Database rights and English law

The legal definition of a database can be found in section 3A(1) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA). It states a database is “a collection of independent works, data or other materials which (a) are arranged in a systematic or methodical way, and (b) are individually accessible by electronic or other means.”

An important introduction into English law was made in 1998 with the introduction of the Database Directive, which was implemented in the UK by the Copyright and Rights in Databases Regulations 1997 (SI 1997/3032) (Database Regulations).

The Database Regulations, looked at the existing legislation ie the CDPA and introduced a wholly amended new right, ( in English law we refer to this as a ‘Sui Generis’ ie ‘of its own kind’ and ‘unique in its characteristics’.

The introduction of this new right therefore created (not altogether healthily some might argue) two separate IPRs in a database: copyright and database right.

So whilst there are two forms of database rights, the sui generis right exists independently of the copyright. This meanss that a collection of photographs ie Getty, will be protected as an artistic work of copyright and as a database right. However for the latter to apply there must be ‘substantial investment in obtaining, verifying or presenting the contents of the database’

The sui generis right lasts for 15 years from the end of the calendar year in which the making of the database was completed (or, if the database is made available to the public before the end of this period, 15 years from the end of the calendar year in which the database was first made available to the public) Note that if the database was updated then the amended database will qualify for a new 15-year term.

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