The Copyright and Rights in Databases Regulations 1997 implement the Legal Protection of Databases Directive.
The Directive harmonises the laws of member states relating to the protection of copyright in databases.
It also created a new exclusive “sui generis” right for database producers (the 'database right'), valid for 15 years, to protect their investment of time, money and effort, irrespective of whether the database is in itself innovative (“non-original” databases).
The Directive’s provisions apply to both analogue and digital databases.
Legal protection of databases
The Copyright & Rights in Databases Regulations 1997 came into force on 1st January 1998 and implement the provisions of Council Directive No. 96/9/EC of 11 March 1996 on the legal protection of databases.
The UK's main intellectual property law framework - the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 makes no specific provision for databases. The Act currently makes provision for protection of copyright in compilations. A database may fall to be considered as a type of compilation. The Directive requires that a database be defined and that copyright protection should only be accorded to a database which by virtue of the selection or arrangement of the contents constitutes the author's own intellectual creation.
Supervision and enforcement
The UK copyright regime is supervised by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO)
Database rights last for fifteen years from the end of the year that the database was made available to the public, or from the end of the year of completion for private databases. Any substantial change which could be considered to be a substantial new investment will lead to a new term of database rights, which could, in principle, be perpetual.
Database rights are independent of any copyright in the database, and the two could, in principle, be held by different people (especially in jurisdictions which prohibit the corporate ownership of copyright).