Singapore to revise copyright law in data analytics boost

Proposed exception in Copyright Act will allow copying of copyrighted materials for the purpose of data analysis

Singapore is planning to amend its copyright laws to make it legal to copy text and data for analysis, among other proposed revisions to the Copyright Act.

The exception to the law will allow copying of copyrighted materials for the purpose of data analysis, where the user has lawful access to the materials that are copied.

This will promote usage of big data analytics across a gamut of industries, unlocking new business opportunities, speeding up processes and reducing costs, Singapore’s law ministry said last week.

Currently, individuals and organisations that use automated techniques to analyse text, data and other content to generate insights risk infringing copyright because large-scale copying of works without permission is often involved.

Noting that the economic and social impact of data-driven insights is far-reaching and growing, Singapore’s law ministry said the exception has received majority support from parties that responded to its call for feedback on the proposed changes.

“Respondents felt that text and data mining should rightly be permitted under copyright law anyway, given that such activities do not consume, trade on, or compete with the expressive value of the underlying materials,” it said. “Rather, the materials are treated as data, which is not protected by copyright, for unlocking insights that can benefit society at large.”

Those who disagreed with the proposal were mostly creators, publishers and other intermediaries, said the ministry. They generally advocated market-based, licensing approaches instead, and were concerned that the exception was premature and capable of abuse in the absence of safeguards.

To safeguard the interests of rights-holders, however, the exception will be limited to acts of copying, and a user must have lawful access to the works and other subject matter that are copied.

If certain material can only be accessed through a paid subscription, the user must pay for the subscription before using the material for text and data mining. The user also cannot distribute the material to anyone without such lawful access.

Read more about big data analytics in ASEAN

  • Financial institutions in the APAC region fear they may be left behind if they don’t embrace big data.
  • Enterprises need to figure out the business problems they are trying to solve and foster a data-driven culture to benefit from data analytics.
  • Singapore is looking to shore up its expertise in data analytics as part of efforts to build strong digital capabilities in its economy.
  • Malaysia’s talent development and funding schemes have brought the benefits of big data to many organisations, but the quality and volume of its analytics talent can be improved.

Leslie Ong, country manager for Tableau in Southeast Asia, told Computer Weekly that the government’s proposed changes to the Copyright Act will boost data analytics usage by enterprises and citizens.

“It is encouraging that governance is keeping pace with the explosion of data as the future economy will revolve around decision-making based on data-driven insights,” he said. “The new move is in line with Singapore’s goal of enabling data access for more people and bringing down walled gardens.”

Ong said an open data approach has been generally beneficial for Singapore, pointing to examples such as the government’s portal, which makes government data publicly available to private sector developers and community groups.

But as data sharing increases, Ong said a formalised framework is needed to uphold good data management and governance practices, including the safeguard of data privacy and authorship.

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