – including the InfoSoc Directive and its TDM exception under the umbrella of the research exception – would only apply to “uses not covered by the exceptions or the limitation provided for in this Directive [ie the Directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market]”. 

This might mean that, as the new directive covers TDM, there will be no room for national transpositions of Article 5(3)(a) of the InfoSoc Directive to allow TDM that bypass the Directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market.

This conclusion appears reinforced if one also considers Recital 14, which highlights the shortcomings of TDM exceptions rooted within the InfoSoc Directive alone.

The Council’s latest version

However, things may be different if the version of the EU TDM exception eventually adopted was the one most recently proposed by the Council.

In fact, in this version (which would appear the last instance in which the Council has touched upon TDM), what is interesting is the wording of Recital 5 and Article 17.

First, Recital 5 states that “[t]he exceptions and limitations existing in Union law should continue to apply, including to text and data mining, education and preservation activities, as long as they do not limit the scope of the mandatory exceptions laid down in this Directive and on condition that their application does not adversely affect nor circumvent the mandatory rules set out in this Directive”. 

This would suggest that national TDM exceptions could survive after the adoption of this new directive, as long as certain conditions are satisfied. In a way, this solution appears to have points of resemblance with the grandfather clause in Article 5(3)(o) of the InfoSoc Directive.

... and freedom
Article 17(2)(b) requires that the InfoSoc Directive is amended, to the effect that exceptions adopted pursuant to Article 5(3)(a) will be without prejudice to the exceptions and the limitation provided for in the new directive … including TDM. 

This might suggest that, even after the introduction of an EU TDM exception, Member States could retain the freedom to introduce their own national (non-commercial) TDM exceptions, without any particular limitations as regards the types of beneficiaries.

While an approach of the kind suggested by the Council would have the merit of retaining some flexibility and national freedom as regards possible approaches to and regulation of TDM activities, it could also impair the goals of harmonization, including underlying internal market-building goals. In any case, an EU action of this kind would achieve minimum harmonization in the area of TDM (especially if the resulting EU exception was only aimed at research organisations), while substantial disparities might remain in place (or subsequently arise) at the EU level.

Next steps

The Bulgarian presidency of the Council is expected to continue its work and find compromise solutions that meet the approval of Member States. 

In parallel, the European Parliament is also working on the text of the directive, and the JURI Committee Rapporteur – MEP Voss – is expected to issue his Report sometime soon, the vote in that Committee being now scheduled for late April.
National and EU text and data mining exceptions: room for coexistence? National and EU text and data mining exceptions: room for coexistence? Reviewed by Eleonora Rosati on Thursday, March 22, 2018 Rating: 5

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