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White Paper — Open Science in a Digital Republic

Scientific and Technical Information Department - CNRS

The future: open digital science

Proposals to be firmed up, avenues for the future

Texte intégral

Positive right to text and data mining

Guiding principles

1TDM is a crucial scientific, economic and human challenge for French research.

2French researchers must not be discriminated against relative to their foreign counterparts, or the result will be a two-tier research community, which would threaten partnerships with foreign research institutions.

3It is necessary to establish a legal framework for TDM, which can be accomplished in two ways:

  • the “exception to copyright” path, which is the one chosen by the French Parliament;

  • the “positive right” path, which could be an alternative model to the exception.

Introducing an exception to copyright and to the rights of database creators

4In the framework of the revision of the InfoSoc Directive 2001/29/, the European Union is aware of the need to regulate the practice of TDM. This will undoubtedly lead to a proposal to insert in the revised InfoSoc Directive an exception to copyright and to the rights of database creators, to facilitate text and data mining.

5Several reports have been written, all of which are in favour of introducing regulations covering TDM:

    • 1 CSPLA report, page 8.

    the Sirinelli Report for the CSPLA, Rapport de la mission sur la révision de la directive 2001/29/CE sur l’harmonisation de certains aspects du droit d’auteur et des droits voisins dans la société de l’information (Report of the mission on the revision of Directive 2001/29/EC on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society), of December 2014, which calls for the “creation of new copyright exceptions, in particular for so-called ‘text and data mining’ (TDM) activities”;1

  • the study by Wolf & Partners in March 2014, entitled Study on the legal framework of text and data mining (TDM),2 for the European Commission;

  • a group of experts from the European Commission also published in April 2014 a report entitled Standardisation in the area of innovation and technological development, notably in the field of text and data mining;3

  • the Reda Report: this report, adopted by the European Parliament on 9 July 2015, “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”;

  • the European Commission press release of 9 December 2015 presenting the measures to improve access to online content and the Commission’s vision of an overhauled copyright.

6The official summary of the public consultation specifies that “European law does not currently make it possible to create new exceptions, and the Government hopes that this issue [TDM] can be addressed in the framework of the European work in progress”.

7Indeed, a revised draft directive is expected for early 2016. However, at least two to three years will be required before this Directive is accepted and an additional two years for it to be transposed into French law. French research cannot afford such a delay and the risk of reducing its partnerships with foreign universities or research units, slowing the pace of research for scientists, and relegating French research irremediably to the practices of another age.

8Bill – adopted text No. 663. As part of the parliamentary debate on the Digital Republic Bill, members of the French National Assembly of different political persuasions supported the introduction of an amendment favouring text and data mining. The following text was adopted:

Article 18 bis (new)

The Intellectual Property Code is modified as follows:

1° After the second subparagraph of 9° of Article L. 122-5, a 10° shall be inserted as follows:

“10° Digital copies or reproductions made from a lawful source, in view of the exploration of texts and data for public research needs, excluding any commercial purpose. A decree lays down the conditions under which the exploration of texts and data is implemented, as well as the terms for storage and communication of the files produced on conclusion of the research activities for which they were produced; these files constitute the research data;”

2° After 4° of Article L. 342-3, a 5° shall be inserted as follows:

“5° Digital copies or reproductions of the base made by a person with lawful access, in view of text and data mining in a research framework, excluding any commercial purpose. The storage and communication of technical copies resulting from processing, on conclusion of the research activities for which they were produced, are carried out by organisations appointed by decree. Other copies or reproductions are destroyed.”

9The parliamentarians chose to establish a legal framework for text and data mining via an exception to copyright and to the right of database creators. This choice can only be welcomed, and the authors of the White Paper encourage the definitive adoption of this article. The creation of a positive law, sectored to research disciplines, could be a potential alternative to the exception.

The creation of a positive right in the Research Code: A potential alternative

10Taking into account the fundamental importance of TDM for research and of the calendar constraints mentioned in §363, it would be recommended to consider a potential alternative with the introduction of a positive right in the Research Code to carry out processing and mining operations on scientific data, research data and scientific publications.

11Higher interests of research. This proposal does not constitute an exception to copyright even though it seems constitutionally fragile and therefore does not contradict the InfoSoc Directive’s ban on creating exceptions other than those expressly provided for by the Directive.

12It does not deal with text in general, but focuses exclusively on the data and results of public scientific research, which include scientific publications, among other works.

  • 4 Yves Gaubiac, Droit d’auteur et intérêt général (Copyright and general interest), in Propriétés Int (...)

13This positive right introduced in the higher interests of research is fully compatible with the right to information and the right of access to knowledge. This general interest “is no longer managed exclusively via exceptions to copyright; it is increasingly to be found in the form of external limitations on copyright, thus in addition to the exceptions”.4

14The pre-existing right of observation. The introduction of a right to explore digital data is the affirmation of a general principle of observation and the switch from practices dating back to the age of print and the analysis of text using tangible tools (highlighters, comments, etc.), to the practice of digital analysis using automated tools. The objective is the same but the tools have changed and now allow large masses of data to be processed simultaneously.

15The confirmation of this pre-existing positive right would remove the uncertainty as to the rights of researchers to explore and analyse legally accessible scientific data, and would reduce the risk of the private retention of research data by publishers.

16It has been proposed that this right to TDM should be created and added to the Research Code in the following terms:

In Chapter III of Title III of Book V of the Research Code, Article L. 533-5 has been inserted, worded as follows:

Art. L. 533-5:

- “Technical copies of research data and scientific texts under the conditions mentioned in Article L. 533-4 of the Research Code can be made freely and without charge for purposes of observation, processing and digital exploration, for the needs of public research and with due respect for the moral right of the author.”

Defining a legal framework to underpin Open Science: Asserting certain values

Guiding principles

17The Research Code lays down an institutional framework for the organisations that participate in scientific research in France, but there is no legislation defining the principles or values of the scientific community.

18A right of science, established by consensus among scientists to cover public research, would incorporate the values of the scientific communities such as:

  • knowledge sharing;

  • open access to scientific data;

  • open processing of scientific data;

  • the issues surrounding exploitation.

19A text establishing the principles of an Open Science would enable France to be a pioneer in this field.

Proposal for a text

20It is proposed that the following provisions should be added to the Research Code:

The following shall be added to the
Research Code:



Chapter II: The goals and institutional resources of public research

Articles L.112-6 to L.112-11 as follows:

Article L.112-6

1° Without prejudice to the provisions of Article L. 112-1, the scientific data generated by public research available to the scientific community and freely reused for the needs of public research under the conditions laid down by this Chapter, are publicly owned assets falling under the regime of knowledge commons.

2° Scientific data are considered to have been generated by public research when they are the result of research activity that was at least 50% publicly funded or when they result from work undertaken entirely by research units set up by establishments participating in public service research.

3° Scientific data are taken to include all the results of research and also all the research data used to establish these results.

Article L.112-7

Unless the requirements of exploitation or technology transfer or the general interest prevent their being made public, scientific data are made available as stipulated by Article L. 122-6 by deposition on digital platforms open to the scientific community. These platforms include features providing online access, referencing, sharing and processing of data, without prejudicing copyright or the rights of database creators.

Public institutions responsible for a research mission may set up digital platforms for this purpose.

Article L.112-8

Research institutions and organisations that have made data public in any form whatsoever have the right to reserve exploitation of the data for themselves, including for research purposes, under conditions and for a period of time defined by the said institutions and organisations. For this reason, it is necessary to take usages and practices in the scientific fields concerned into account. In any case, such a period may not exceed five years.

Article L.112-9

When scientific data are published by a private publisher, they must also be deposited, in parallel, in appropriate form, on an open digital platform as referred to in Article L. 112-7.

These scientific data are made accessible and reusable immediately in their author’s version and no later than at the end of a period of six months for the physical sciences and twelve months for the human and social sciences, from the first publication in their publisher’s version.

Article L.112-10

Scientific data must be reused with due respect for the right of authorship of the academics, researchers and, more generally, any person having directly contributed to obtaining them.

Reuse includes the reproduction, modification and processing of data in whatever form by all computer tools and all automated techniques for the exploration, analysis, indexing, aggregation, classification and processing of data, such as text and data mining.

Article L. 112-11

Contracts concerning the publication of scientific data from public research may not have the purpose or effect of preventing, wholly or partially, the application of the provisions of this Chapter, in particular those in Articles L. 112-9 and L. 112-10.

Reference guidelines for the different practices regarding digital STI

21The reason for creating a directory of the different practices of scientific communities is to provide guidelines that are “soft” (flexible) and adaptable. This directory would list:

  • practices common to all scientific communities;

  • practices specific to each scientific community;

  • structural definitions of science.

22These guidelines could take one of two forms:

  • a directory created by a body representative of the scientific community; this could be the role of the future Agency for Open Science;

  • general reference guidelines for practices, published by Decree.

“Soft law”: Good practice guidelines

23Soft law. The Council of State recommends that the public authorities adopt a “soft law” approach and apply it in line with the policy of simplifying standards and providing high-quality regulations (codes of good conduct, recommendations of good practices).

24Soft law” is defined by the Council of State as satisfying three cumulative criteria:

25Custom. In addition to being described as soft law, these good practice guidelines could be a compilation of the “customs” applied by the scientific communities, which would thus be incorporated into positive law.

26Custom” is defined in the legal dictionary Vocabulaire juridique by Gérard Cornu as the “standard of objective law based on a popular tradition which becomes constant practice, of a legally binding nature; a real rule of law but of non-state origin, that the Community has endorsed by habit in the conviction of its compulsory nature”.

27Agency for Open Science. The guidelines would need to be drafted, maintained, modified and updated by a body representative of the scientific community, which could be the future Agency for Open Science.

28They could also be posted online for comments, so that proposals for changes could be made by the scientific communities, and the guidelines could become a real tool to help the scientific community, for the benefit of science.

29The French ISTEX platform could host a prototype for these good practice guidelines.

Guidelines by decree: A general directory of practices

30This directory of practices could take the form of “General good practice guidelines” which, like France’s Référentiel général de sécurité (General Safety Guidelines), would be issued as a Decree and would thus become a binding framework while remaining adaptable and suited to the challenges and needs of public research.

31General guidelines of this nature also provide a reference document for the private sector.

An ISO standard, or an AFNOR standard

Reference guidelines embodying the state of the art and current practices

32A “standard” is a set of specifications describing an object, an entity or a procedure. The result is a principle that can be used as a rule and a technical reference.

33A standard is not mandatory (as a general rule), but is complied with as a matter of choice.

34Nevertheless, even if the application of standards is not mandatory, the courts systematically refer to such standards (where they exist) as describing the state of the art or current professional practice.

35As a result, the courts will often rule that failure to comply with a standard (whether optional or mandatory) can be proof of a fault, providing grounds for liability on the part of the professional.

36Thus, although not mandatory, standards have considerable importance. In particular, the fact that they are recognised as representative of current best practice and usage can provide an indication as to whether the regulations are being complied with.

Practical arrangements

37Standards are established by agencies, the best known of which are:

  • at the international level: ISO (International Organization for Standardization);

  • at the European level: the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN);

  • in France: AFNOR (Association Française de Normalisation).

38A request for standardisation should be sent to the chosen certification agency. The certification agency will assess whether it is appropriate – or feasible – to initiate work in the area concerned. Depending on the result of this feasibility study, the agency may decide either to entrust the work to an existing standardisation board, or to create a new area of activity for standardisation, or extend an existing area of activity.

39An initial working document will be drafted by a working group or by a project manager designated for this purpose. A public inquiry is then launched. If the consultation carried out with a view to obtaining final agreement on the document is positive, the text can be finalised. The agency then pronounces its approval of the standard.

40The standard may contain:

  • the scope;

  • structural definitions of the field;

  • the scientific approach and the associated practices;

  • the conditions under which the results are to be published;

  • the depositing of articles in an open archive (format for deposition, metadata, etc.);

  • respect for authorship, etc.

Definition of model contracts for the transfer of copyright: How to protect researchers

41In order to guarantee the rights of researchers regarding their published material and to take into account the risks of contractual asymmetry, a model contract could be promulgated by decree for transferring copyright for use in public research.

42This contract would lay down the rules governing the relationship between the parties and protect researchers in their relationship with publishers. It would in particular ensure that there was no exclusive transfer, and guarantee the rights of researchers to:

  • authorise the filing and the reproduction in an open archive of the publication in the author’s version immediately, and in the publisher’s version after expiry of an embargo period;

  • allow the immediate exploration of the content of the article using digital data-processing tools;

  • prevent all forms of private retention or reservation of property concerning the content of the article.

43This contract could be promulgated by decree and thus have a regulatory value that could be imposed on publishers for any scientific publication resulting from public research.

An ethics charter for digital science

44Le CNRS Ethics Committee, supported by the CNRS Scientific Board, is in favour of the introduction of an ethics charter for digital science. This charter would define the values associated with accessing and sharing scientific data, as well as good practice for researchers, such as:

  • depositing scientific data on Open Science platforms;

  • ensuring that authorship is clearly mentioned.

45An ethics committee would guarantee compliance with this charter, in particular by ensuring:

  • that its content is disseminated and understood;

    • 6 Opinion issued by COMETS, “The ethical issues of scientific data sharing”, 7/6/2015.

    that researchers are aware of the importance of ethics: “Researchers and all personnel involved in research must be trained to understand the ethical dimensions of data management, in particular in respect of privacy, intellectual property, and the quality and integrity of data. They must be informed as to the current status and evolution of the legal rules concerning responsible sharing of data used”;6

  • the issuing of Opinions with recommendations to clarify the good practice guidelines laid down in the charter.

An Agency for Open Science

46An Agency for Open Science could be created.

47The roles of such an agency would include:

  • monitoring compliance with the ethical rules defined in the Ethics Charter;

  • ensuring that the principle of open access is observed;

  • an advisory role;

  • tracking technical developments and changing practices as well as managing the good practice guidelines;

  • proposing changes to the existing legal framework in the light of the evolution of practices and needs.

48The agency could also be responsible for writing a report on “the impact of the principle of free access to scientific data on the scientific publishing market and on the circulation of ideas and scientific data” under the terms of Article 17 ter (new) of the Bill adopted by the National Assembly.

An international convention for universal Open Science

49France could very well propose an international convention for universal Open Science.

50The concept of “international convention” is used in international law to describe formal declarations of principles that initially do not have binding force. These conventions generally have to be ratified by the signatory states to become binding and thus become real international treaties.

51Considering the positions already taken by UNESCO in favour of Open Science, this convention could be organised under its auspices.


1 CSPLA report, page 8.



4 Yves Gaubiac, Droit d’auteur et intérêt général (Copyright and general interest), in Propriétés Intellectuelles, July 2010 – No. 36.


6 Opinion issued by COMETS, “The ethical issues of scientific data sharing”, 7/6/2015.


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