While in recent years EFAMRO and ESOMAR European advocacy efforts have focussed on the EU update of the data protection framework, there is another important piece of legislation coming that may have an impact on Market Research: the Copyright Directive or InfoSoc directive (from information society).
This directive gives rights and responsibilities for the owner of intellectual property. As part of the EU’s agenda for a Single Digital Market, Europe has signalled its intentions to investigate whether this directive should be updated, and if so, which parts of it need revision. This review is drawing our attention, as it may prove unexpectedly beneficial for market research. There is rising interest in supporting the field of data mining, which involves analysing texts to derive their meaning, a technique increasing used by researchers for social media research.
Under the current legislation data mining is not generally allowed, as it breaches the reproduction right, i.e. only with the permission of the copyright owner, can a copy be created of the content. Nevertheless, it is now widely accepted that there are significant economic and societal benefits from data mining in all kind of fields.
This has resulted in the Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament adopting a report, which calls to allow the automated analysis of large bodies of text and data, i.e. data analysis. It establishes the European Parliament’s first positioning signal ahead of the upcoming copyright reform.
It pre-empts a proposal from the European Commission; see for an explanation of the legal procedure in the EU here. In their own words Parliament stresses the need to properly assess the enablement of automated analytical techniques for text and data (e.g. ‘text and data mining’ or ‘content mining’) for research purposes, provided that permission to read the work has been acquired.
In meantime the European Commission is also investigating how the InfoSoc directive should be updated. One of the studies it has commissioned looks specifically at text and data mining in the current legal framework. The reports put out a clear call to make a specific exemption to facilitate data analysis for scientific research in an updated copyright environment.
It, however, advises to have several restrictions for this exemption. For example, the primary goal should be scientific research, as opposed to the more general research definition used by Parliament. Furthermore, it argues that the primary aim is for non-commercial activities, although it would only apply where justified by non-commercial purposes. It has yet to be seen, however, how the Commission will adapt these recommendations in their proposal. These reports are only the very first steps in the process of updating the Directive.
So while voices are starting to call for an exemption for data mining, there is still a long road ahead of us. As a research community we should make the case how our research benefits from data mining, and how this creates social value for society as a whole.
Associations will play a critical role in making sure that regulators understand this, and are aware that the distinction between commercial and non-commercial research is artificial and that it not just scientific research, but also applied research – like market research, that creates benefits for the society.