Friday, 15 August 2014

Changes to UK copyright law and data-mining permissions

I've just received the following from Tahitia McCabe, who runs the Genealogical Studies Postgraduate Programme at the University of Strathclyde (, which she has very kindly given me permission to share with British GENES readers. It concerns recent changes in UK copyright law from 1 JUN 2014 which will be of interest to those who may wish to 'data mine' certain websites for genealogical purposes, for non-commercial activities only. Here is Tahitia's summary:

It allows researchers doing non-commercial work to data mine databases they have legal access to without the need to ask for permission and database providers cannot use tools such as imposing download speeds that would prevent researchers from benefiting from this exemption.

Here is the text from the attached guidance from the Intellectual Property Office:

The new copyright exception will allow researchers to make copies of any copyright material for the purpose of computational analysis if they already have the right to read the work (that is, work that they have “lawful access” to). They will be able to do this without having to obtain additional permission from the rights holder. This exception only permits the making of copies for the purpose of text and data mining for non-commercial research. Researchers will still have to buy subscriptions to access material; this could be from many sources including academic publishers.

Publishers and content providers will be able to apply reasonable measures to maintain their network security or stability but these measures should not prevent or unreasonably restrict researcher’s ability to text and data mine. Contract terms that stop researchers making copies to carry out text and data mining will be unenforceable.

Tahitia has also notified me that it is now also possible to legally make backups of digital items such as e-books - additional information is available from and at

(With thanks to Tahitia)

NB: If you wish to sign up for the University of Strathclyde's genealogical studies courses, the 3rd week of September is the latest time you will be able to do so. The university will also have a stand at the forthcoming Who Do You Think You Are Live event, where you can find them at tables 64 & 65.


Now available for UK research is the new second edition of the best selling Tracing Your Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians, whilst my new book British and Irish Newspapers is also now out. And please consider purchasing the great new version of Caledonia by The Libations at 79p via - all profits go to help fund Scottish foodbanks


  1. What is data mining please?

  2. An example would be if I did a search on ScotlandsPeople or Ancestry for a name, eg Paton, and copied all the index results in a table into an Excel document, to then analyse how many Patons there were in certain areas, at certain times etc. That is now legal if done for non-commercial purposes, eg an academic study or perhaps a one-name study.

  3. Thanks for explaining that Chris