Shillum says that Elsevier is ahead of the curve — but that other publishers are likely to follow soon. CrossRef, a non-profit collaboration of thousands of scholarly publishers, will in the next few months launch a service that lets researchers agree to standard text-mining terms and conditions by clicking a button on a publisher’s website, a ‘one-click’ solution similar to Elsevier’s set-up.

And, in the past year, large institutions and pharmaceutical companies have started to ask for text- and data-mining rights when renegotiating site licences, says Jessica Rutt, rights and licensing manager at Nature Publishing Group (NPG), the publisher of this journal. Anyone with those rights may mine NPG content. Many publishers are also experimenting with delivering text-minable content to pharmaceutical companies for an extra fee, she adds.

But some researchers feel that a dangerous precedent is being set. They argue that publishers wrongly characterize text-mining as an activity that requires extra rights to be granted by licence from a copyright holder, and they feel that computational reading should require no more permission than human reading. “The right to read is the right to mine,” says Ross Mounce of the University of Bath, UK, who is using content-mining to construct maps of species’ evolutionary relationships.

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