The Database Right: Under the Radar of Reform

The so-called sui generis database right was introduced in Europe in 1996. It was intended that it would be a model right, to be harmonised at international level by a treaty. This has never happened however, and so it remains, somewhat marooned, as a uniquely European right.

The database right is a very powerful tool in the hands of the database owner. Owing to problematic definitions in the Directive, it can be unclear –sometimes to both creator and user – whether the database is protected.

The interpretation of the rules by the Court of Justice of the EU has tended not to help, but to further complicate the position. The latest decision of the European Court was given on January 15, 2015. Ryanair, the Plaintiff in the case, paradoxically established that the terms and conditions of its website prohibiting screen-scraping were capable of enforcement precisely because its database did not enjoy protection.

The presentation will review the database cases and will show, against the background of the copyright reform agenda in Europe, why it is odd that the database right has remained below the radar.