The Hague Declaration

“Big Data can reshape the world and save lives. By analyzing it, we can find answers to challenges such as climate change and global epidemics. Economies can be stimulated. Innovation can be fostered.  But first, Intellectual property law must change and access to technology must be improved, making facts, data and ideas equally accessible for everyone.”

The Ligue des Bibliothèques Européennes de Recherche (LIBER), launched The Hague Declaration on Knowledge Discovery in the Digital Age in Brussels on 6 May 2015. IFLA is an original signatory to the Declaration which aims to foster agreement about how to best enable access to facts, data and ideas for knowledge discovery in the Digital Age. We believe that by removing barriers to accessing and analyzing the wealth of data produced by society, we can find answers to great challenges such as climate change, depleting natural resources and globalization. However, current legislative frameworks, including copyright, do not always support the introduction of new approaches to research, in particular the mining of content. The Declaration endorses the following principles to support a forward-thinking approach to content mining:

  1. Intellectual property was not designed to regulate the free flow of facts, data and ideas, but has as a key objective the promotion of research activity
  2. People should have the freedom to analyze and pursue intellectual curiosity without fear of monitoring or repercussions
  3. Licenses and contract terms should not restrict individuals from using facts, data and ideas
  4. Ethics around the use of content mining techniques will need to continue to evolve in response to changing technology
  5. Innovation and commercial research based on the use of facts, data, and ideas should not be restricted by intellectual property law

The Declaration sets out a roadmap to undertake advocacy in support of better policies, infrastructure and tools. The launch of the Declaration, on the day that the European Commission launched its Digital Single Market Strategy, is very timely. 

Why is this important?

Libraries have the opportunity to seize the information society and strengthen their role as agents for sustainable development. However, they are continuously faced with challenges on restrictions for content mining. While facts and data are not protected by intellectual property laws, the text, documents or databases that are mined may well be subject to copyright, related rights and/or database rights. The extraction and copying of content one already has legal access to, and its transformation into a machine readable format, can touch on the rights holder’s exclusive reproduction right. In addition, technical protection measures attached to content pose further restrictions. IFLA is an advocate for copyright reform and The Hague Declaration echoes our commitment to a fit-for-purpose international copyright framework (IFLA’s Statement on Text and Data Mining and IFLA’s work at WIPO) that provides sufficient protection for creativity and access to information without restricting essential research and development to the public interest.

Moving forward

The Hague Declaration on Knowledge Discovery in the Digital Age is a distinct framework as it asks policy makers to provide legal clarity on copyright issues, while allowing citizens as well as small-medium sized entrepreneurial businesses (SMEs) and libraries to follow suite and sign. IFLA will like to take this opportunity to urge you to promote access to open information and data in your area by signing the Declaration!

For more information on these issues, please visit our Copyright Limitations and Exceptions for Libraries & Archives webpages.