Evaluation of EU rules on databases

By EDRi · January 18, 2006

The Directive on the legal protection of Databases was adopted in February
1996. The Directive created a new exclusive ‘sui generis’ right for database
producers, valid for 15 years, to protect their investment of time, money
and effort, irrespective of whether the database is in itself innovative
(“non-original” databases).

The European Commission published on 12 December 2005 an evaluation of the
protection EU law gives to databases. The evaluation focuses on whether the
introduction of this right led to an increase in the European database
industry. It also looks at whether the scope of the right targets those
areas where Europe needs to encourage innovation.

The directive was strongly criticised for being a useless invention of
the European Community, especially created to stimulate the database
sector to compete with the US.However there is no proof it has brought the
expected improvement. This is in fact admitted in the evaluation by the
Commission:: “The economic impact of the “sui generis” right on database
production is unproven. Introduced to stimulate the production of databases
in Europe, the new instrument has had no proven impact on the production of

It is also considered that the US database industry, where there is no
specific database right, has been growing much faster than the one in EU,
the report mentioning that “the ratio of European/US database production,
which was nearly 1:2 in 1996, has become 1:3 in 2004.”

The report takes also into consideration the impact the European Court of
Justice has made with the Decision in the case The British Horseracing Board
vs. William Hill on 9 November 2004. The decision is diminishing the legal
protection of so called ‘spin-off’ databases under the Database Directive
1996/9/EC. In order to claim ‘sui generis’ database protection, a
substantial investment must be made “in seeking, collecting, verifying and
presenting existing materials”. ( see EDRI-Gram 2.22 )

The report suggests a series of possible actions related to the directive:
repeal the whole directive, withdraw the sui-generis right, amend the
sui-generis provision or maintain the status-quo.

Despite the reserved evaluations of the report, the European Commission
considers that “further evidence on the usefulness of “sui generis”
protection needs to be gathered ” and therefore stakeholders are invited to
comment on the evaluation by 12 March 2006.

James Boyle: Two database cheers for the EU ( 2 01 2006)

Press Release : Intellectual property: evaluation of EU rules on databases
(12 12 2005)

Evaluation of Directive 96/9/EC on the legal protection of databases

EDRI-gram – ECJ: no legal protection for spin-off databases (17.11.2004)