Crash course on database rights: Introduction

On 11 March 1996, European Directive 96/9/EC concerning the legal protection of databases was passed. From that date on, Member States were required to protect databases both by copyright and by a new "sui generis" right that controls extraction and reutilization of the contents in a datatabase. Although the Directive required implementation to be complete on 1 January 1998, most States in fact did not make this deadline (only Germany, Sweden, the UK and Austria did). By now, all Member States have adopted the Directive.

New right

The Database Directive introduces a new right, explicitly protecting collections of facts regardless of any creativity. It also confirms that, if there is creativity involved in the creation of a database, that database is protected by copyright (article 3).

As the Directive and the right it introduces are quite young, it is difficult to assess all possible implications of the new right. It also means that this crash course is quite short, as there is little more to say than what is stated in the Directive. When possible I have tried to illustrate particular issues with case law from EU Member States. For information on US database protection, see Database protection in the USA.

The description of most of these cases is based on an article by prof. Hugenholtz titled The New Database Right: Early Case Law from Europe, presented at Ninth Annual Conference on International IP Law and Policy, Fordham University School of Law, New York, 19-20 April 2001.

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