FWD: Database ownership laws
Wed, 13 Nov 1996 07:13:12 +1000
Something that struck me as possibly being of interest to linkers, apologies
for any x-postings,
what is our current standing on this?
>Subject: Action item: oppose new definition of property for databases
>X-Listprocessor-Version: 7.1 -- ListProcessor by CREN
>Interested organizations/companies are invited to sign onto the
>following letter, which addresses concerns that have been raised
>regarding a proposed new Treaty concerning access to electronic
>databases. The Treaty is expected to be discussed at the diplomatic
>conference in Geneva this December on behalf of the World Intellectual
>Property Organization. The proposed Treaty grants a new property
>right to database owners, which does not incorporate a public "fair
>use" doctrine, or other traditional copyright conventions.
>Recent analyses of the Treaty by Jamie Love of the Consumer Project on
>Technology indicates that the Treaty will create a new property right
>in facts and other data now in the public domain. It would, for
>example, significantly change the way sports statistics are controlled
>and disseminated, and also impact the way that stock prices, weather
>data, train schedules, data from AIDS research and other facts are
>used and controlled.
> The treaty seeks, for the first time, to permit firms to "own"
> facts they gather, and to restrict and control the redissemination
> of those facts. The new property right would lie outside (and on
> top) of the copyright laws, and create an entirely new and
> untested form of regulation that would radically change the
> public's current rights to use and disseminate facts and
> statistics. American University Law Professor Peter Jaszi
> recently said the treaty represents "the end of the public
>Copies of the proposed treaty, a federal register notice
>asking for public comment, and independent commentary can be
>found at: http://www.public-domain.org/database/database.html
>Details and analyses on the Treaty can be found on the Web at:
>http://www.public-domain.org, and CPT's "primer" on the treay and
>analysis of the impact on sports statistics is available at:
>Copyright experts J.H. Reichman and Pamela Samuelson say it is the
>"least balanced and most potentially anti-competitive intellectual
>property rights ever created."
>Organizations that wish to sign onto this letter should contact Susan
>Evoy at CPSR, firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments on the Treaty are due by Nov.
>22, so signatures are requested as soon as possible.
>Commissioner Bruce Lehman
>Patent and Trademark Office
>U.S. Department of Commerce
>Dear Commisioner Lehman:
>We, the undersigned organizations, are writing to express our concern
>over the "Draft Treaty in Respect to Databases" to be discussed at the
>diplomatic conference in Geneva this December on behalf of the World
>Intellectual Property Organization (the "Treaty"). The proposed
>Treaty grants a new sui generis property right, which does not
>incorporate a public "fair use" doctrine, or other traditional
>If enacted as proposed, the Treaty will do violence to the
>long-established practice in the academic and scientific communities
>of sharing information for educational and research purposes and will
>commercialize certain information that is and has always been freely
>Section 1.03 of the proposed Treaty claims that current technology
>allows databases to be reproduced at "practically no cost." This is
>not true. An online database is a complex system with much underlying
>structure that the user never sees. Accessing or copying large
>portions of the database at minimal or no cost is simply not feasible.
>But, the proposed Treaty would make the use of databases by the public
>or scientific and research communities even more prohibitive by
>permitting database owners or vendors to arbitrarily determine what
>portion of a database can be extracted, used, or reused.
>Section 1.04 of the proposed Treaty argues that the originality
>requirement of U.S. Copyright law does not provide sufficient
>protection for database producers. This statement is curious in light
>of a long U.S. legal tradition protecting free speech and authorship
>on the grounds that facts cannot be copyrighted or otherwise removed
>from the public domain. By creating a new property right for facts,
>the Treaty will impose regulations on the use of facts -- an idea that
>flies in the face of American history and values. The twin dangers
>are that we will now have to pay to buy collections of "facts" in the
>public domain, which we did not have to pay for before and that
>monopolies will be sanctioned and created by the Treaty. In other
>words, the Treaty strikes down "fair use" and extends sui generis
>protections to public and private collections.
>Section 1.04 becomes increasingly incomprehensible in light of the
>Section 10.05 proposal that "Contracting Parties may design the exact
>field of application of the provisions envisaged in this Article
>taking into consideration the need to avoid legislation that would
>impede lawful practices and the lawful use of subject matter that is
>in the public domain." In order to implement the spirit of Section
>10.05, Section 1.04 and its progeny must be discarded.
>Consider the numerous categories of public information for which only
>one practical and/or cost effective information source exists. The
>practical result of the Treaty will be to create commercial monopolies
>on these public information sources. Examples include telephone
>directory information, weather data, "official" sports statistics,
>government data administered under private contracts (such as the
>Official Airline Guide data) and other similar public information.
>It is shocking that the United States Government is seriously
>considering supporting a proposal that will operate to maximize
>profits to a small number of database vendors at the expense of the
>public at large without first undertaking a careful domestic review of
>these concerns. We urge you to examine this issue through
>Congressional hearings and other meaningful public discussion.
>Marcy J. Gordon, Esq.
>66 Pearl Street #307
>New York, NY 10004-2443660 (212)514-9514 email@example.com
>On behalf of the Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility
>Endorsed by NetAction:
>601 Van Ness Avenue, No. 631
>San Francisco, CA 94102 (415) 775-8674 firstname.lastname@example.org
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