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The Directive on the Legal  Protection of Databases was  definitively adopted
by the  EU's Council of Ministers  on 26  February.  The Directive  creates a
new exclusive 'sui generis' right for database creators, valid  for 15 years,
to protect  their  investment of  time,  money  and effort,  irrespective  of
whether the  database  is in  itself  innovative.   The Directive  will  also
harmonise copyright  law  applicable to  the  structure  of databases.    The
Directive's  provisions  will  apply  to  both   electronic  and  paper-based
databases.    "This  innovative and  comprehensive  measure  will  ensure  an
appropriate  level  of   protection  for  database  creators   and  investors
throughout the EU",  commented Single Market Commissioner Mario Monti.  "Such
protection is essential  to encourage the  investment necessary  to make  the
Information Society a  commercially viable reality  in Europe.   By  adopting
this Directive, the EU has shown an example in this field  to the rest of the
world".   The  Directive is due to  be implemented by  Member States no later
than 1 January 1998.

With  the advent  of  the Information  Society,  the protection  of databases
takes on  added  importance,  as  most services  will  be  provided  from  an
electronic  database  available  on-line or  off-line  (CD-ROM,  CD-i,  etc).
Databases will  also have a  major impact on  the creation of new  multimedia
products.   It is therefore essential that the  EU provides a clear and well-
defined level  of protection  for databases  so  as to  ensure an  attractive
environment for investment while safeguarding users' interests.

The main feature of  this new  Directive is the creation  of a new  exclusive
economic right  protecting substantial investments  made by manufacturers  of
databases.   This  new  'sui  generis'  right  will be  granted  to  database
creators to protect their investment of  time, money and effort to  establish
a database, regardless of  whether the database is in itself innovative.   In
addition,  the  Directive  will provide  for  harmonisation  of  elements  of
copyright law applicable to the structure of databases.

On the basis of  the new Directive, manufacturers  of databases will be in  a
position to prohibit the extraction  and/or reutilisation of the  entirety or
substantial parts of the  database by third parties.  However, this  new form
of protection  should not affect the  rights of  traditional rightholders, in
particular of creators of works incorporated in the contents of a database.

The 'sui generis' protection  is valid for a  period of 15 years,  subject to
renewal  when new  substantial investments  take place.   The  same  level of
protection  is   available  within  the  Single   Market  for  all  databases
manufactured  within the Community.  Such  protection may be extended, in the
future, to databases  manufactured in third countries,  if their  legislation
provides for a similar level of protection for Community databases.

The Directive  strikes a balance between  the interests  of the manufacturers
of  databases  and the  legitimate  interests  of  their  users.   Particular
account has been taken of situations in  which the extraction of contents  of
databases  is  required for  teaching  purposes  as  well  as for  scientific
It is expected  that this legal innovation will receive significant attention
by  the  Community's  most  important   trading  partners,  as  well   as  in
international fora dealing with intellectual property rights.


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