The legal protection of databases from copyright to dataright
The vast and sweeping developments, which have occurred recently in the fields of computers, telecommunications and information technologies have stimulated the formation of a new global market of electronic information services and products, in which databases are principal components. Within the context of Intellectual Property Law, these advances challenge the traditional legal rules, resulting in ongoing reforms for adapting the law of intellectual property to the novel environment. Initiatives discussed in this study for determining the appropriate international legal standards for the protection of databases are the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (1994), the present discussions in the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), and the European Union's Directive on the Legal Protection of Databases (1996). The last initiative constitutes the most comprehensive attempt to resolve the issues involved in the protection of databases within the realm of intellectual property law. A particular reference is made to international copyright law and its adequacy to provide a suitable legal regime for the protection of databases. Furthermore, the rules of database copyright law, as applied in the United Kingdom and the United States, are examined and compared in the light of the anticipated reforms derived from the above-mentioned initiatives. From these explorations, the thesis concludes that copyright law has a limited application in the protection of databases. Moreover, the copyright regime as applied to databases can lead to under-protection of certain databases and over-protection of others. Therefore, a tailor-made intellectual property regime, termed in this study as dataright, must be developed as an adequate response. The dataright regime as introduced in the above European Union Database Directive is thoroughly examined and compared to proposals made by WIPO and by the United States Congress, as well as to alternative models of database protection. The quest for the adequate dataright system is considered as a balance of rights among database producers and users to the extent that incentives for database creation and dissemination are secured without excessive effects on access to information and free competition. The debate of how to achieve this balance has focused on whether the appropriate approach is to adopt unfair competition law, or to introduce a sui generis exclusive-right regime. The thesis demonstrates that whichever starting point is adopted, the results are substantially similar on fundamental points. The research concludes with detailed suggestions towards the adoption of a proposed Dataright Treaty, thus reconciling competing approaches and producing an international database protection system, which is a necessity for the functioning of the global information market.