Announcing the “Text and Data Mining: Demonstrating Fair Use” Project

Posted December 22, 2022

We’re very pleased to announce a new project for 2023, “Text and Data Mining: Demonstrating Fair Use,” which is generously supported by the Mellon Foundation. The project will focus on lowering and overcoming legal barriers for researchers who seek to exercise their fair use rights, specifically within the context of text data mining (“TDM”) research under current regulatory exemptions.

Fair use is one of the primary legal doctrines that allow researchers to copy, transform, and analyze modern creative works—almost all of which are protected by copyright—for research, educational, and scholarly purposes. Unfortunately, in practice, not everyone is able to use this powerful right. Researchers today face the challenge that fair use is often overridden by a complex web of copyright-adjacent laws. One major culprit is Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), which imposes significant liability for users of copyrighted works who circumvent technical protection measures (e.g., content scramble for DVDs), unless those users comply with a series of specific exemptions to Section 1201. These exemptions are lengthy and complex, as is the process to petition for their adoption or renewal, which recurs every three years.

Text data mining is a prime example of work that demonstrates the power of fair use, as it allows researchers to discover and share new insights about how modern language and culture reflect on important issues ranging from our understanding of science to how we think about gender, race, and national identity. Authors Alliance has worked extensively on supporting TDM work in the past, including by successfully petitioning the Copyright Office for a DMCA exemption to allow researchers to break digital locks on films and literary works distributed electronically for TDM research purposes, and this project builds on those previous efforts.

The Text Data Mining: Demonstrating Fair Use project has two goals in 2023:

 1) To help a broader and more diverse group of researchers understand their fair use rights and their rights under the existing TDM exemption through one-on-one consultations, creating educational materials, and hosting workshops and other trainings; and

2) To collect and document examples of how researchers are using the current TDM exemption, with the aim of illustrating how the TDM exemption can be applied and highlighting its limitations so that policymakers can improve it in the future.

We’ll be working closely with TDM researchers across the United States, as well organizations such as the Association for Computers and the Humanities, and will be actively exploring opportunities to work with others. If you have an interest in this project, we would love to hear from you! 

About The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive. Learn more at