[open-science] text-mining restrictions - a plea for more information

john wilbanks wilbanks at creativecommons.org
Sun Apr 17 19:39:47 UTC 2011

>     We have also heard tell of the existence of such clauses, but also
>     have not been able to secure first-hand evidence for them.  It would
>     be very nice to promote this from "anecdotal" to "documented", and I
>     would like here to put out a wider plea for anyone who might be able
>     to provide the language of these contractual retrictions.
>       Alternatively, I would welcome suggestions for how we are to know
>     what exactly we are prohibited from doing in light of the
>     confidential nature of the contracts.

Here's an example: http://orpheus-1.ucsd.edu/acq/license/cdlelsevier2004.pdf

(see section 1.2a, GTC 1)

Most of these contracts are indeed confidential, and they are as 
enforceable as contracts ever are.

>     If copyright holders really wish to enforce such restrictions, it
>     seems odd that their very existence is little more than a rumor. Can
>     secret restrictions be legally enforced?

Secrecy is orthogonal to the question; it's just another term in the 
contract. If the signer of a contract agrees to give up rights, 
including the right to talk about giving up rights, then that's their 
choice. If the signer decides to break contract and publish the details, 
then they lose the rest of the contract, including the right to use the 
copyrighted works in this case. The copyright holder could pursue a 
contracts case and shut off access to the copyrighted works.

I actually would not get worked up about whether or not the contracts 
are secret. Lots of deals are private for lots of reasons, and spending 
cycles on why deals or private or if those deals are good or bad isn't 
worthwhile. Asking simple questions like "did you waive the right to 
index or text mine" is a lot more worthwhile than asking "why isn't the 
deal public" IMHO.

Also note efforts such as Nature's text mining interface 
(http://opentextmining.org/wiki/Main_Page) to use technology to make 
text mining possible without access to the articles themselves, and the 
weakness of using "open" as a metric, because one can provide "open" 
access under many definitions to an article but render it essentially 
impossible to text mine by using PDF inarticulately.



> --
> Peter Murray-Rust
> Reader in Molecular Informatics
> Unilever Centre, Dep. Of Chemistry
> University of Cambridge
> CB2 1EW, UK
> +44-1223-763069
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John Wilbanks
VP for Science
Creative Commons
web: http://creativecommons.org/science
blog: http://scienceblogs.com/commonknowledge
twitter: @wilbanks

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