A well-structured database holds value. This value derives from the work done by a controller who has made an effort to ordinate the data. As the creators of a database, researchers are the holders of sui generis database rights. These rights were implemented by Directive 96/9/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 1996 on the legal protection of databases, which was afterwards amended by the “copyright” directive. They recognize the right to the maker of a database “to prevent extraction and/or re-utilization of the whole or of a substantial part, evaluated qualitatively and/or quantitatively, of the contents of that database.” Through sui generis database rights, researchers, acting as controllers, can protect the content of the database, provided that 1) they are able to show that there has been qualitatively and/or quantitatively a substantial investment in either the obtaining, verification or presentation of the contents and 2) researchers are based in the EU or are EU residents.
The right lasts for 15 years once the database is completed but can be continuously renewed for 15 years if substantial investments are made towards the database.
The sui generis database rights can be disclosed and licensed like copyright. Asking for a payment against licensing a database is, thus, perfectly lawful. However, the disclosure of such rights often involves providing access to the database’s content to a third party. Therefore, controllers must ensure that they have a legal basis for such processing.
There are other rights that might also protect a database, mainly copyright obligations (possible, maybe not probable) and rights related to data protection. Thus, before accessing a database or disclosing it, a database owner should ensure about whether any of them applies or not.
1Directive (EU) 2019/790 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2019 on copyright and related rights in the Digital Single Market and amending Directives 96/9/EC and 2001/29/EC ↑
2Article 7(1) of Directive 96/9/EC of the European Parliament And Of The Council of 11 March 1996 on the legal protection of databases. This Directive was ↑