Euro judges strengthen protections for database creators
Sides with University of Freiburg in poem row
A judgment by Europe’s highest court has strengthened the rights of database creators to protect their work from being used by third parties without permission. The database right protects against more than just copying and pasting, it ruled.
The decision by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) means that the transfer of material from a protected database to another database may be prevented, even if there is no technical process of copying.
The ECJ affirmed the right of the University of Freiburg to protect the content of a database of poem titles from commercial exploitation by an unrelated company.
The judgment said that, where the maker of a database makes the contents of that database accessible to third parties, even if they have to pay for access, the maker may not prevent those third parties from consulting that database for information purposes. It is only when the on-screen display of the contents of that database necessitates the transfer of all or a substantial part of those contents to another medium that the maker's authorisation may be required.
The EU Database Directive of 1996 created a right to protect the content of databases that are the subject of significant investment, even when they are not protected by copyright law. Databases are protected by copyright law when they are considered creative enough to qualify.
The right, however, has been a controversial one because of a lack of clarity about the exact extent of its protection. It received a setback in 2004, in a case in which the British Horseracing Board was told that it could not refuse bookmaker William Hill access to its database of the horses and riders running on a particular day.
The ECJ had ruled that the British Horseracing Board had not put enough effort into the creation of its database to qualify for protection in a ruling that was widely viewed then as weakening the EU's database right.
The ECJ ruled yesterday in favour of the University of Freiburg and one of its professors, Dr Ulrich Knoop. The ECJ did not have to decide what constitutes a database under the Directive. Instead, it focused on what constitutes infringement.
Professor Knoop oversaw the compilation of the 1,100 most important poems in German between 1720 and 1900. The list of titles was published on the internet and served as the basis for an anthology compiled by the university. The list took two-and-a-half years to compile, costing the University €34,900.
A company called Directmedia Publishing then published a CD-ROM called '1000 poems everyone should have', on which 876 of the poems date from the period 1720 to 1900. All but 20 of these also featured in Knoop's list. Knoop and the University sued Directmedia, claiming that it had infringed Knoop's copyright as compiler of an anthology and the University's right as a maker of a database.
Germany’s Federal Court of Justice had already upheld the action brought by Knoop as compiler of an anthology. It accepted that the list of titles constituted a 'database' within the meaning of the Directive, so the ECJ did not revisit the most controversial analysis of the British Horseracing Board case. Instead, the ECJ was asked whether Directmedia’s use of the contents of the database constituted an ‘extraction’ within the meaning of the Directive.
...and the rest
could you not just claim that the value of the Academics poetry list does not reflect the true value of the work he produced, the academic would need to pay for unrelated goods such as never ending supplies of open toed sandals, hideous jumpers, beard insurance, airfares and expenses for conferences spuriously related to poetry, year subscription to the poetry society, poetry book club costs, expensive academic offices with associated costs for himself to drink coffee doinging "research", and "networking" with like minded free loafers.
At least you could insult the guys integrity as well as that of the funding body (who are no doubt funded by the taxpayer grrr) to make sure he doesn't get any further funding in the future.
When there's a degree of subjective input, such as deciding which poems should be included in the list, I can see your point, but what about this extension to the priniciple?
If I made a list of all the people ever recorded as having emigrated to New Zealand, which is a discrete list -- no subjective argument about who should be included, and if it were the first such list made, should that prevent anybody else making a list of these people? How much separate work would have to be done to show it was a different list, bearing in mind that the two lists should, by rights, have identical content.
We're not considering plaguerism, here, where you're copying the creative invention of another author. This is a collection of facts, which surely should be public domain.
In reply to: "If I were another professor of German Poetry of this period and had separately researched my own list":
Presumably if you could demonstrate the months/years of independent research to come up with your own list you would have a valid defence in court. But if it looks to the court that your research just consisted of reading Prof #1's list and making a few edits, then you have more of a problem.