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Guardian says dating site rivals violated database rights

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The Guardian newspaper has sued two online dating sites in the High Court, claiming that the companies have violated its database rights by using profiles taken from its own dating service.

Guardian News and Media (GNM) operates the Guardian Soulmates dating service and has claimed that Dating Network Limited and Xfactor Online Dating have infringed its database rights and are 'passing off' its services as their own.

The Press Gazette reports that GNM's writ accuses the companies of taking 9,000 dating profiles from the Soulmates service and putting them into their own databases.

GNM said that the actions violate its rights under EU law, which give the builders and owners of databases special protections over and above copyright law.

"The claim is for infringement of the Guardian's database right in its database of Guardian Soulmates profiles and passing off," said a GNM spokeswoman. "GNM takes the privacy of Guardian Soulmates members extremely seriously and is demonstrating its commitment to members by pursuing this matter at the highest level.

"GNM is seeking an expedited judgment to ensure that this matter is resolved quickly and the defendants are prevented from using Soulmates members' profile information any further," she said.

The Press Gazette reports that the writ claims that the use of Soulmates profiles is a misrepresentation that could lead people to believe that GNM has a commercial relationship with the two sites, which it says are both owned by Daniel Yorke.

A claim of 'passing off' is brought when a company misleads consumers in a way that might make them think companies are in a relationship or services are linked in a way which is not the case.

"GNM issued a claim in the High Court of Justice in London on 18 March 2010 against Dating Network Limited, Xfactor Online Dating Limited and Mr Daniel Yorke," confirmed the GNM spokeswoman.

The Database Directive was created by the European Union legislature in a bid to protect the investment that companies make in creating e-commerce services. Because pieces of information or collections of them are not protected by copyright it created the special right for databases.

That right has proved controversial, with sporting bodies in particular coming into conflict with gambling companies and broadcasters over the rights to the information contained in sports listings.

The British Horseracing Board (BHB) lost the ability to use the database right to demand licensing revenue for users of its lists of runners and riders because the European Court of Justice deemed the list just a by-product of the BHB's main activity, which was organising races.

The right protects those databases which are the subject of 'substantial investment'.

Recently England and Scotland's top football leagues lost the ability to protect their fixture lists under the EU database right but won the right to protect it under a separate database copyright that UK law applies to those databases that are the result of an author's creative work.

Copyright © 2010, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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