Achievements and New Perspectives
Edited by Christophe Geiger
Chapter 16: Database rights: success or failure? The chequered yet exciting journey of database protection in Europe
It is a somewhat scary thought but there it is: it is over 20 years since the European database debate started. And the debate is still raging. Indeed, the Commission issued its initial proposal in 1992, eventually giving birth to the Database Directive in March 1996. But it had started considering harmonization of database protection as early as 1986. As is known, the Directive harmonized copyright law for databases, providing protection only for their structure and only if the selection or arrangement is the author’s own intellectual creation, and created a brand new sui generis right protecting the investment in collecting, verifying and/or presenting the contents of databases. Both before and after its adoption, the sui generis right has been, and still is very much criticized for its overreaching protective strength, which is not counter-balanced by sufficient limits. Most Member States implemented the Directive in time in 1998 or thereabouts. Much litigation for infringement of the sui generis right ensued in many Member States, culminating in 2004 with the four rulings of the Court of Justice in the BHB and Fixtures Marketing cases. Those decisions in many ways clarified and limited part of the scope of the sui generis right, quietening somewhat the initial criticisms.
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