Wednesday 6 August 2008

Legal Issues from the JISC Innovation Forum (JIF)

Another thing that the Open Access overview highlighted is that OA is not limited to literature. It can apply to any digital content including raw and semi-raw data.

This reminded me of some of the discussion at the recent JISC Innovation Forum (JIF). The event was split into three themes and I was attending Theme b: Research data - Whose problem is it? The first session in our theme was ‘legal and policy issues’. The session took the form of a debate where Charles Oppenheim and I were debating the motion:

“Curating and sharing research data is best done where the researcher’s institution asserts IPR claims over the data”.

Charles was speaking for the motion and I was against. An open approach to data featured heavily in both the initial debate and the group discussion that followed.

A very brief summary of my argument in the debate is:

1. It is often best that IPR is not asserted because:

a. Often there is no IPR to assert in the data. Facts are not copyrightable therefore data that is merely fact is not copyrightable. We must also consider the database right but it should be noted that this is not as wide reaching as initially thought and covers databases not data.

b. Where IPRs do exist in the data, collaborations involving different jurisdictions, large numbers of institutions etc can make unravelling the ownership of those rights complicated. Large amounts of resources are spent/wasted agreeing these.

c. Open data has distinct advantages for downstream innovation. Look at the example of US public data. Science Commons now advocating waiving all rights and placing data in the public domain.

2. Answering counter argument of - don't we need IPRs as incentive to create? Well, in academic circles it is often more about attribution than economic advantage. As data merged and new data created this becomes more difficult. Answer for attribution lies in technology not IPR.

Mahendra Mahey kindly produced notes from the session (including coverage of Charles’ argument for the motion) which you can find by clicking on the link on the Legal and Policy Issues home page or by linking directly here.

What do you think? Do you agree with my argument (some of which is overstated for the purposes of the debate)? Or do you notice some flaws? I’m particularly interested in your thoughts on the legal aspects of sharing data.

No comments: