Contact us on

020 7611 4848

email us


Arrange a Callback

Ask a Question

Protecting Your Database – Database Rights and Copyright Infringement

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

As a key platform for the delivery of online information and content, databases have become valuable business assets. They represent an investment of time, money and skill, meaning that protecting your database from others is important due to its commercial value. Electronic databases can be described as “a collection of independent works, data or other materials which are arranged in a systematic or methodical way and are individually accessible by electronic or other means”. There are two main types of protection; database rights and copyright infringement protection.

Database Rights: Protecting Your Database

Database rights are an automatic right, protecting all original sets of data which meet the definition of ‘database’, providing there has been a substantial investment. The investment can be financial, technical or one of time. This right prohibits others from extracting or re-utilising significant parts of a database without the consent of the owner; or from carrying out repeated, systematic extraction of insubstantial parts.

The right will last for fifteen years from the end of the year in which the database was completed but, if the database is then published, the fifteen years will commence from the end of the year in which it is published. This fifteen year period can be reset if the database is updated regularly. If a database is made available to the public, it is permitted for others to extract information for purposes such as teaching or research but not for commercial gain.

Copyright Infringement of Your Database

Copyright protection uses the same criteria as database rights. In addition to the originality threshold, this means databases must, “by reason of the selection or arrangement of [their contents,] constitute the author’s own intellectual creation”. This seeks to protect the selection and arrangement of a database, as opposed to the content that has been gathered. This kind of protection prevents others from copying or adapting the work without permission of the owner, for a much longer period; seventy years from the end of the year in which the author dies. Even if a database does not match the legal definition required to afford it protection, as long as the originality test is satisfied it could be protected as a data compilation or a table.


To make sure that your databases are protected, you should keep them updated to renew the fifteen year database right, and keep evidence of all resources that have been put into the creation of a database. If any issues with copyright infringement materialise in the future, these records can help prove substantial investment. If you or your company uses databases which it does not own or only has permission to use, it is wise to seek licences to prevent any action being taken against you.

It is vital for businesses to to ensure that their intellectual property is protected; Rollingsons has experienced lawyers who can advise you about the legal precautions you can take. For more information please contact James Crichton via e-mail or by telephone on 0207 611 4848.