For many years, we've discussed how Europe allows for a "database right" on collections of works, while the US forbids it. The US considers a database right improper, since copyright is not supposed to apply to facts and isn't supposed to be given out solely based on the "sweat of the brow," but rather to incentivize creativity
. The Europeans, on the other hand, argued that the labor of putting together a database needed to be protected to create the necessary incentives for a thriving information/database industry. In many ways, this has created a useful natural experiment concerning copyright law and whether or not it actually creates incentives. The data has been overwhelming. Without a database right, the database industry in the US has thrived
, while the same market in the EU has stagnated.
And yet, many in Europe (and some in the US) still see good things in such a government granted monopoly. We were just talking about how clinging to this outdated and clearly failed concept was now threatening
important moves towards open data.
Thankfully, it appears that at least one European country has realized how damaging such rights are, and is moving in the other direction. The Dutch government, which has a number of politicians who really seem to get this stuff, is apparently trying to "modernize" its copyright law by removing protection for any "non-original" works
such as databases. The link from the Future of Copyright site notes that the database right -- called "geschriftenbescherming" -- is being removed, as officials are noting that copyright should be focused on creativity, not merely protecting the upfront investments of publishers and printers:
The modernization of copyright law in the Netherlands will be done in two ways. Firstly, modern copyright will only serve to protect creative performances. Since ‘geschriftenbescherming’ does not cover any creative performance, this will now be removed. Secondly, the Dutch government believes copyright should not inadvertently preclude the creative reuse of existing material or the innovative use of information and easy exchange thereof. The protection of non-original works is often invoked to regulate parallel import instead of merely protecting the publisher’s or printer’s investment. By removing the additional protection under copyright law, the exchange and re-use of these works may be simplified. Also this could remove a legal barrier to the use of open data.
As noted in that last sentence, this story is almost the polar opposite to the one we just had about this same concept being used to hold back open data. This would be a nice step forward for the Dutch, and hopefully other European countries will quickly get with the program as well.
: In the comments someone points out that this is related to the EU Court of Justice ruling
we wrote about last year, which noted that copyright rights need to include an element of creativity and that you can't just copyright facts.
: More information from the comments, which argues that, despite great similarities between the database right and geschriftenbescherming, this only impacts the latter not the former. The specific issue appears to be that geschriftenbescherming falls under copyright law and copyright
law requires creativity (as noted in the story from last year). Yet database rights, fall under the database directive, and don't
require any creativity (which is silly, for reasons we explained earlier). We apologize for any confusion and would like to thank the commenter for adding further details.