UK: Database Right - Legal Protection for Databases

Last Updated: 12 July 2004
Article by Martyn Hann and Les Christy

Opinion of the Advocate-General of the European Court of Justice ('ECJ') (Case C-203/02)

On 8 June 2004 the A-G gave her opinion on 4 cases referred to the ECJ for interpretation of the provisions of Directive 96/9/EC on the legal protection of databases. One of the cases was the decision of the High Court in British Horse Racing Board v William Hill (referred to the ECJ by the Court of Appeal).

Recap on database right

The Directive was implemented into UK law by the Copyright and Rights in Databases Regulations 1997 ('DRegs').

  • The DRegs created an entirely new right (called "database right") in respect of a database where there has been "substantial investment in obtaining, verifying or presenting the contents of the database"
  • The maker of the database (i.e. the person who invests) is the owner of the database right. Where the database is made by an employee in the course of employment the employer is regarded as the maker subject to any agreement to the contrary
  • A person infringes database right in a database if they, without the consent of the owner extractor re-utilise all or a substantial part of the database
  • The repeated and systematic extraction or re-utilisation of insubstantial amounts may infringe
  • The term of database protection is 15 years from the end of the year in which the database was made (or first made available to the public)

A-G's Interpretation of the Directive

In assessing whether there is an infringement:

  • the only activities capable of infringing are 'extraction' and 're-utilisation'
  • the purpose for which the maker created the database is irrelevant
  • similarly, the intention of the user is not relevant; commercial use is not a decisive factor
  • 'a substantial part of the contents of the database' includes works, data or other material derived from the database but which do not have the same systematic or methodical arrangement and individual accessibility as the original database
  • the fact that the contents of the database are otherwise publicly available, does not have any bearing on the protection of the database
  • Unlike 'extraction', 're-utilisation 'includes indirect means of obtaining the contents of the database. Therefore a person may re-utilise the contents of a database without having direct access to the database from which the contents are derived (or realising they have done so)

'Obtaining' does not include the mere production of data by the maker, but if the collection and screening of the data takes place at the same time as the data is generated the database can qualify for protection. It is not, therefore, a requirement that the data must be obtained from a source separate from the maker

'Verifying' applies to data that already form the contents of the database; it is primarily a matter of monitoring the contents for completeness and accuracy

'Substantial' is defined in the DRegs in terms of quality or quantity or a combination of both. There is, however, no minimum in terms of quantity. The investment made by the maker will always have to be taken into consideration in the assessment of whether a substantial part has been taken. The demarcation of what is 'substantial' is for the Court to decide in each individual case

'Extraction' is defined as the temporary or permanent transfer of the contents to another medium by any means and in any form e.g. printing out data would amount to extraction

'Re-utilisation' is defined as making the contents of the database available to the public by any means. Some examples are provided in the Directive including distributing copies, renting or making available online

'Repeated and systematic' are cumulative requirements. An activity is repeated and systematic when it is carried out at regular intervals, for example weekly or monthly

Exceptions to database right for teaching and research

The DRegs provide that database right in a database which has been made available to the public in any manner is not infringed by fair dealing with a substantial part of its contents if:

  • that part is extracted by a person who is a lawful user of the database
  • it is extracted for the purpose of illustration for teaching or research and not for any commercial purpose and
  • the source of the database is indicated


This opinion provides useful guidance, subject to the authoritative interpretation contained in the decision of the ECJ which is expected in the next few months. This opinion has strengthened the position of the maker of the database, which will support an expanding market in the production and licensing of databases.

  • After the decision of the ECJ we expect to see a substantial rise in claims of database right infringement and demands for licence fees
  • If your business collects and distributes information taken from outside sources particularly websites and media sources e.g. newspapers) you should now reassess those activities to determine whether they could be infringing database rights
  • We can help by advising you on whether your activities or the way you collect information needs to be revised to minimise the risk of infringement
  • If you receive a demand to pay licence fees or if you receive a claim that you are infringing copyright or database right we can act quickly to assess the situation and advise you on the appropriate action

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.