EU Academics Pointing Out How Database Copyrights Hinder, Rather Than Help, Businesses

from the about-time dept

For a long time, Europe has allowed "database rights," effectively allowing companies to get a copyright of sorts on a collection of factual data. The US has mostly disagreed with this, noting that facts themselves cannot be covered by copyright, even if aggregated into a database -- though, more recently there have been efforts in the US to change the law, and mimic Europe's database rights offerings. Of course, companies that aggregate a bunch of publicly available data love such database rights, as it grants them a gov't-granted protectionist system on their business model. However, the actual evidence shows that it also shrinks markets -- and when you compare US markets without database rights to EU markets with database rights, you find that the US market thrives:
Now, we actually have some good evidence about the effects of these different approaches. The United States database industry is considerably larger and more thriving, and has higher rates of return, than the European database industry. In fact, at the moment when Europe introduced sui generis database rights, there was a short one-time spike as database producers raced into the market, but then growth rates returned to previous levels, and many companies left the market. And when did Reed Elsevier and Thomson enter the legal database market in the United States? It was after a case called Feist, which said that facts, and unoriginal compilations of facts, were uncopyrightable. That is to say, European companies chose to come into a classically public information field in the United States after they had found out, for sure, that they could get no copyright in unoriginal databases. Yet, even without database rights, they're getting high rates of return. So, we have evidence showing that less protection has been better for innovation than more protection. But you could spend days listening to arguments about database rights, and you'd never hear these facts mentioned.
In fact, it's these troubling "database rights" that both easyJet and Ryanair are using to try to stop travel sites from aggregating their flight pricing.

The good news is that academics in the UK are starting to point out that these database rights can be quite damaging to businesses, rather than helpful. In the link, they're focused just on creating certain exceptions to database rights, rather than scrapping them altogether, but it's at least a step in the right direction.

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  1. identicon
    Home Decor, 9 Jan 2009 @ 12:51pm

    People say that reducing the cost of distribution that would motivate people to buy original material.

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