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Databases can be protected in the UK by copyright law (as a literary work) provided that the database is a collection of independent works, data or other materials which (a) are arranged in a systematic or methodical way and (b) are individually accessible by electronic or other means. The test for database copyright is whether the database is, by reason of the selection or arrangement of the contents of the database, the author’s own intellectual creation. Generally speaking, this is considered by most to require a level of creative input on the part of the author that is akin to the usual copyright test that the author has inputted skill and labour into the work.

However, even if a database cannot meet this test it may still be protected in the UK (and in Ireland) by a separate database right. Ireland and the UK have both transposed the European Database Directive 1996 into national law. A database right applies to any database (electronic or paper) in which there has been a substantial investment in obtaining, verifying or presenting the contents. This means that the investment required cannot have been mainly in creating the actual data or content but rather must have been in obtaining, verifying or presenting already existing data. Database right protects the owner against acts of extracting (being the transfer of the contents of the database) and acts of re-utilisation (being the making of the database available to the public). It arises automatically upon the database being created, and can last for an initial term of 15 years but in reality the rights can last indefinitely provided that there is a substantial change to the content of the database within every 15 years.

Effect of Brexit on Database Rights:

At this stage no effect is anticipated.

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