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.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: copyright, database rights, eu, facts, schedules, sports


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. icon
    Richard (profile), 6 Mar 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?

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.