EU Court Ruling Saying Sports Schedules May Not Covered By Copyright Pushes Back On Dangerous Database Copyrights

from the it's-a-step dept

The US has long rejected the idea that you get a copyright in return for the "sweat of your brow." It's not about the labor, it's about the creativity. That's why we don't allow "database rights" -- or copyrights on collections of factual data, such as a phone book. Europe, however, has gone in the other direction, allowing such database rights, much to the chagrin of many experts who recognize that such database rights are economically damaging. The one nice thing about this major difference in Europe and the US is that it's given us some natural experiments to compare like industries from the US with those in Europe. That research has shown that, for all the talk of how copyrights are needed to keep an industry strong, the US database market (where no such copyrights are allowed) has grown at a much faster rate than the European one -- with no significant other differences involved. In other words, the theory that copyright is needed to grow an industry has been proved false. In fact, the situation with the US stance on database copyright presents evidence that you can get greater growth and innovation without copyright -- because there's more openness, more value, and greater opportunities outside of locking down the data.

So a recent ruling that reader aldestrawk brought to our attention is pretty interesting. It involves a case we talked about a few years ago, where a UK court found that sports schedules could be covered by a database copyright, since it took effort to put together. Thus, newspapers and websites couldn't just repost a sports schedule without a license, even though it was just factual information.

It looks like that case got kicked up to the EU Court of Justice, who appears to have given another sensible ruling pushing back on what can be covered by a database copyright. Specifically, it appears the court suggests that a pure "sweat of the brow" argument is not sufficient, and instead, the work needs to show some element of creativity. In fact, it suggests that the copyright in a database copyright doesn't actually cover the data, but merely the creative input into "the structure" of the database.
The fact that the setting up of the database required, irrespective of the creation of the data which it contains, significant labour and skill on the part of its author does not justify, as such, the protection of it by copyright if that labour and that skill do not express any originality in the selection or arrangement of that data.
The court does not make a final ruling on the copyrightability of the football schedules, but kicks it back to the UK court to make a ruling given the EUCJ's guidance. Thus, the court will now have to look at whether there's any actual creativity in setting up the league schedule. It seems that should likely greatly limit the database copyright in the EU. It makes you wonder if others who have thought the database copyright was stronger, might start branching out a bit and experimenting.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    monika roy (profile), Mar 6th, 2012 @ 12:34am

    nice thought and i feel copyrights on collections of factual data, such as a phone book has gone in the other direction, allowing such database rights, much to the chagrin of many experts who recognize that such database rights are economically damaging.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    DandonTRJ (profile), Mar 6th, 2012 @ 1:17am

    Seems like a parallel to the Feist case here in the US. The Supreme Court said that you can copyright a phonebook, but not for its raw data, only the particular selection and arrangement of the data (and even then, only if that selection and arrangement is sufficiently creative).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Mar 6th, 2012 @ 2:59am

    Looks like

    Looks like the EU database right might actually be a weakening of copyright - not an extension.

    Even in the US the creative element in putting together a database attracts copyright - and it attracts the full life+70 copyright. In the EU the database right is much shorter - only 15 years.

    Perhaps we could get a few more works re-classified as databases - isn't a song just a database of notes and words?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 6th, 2012 @ 4:19am

    The fact that the setting up of the database required, irrespective of the creation of the data which it contains, significant labour and skill on the part of its author does not justify, as such, the protection of it by copyright if that labour and that skill do not express any originality in the selection or arrangement of that data.

    I wrote a 30 line script. It took me roughly 5 minutes. It populates the DB automatically based on other people's work. Now I can claim copyright on their work, thanks to my 5 minutes. Awesome.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    abc gum, Mar 6th, 2012 @ 4:42am

    Re:

    The alphabet is very creative your honor, trust us.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Mar 6th, 2012 @ 4:54am

    Re:

    No you can't - you did not "express any originality" in your 30 line script.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    Suja (profile), Mar 6th, 2012 @ 7:17am

    Re: Re:

    Uhhh.... You do realize nobody would technically be able to express originality at all, right?

    The whole thing is bogus whichever way it goes.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 6th, 2012 @ 2:52pm

    I think an important reason that not allowing copy protection laws to apply in this, and the scientific, arena is that if the data is protected, everyone who wants to acquire data is more likely to re-acquire much of it manually every time and re-conduct the research each and every time. They can't just copy the data from someone else. So each member has to keep wasting time manually re-duplicating the same data that everyone else has already manually duplicated instead of using that time more wisely to research new data that hasn't been researched yet.

    Also, re-duplicating the same data may give some people poor results while others get better results. With an open system, everyone can compare results to duplicated research and average them out to get a better overall picture. So there is less re-duplicating the same research and duplicated research can better serve for comparison tests. and those who want to re-run similar/the same studies can look at previous data to have a better idea of what to focus on and what mistakes to avoid when conducting their studies to improve future studies.

    The same thing applies to the sciences in general. When I have a hundred paywalls to go through in order to see what's out there many people will just re-conduct the same research which creates unnecessary and inefficient redundancy instead of allowing people to better build upon each others research.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Mar 7th, 2012 @ 4:43am

    Re: Re: Re:

    You do realize nobody would technically be able to express originality at all, right?/i>

    Yes

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2012 @ 2:48pm

    This article is a total mess and the author should first familiarize himself with the basics. There are 2 completely different rights - 1) copyright and 2) "sui generis" or "database" right. First requires some level of originality, which usually needs to be pretty high and protects the unique selection of content and the way that content has been organized.

    Second requires a substantial investment in the form of work, time, money etc. spent on making a database and protects that investment by not allowing unauthorized extractions from that database - ie. the investment is protected by giving exclusive rights to the contents.

    A database can be protected either by copyright, by sui generis right or by both. Usually a database which is protected by copyright also qualifies for a sui generis protection due to the work invested in the making of the database.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2012 @ 2:49pm

    This article is a total mess and the author should first familiarize himself with the basics. There are 2 completely different rights - 1) copyright and 2) "sui generis" or "database" right. First requires some level of originality, which usually needs to be pretty high and protects the unique selection of content and the way that content has been organized.

    Second requires a substantial investment in the form of work, time, money etc. spent on making a database and protects that investment by not allowing unauthorized extractions from that database - ie. the investment is protected by giving exclusive rights to the contents.

    A database can be protected either by copyright, by sui generis right or by both. Usually a database which is protected by copyright also qualifies for a sui generis protection due to the work invested in the making of the database.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This