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 Directive harmonised also copyright law applicable to the structure and arrangement of the contents of databases (“original” databases). The Directive’s provisions apply to both analogue and digital databases.
The European Commission has published an evaluation of the protection EU law gives to databases. EU law protects databases by copyright if they are sufficiently creative. Other databases, especially those that are compilations of information or commonplace data, such as telephone directories, music charts or football match listings, may benefit from a new form of protection introduced by the 1996 Database Directive. This protection is known as the “sui generis” database right, i.e. a specific property right for databases that is unrelated to other forms of protection such as copyright. The evaluation focuses on whether the introduction of this right led to an increase in the European database industry's rate of growth and in database production. It also looks at whether the scope of the right targets those areas where Europe needs to encourage innovation.
On 12 December 2005, DG Internal Market and Services published the first evaluation of Directive 96/6/EC on the Legal Protection of Databases. The report takes into consideration the principles of better regulation, which requires an evaluation of whether legislative measures have achieved their stated objectives. The Commission report is based on two external studies, data from the Gale Directory of Databases (GDD) and an on-line survey carried out by the DG Markt.
On publication, DG Internal Market and Services invited stakeholders to comment on four options: Repeal the whole Database Directive (Option 1); Withdraw the sui generis right while leaving protection for creative databases unchanged (Option 2); Amend the sui generis provisions in order to clarify their scope (Option 3); Maintain the status quo (Option 4). Public consultation was initially open until 12 March 2006, but extended to 31 March 2006. 55 contributions were received.
Although it is not always possible to draw a clear line between the different groups, 31 contributors can be clearly identified as producers (e.g. database producing companies, associations of database publishers, publishers and press), 13 as academic (including individual contributors and library associations) and 8 as users (mainly consumer associations and betting companies). The French Government also submitted observations.
8 contributions support Option 1, 3 contributions support Option 2, 26 support Option 3 and 26 support Option 4. (Since some of the contributions support more than one option the numbers exceed the number of contributions received). Within the group in support of Option 3, 13 contributors ask for a broader definition of the right (mainly in reaction to the ECJ) and 10 for more exceptions to the sui generis right.