Database Rights

A relatively new sui generis (i.e., unique) form of intellectual property. In 1996 the EU adopted the Database Directive (European Data Directive 96/9/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of March 11, 1996, 1996 OJ L77/20). This provides that database creators and owners have intellectual property rights in their databases, which endures for 15 years, but can be refreshed by substantially updating the database. Usually authors hold copyright in the contents of a database to the extent that such contents can be owned, while the database makers (i.e., those who created or compiled the database) own the Database.

The Database Right is the right to prevent the ‘extraction’ or ‘reutilization’ of substantial parts of the database. Other major economies, in particular the United States, have not yet created such a right, but it is uncertain when and how many will do so. One important provision of the Database Directive is that it applies only to companies based in the European Union and EU citizens. For protection to extend to non-EU parties, their government must conclude an agreement with the EU that in principle would likely require that the government enact equivalent legislation providing corresponding and reciprocal protection for EU citizens. The Database Directive has been implemented by means of legislation in each EU member state.