Workshop on the European Directive on the Legal Protection of Databases
14 October 2000,
Baveno, Italy


CODATA home page

Workshop on the European Directive on the Legal Protection of Databases

Sponsored by the ICSU/CODATA Ad hoc
Group on Data and Information
conference home

contact CODATA
organizer directory
plenary talks
IPR Workshop
additional meetings
yellow/orange rule

Provisional Agenda

Why This Workshop?

The 2001 review of the European Directive on the Legal Protection of Databases offers an opportunity for the European scientific community

  • to understand the importance of traditional, full and open data access for science in Europe and on the worldwide stage
  • to understand all the issues involved and the impact of the Directive on research
  • to develop collectively responses reflecting the needs of their disciplines and countries
  • to be prepared to make substantive inputs when requested

The twin revolutions now taking place in computer networking (the Internet) and information technology have challenged the existing framework of intellectual property rights. While new technology opens exciting dissemination possibilities, the traditional publishing industry believes it is threatened by a loss of control to its intellectual property rights (IPR). Often lost in the debate is the role that full and open data access plays in maintaining the vitality and effectiveness of scientific research.

The original passage of the European Directive on the Legal Protection of Databases came as a surprise to scientists and scientific groups all around the world. If the Directive were fully implemented and individual European countries passed conforming laws without traditional fair use protection, the way science is now practised could be seriously harmed.

Highlighted Agenda

  • The Importance of Data Access for Science and Technology in the 21st Century
  • The EC Directive on the Legal Protection of Databases: Overview of Key Questions
  • Implementation of Database Legislation in the EU and Plans for Review
  • Concerns Regarding Potential Impacts of the EU Directive on S&T
  • Legal Developments at the World Intellectual Property Organisation
  • Current Status of Database Legislation in the US
  • Development of Database Protection in Japan
  • Database Development in the Developing World
  • The Experience of Different EU Countries: Case Examples of how Database Protection may negatively affect the Science Community
  • Summary of key issues for S&T Research for the 2001 Review of the Directive

ICSU/CODATA Ad hoc Group on Data and Information

The Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA), established by the International Council for Science (ICSU), is an international scientific organization dedicated to improving the quality, reliability, management and accessibility of data of importance to all fields of science and technology.

In 1997 the ICSU/CODATA Ad hoc Group on Data and Information was established by the Executive Board of ICSU. This Group has been active in addressing the problems and identifying possible solutions for organizations and individuals concerned with scientific data access.

ICSU and CODATA have worked closely together to develop a position paper on data access. The group has been successful in articulating the need for and importance of full and open access to scientific data as national and international laws and treaties for cyberspace are developed.

The European Directive on the Legal Protection of Databases, 96/9/EC

The Directive was adopted by the Council of  the European Communities and the European Parliament in 1996. Member States were to implement the Directive in their respective jurisdictions by 1 January 1998.

In 2001 the Commission is to submit to the European Parliament, the Council and the Economic and Social Committee a report on the application of the Directive on the basis of information supplied by member states.

Where necessary, the Commission will submit proposals for adjustment of the Directive in line with developments in the area of databases.

Implications of the Directive from a Science and Technology Focus

  • It creates an unprecedented, absolute exclusive property right in the contents of databases that contradicts the underlying premise of classical intellectual property law that says that no one should own factual data as such
  • It relies on a broad and inclusive definition of databases that potentially covers almost everything on the Internet
  • It conveys an exclusive property right in the content of all databases even if they fail to qualify for copyright protection. This right lasts for an initial period of 15 years and can be extended indefinitely whenever updates or substantial investments are added
  • It has no requirement for public-interest exceptions (individual member states have the discretion to adopt some limited exceptions when implementing the Directive)
  • As an exception, member states may allow “fair use” provisions for science and education. Not all member states have enacted such exceptions
  • It provides for no mandatory legal licenses that would require sole source providers to make data available on reasonable terms and conditions
  • It contains a reciprocity clause that denies equal protection under the law in Europe to foreign data vendors, unless their respective nations have adopted similar laws for protecting databases
  • It establishes the potential of strong penalties for infringement


yellow/orange rule

For more information, please contact:

CODATA Secretariat
51 Boulevard de Montmorency, 75016 Paris
Ph: +33 1 45 25 04 96 
Fax: +33 1 42 88 14 66
CODATA web page:

This page last updated December 1, 2000