Crash course on database rights
Collections of facts have always had a somewhat special position in intellectual property law. Usually, protection for collections of facts was only available if the collection was somehow original or the result of a creative expression (the standard requirement for copyright protection). This made it difficult for producers of databases with purely factual information to protect their databases against copying by third parties.
Now that many collections of facts are being made available as electronic databases, many producers of databases insist on needing adequate legal protection to protect their investments. The European Union passed in 1996 Directive 96/9/EC concerning the legal protection of databases to introduce a new law (a "sui generis" right). This Directive is supposed to offer better protection than the various Member States' national copyright laws did.
The USA has several bills pending in Congress (HR 1858 and HR 354), but currently relies on copyright law and state laws regarding misappropriation to protect databases. As there are (to my knowledge) no other countries who have passed laws that explicitly protect databases, this crash course focuses on the implications of the Eu Directive.