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The Online Journalism Handbook‘s chapter on law covers some of the rights issues relating to databases. A recent judgement in the Court of Justice (Case C-604/10, Football Dataco & others v. Yahoo UK ! & others) is worth noting as it explores some further distinctions regarding database copyright.

Dr. Estelle Derclaye, Associate Professor and Reader in Intellectual Property law, University of Nottingham, sums it up here:

“The Court rightly holds that the Database Directive’s concepts of “selection” and arrangement” refer to the “selection and arrangement of the data through which the author of the database gives the database its structure”. Selection and arrangement do not extend to the creation of the data contained in the database. Therefore, the intellectual effort and skill expanded in creating data are not relevant in order to assess the eligibility of the database that contains them for copyright protection.

Here’s more:

“In short, the directive aims at stimulating the creation of databases. Its aim is not to protect the creation of data capable of being collected in a database.

“The court then refers to its InfopaqBezpečnostní softwarová asociaceFootball Premier League and Painer rulings to reiterate once more its interpretation of the originality requirement, namely the author’s own creation. Accordingly and applied to databases, the “criterion of originality is satisfied when, through the selection or arrangement of the data which it contains, its author expresses his creative ability in an original manner by making free and creative choices […] and thus stamps his ‘personal touch’”. Therefore, the Court continues, the criterion is “not satisfied when the setting up of the database is dictated by technical considerations, rules or constraints which leave no room for creative freedom”.

… “The crux of the judgment comes at paragraph 42 when the court clearly states that skill and labour in the selection or arrangement of the data, even if significant, is not sufficient as such to trigger copyright protection. The labour and skill must express the originality in the sense defined by the court (i.e. creativity) for it to give copyright protection to the database.”


This report provides very helpful guidance on database rights and copyright: (PDF)