Attorney Ioannis Lampropoulos* writes about one of the tools of modern journalism.
We live in a world full of data. On a daily basis, we are all – either intentionally or unintentionally – constantly creating data. At the same time, our lives are affected by data that has been, or is being produced by multiple sources.
Each piece of data has its own value, which increases when data is combined. The qualitative and quantitative magnitude of this increase in value depends on the ability, ingenuity and even the imagination of the database’s author, who either collects data from primary sources or pre-existing databases.
Nowadays, almost two decades into the new world that is constantly changing and being reshaped in the context of the fourth industrial revolution, and with computer science being more widespread than ever before, more and more data is being produced, which a growing number of people have access to. At the same time, now, more than ever, technology enables us to collect, process and utilize this data in a variety of ways.
Being at the forefront of change, the world of journalism is navigating new horizons, where infinite possibilities open up and raw journalistic material is waiting to be explored.
In this light, it is useful for researchers to get at least a basic overview of the legal framework for databases1.
A database is defined as a collection of works, data or other materials arranged in a systematic or methodical way and are individually accessible by electronic or other means.
A database may: (a) be the object of copyright protection, as it constitutes the author’s own intellectual creation and/or (b) be protected by a sui generis, specific protection right granted to its maker.
Regardless of whether a database meets the requirements in order to be considered an original work worthy of copyright protection, the legislator grants, under specific conditions, a sui generis property right to its maker. The latter needs to prove that there has been qualitatively and/or quantitatively a substantial investment in compiling the database.
A database is considered original if no other person, other than the author, acting under the same circumstances, could produce the exact same database, or if a database has an individual peculiarity or a distinct creative style in a way that makes it stand out and differentiates it from other similar works. Simply put, a database is valued and protected when it constitutes an original method of collecting and compiling information. Its content and the way it is collected, for the purpose of evaluating its originality, are legally indifferent. Individual copyrighted works included in the content of the database, if they are not everyday objects, may be protected independently. In this case, the database’s author can enjoy or transfer copyright protection at their own discretion.
Regardless of whether a database meets the above-mentioned requirements in order to be considered an original work worthy of copyright protection, the legislator grants, under specific conditions, a sui generis property right to its maker. The object of this right is the classification, arrangement and general organization of the data of which the database is comprised. In order for the maker of the database to be granted this sui generis right, they need to prove that there has been qualitatively and/or quantitatively a substantial investment in compiling the database. Therefore, what is assessed is whether the maker of a database incurred sufficient costs and made financial sacrifices for its compilation. This sui generis right is based on the deeply rooted in philosophy “sweat of the brow” doctrine of the Anglo-Saxon law, whereby an author is granted the exclusive right to extract and/or re-utilizate all or a substantial part of the contents of the database. In terms of content, the sui generis right of the database author is distinct from copyright, and it does not fall into the category of related rights. As a result, moral rights remain out of its scope, as it exclusively constitutes a property right limited to prohibiting any form of extraction and re-utilization.
Despite the fact that more than two decades have passed since the establishment of the legal framework on copyright for databases, the case law is limited. This may be interpreted as a sign of self-regulation in the information society, which is aimed at continuous progress and development.
In practice, it is quite common for a database to be worthy of dual protection – both as a method of data collection that is protected as an original intellectual creation and as a collection of data that grants the sui generis property right to its maker as mentioned above.
Finally, it should be noted that in any case, holders of all the above rights can – as far as the law is concerned – freely transfer the property rights conceded to them, allowing, under certain conditions, further sharing and processing of databases.
Despite the fact that more than two decades have passed since the establishment of the legal framework on copyright for databases, the case law in European and national courts is limited. Given the enormous importance databases have for science, technology, and even our daily lives, this may be interpreted as a sign of self-regulation in the information society, which is aimed at continuous progress and development.
1Database protection was introduced in the European Union with the adoption of Directive 96/9 / EEC. The content of the Directive was incorporated in the Greek legal system with Law 2819/2000, which amended articles 2, 3 and 4 of the pre-existing Law 2121/1993 respectively, and introduced article 45A.
*Ioannis Lampropoulos is an attorney and managing partner at the “Phi Lambda Law Firm”.
The above is a brief description of some aspects pertaining to the specialized issue of copyright for databases in the light of Greek and European legal context. Under no circumstances is this information intended to constitute legal advice and neither iMEdD nor the Law Firm is bound by it.
Tranlsation: Anatoli Stavroulopoulou