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Learning about database rights

Databases, every company has them. Some databases are purely for internal use, but some databases are meant to be commercialised. In both ways, it’s obvious that you want to keep these data safe. That’s where database rights comes in the picture. Database rights protect against unauthorised access or use of your database. So your competitors can’t use this without your permission.

Discover more about databases in this guide.

Step 1/8 What are database rights ?

First of all, a database is a collection of data which is ordered in a certain way (systematically or methodically) and is separately accessible by electronic means or otherwise. This means that each element in the database is independent and can be found separately, for example by means of an index or an electronic search function. A database can be on paper or can be electronic, for example encyclopaedia or a structured list of second-hand cars, houses, books, flights, etc.

Database rights protect the database you made against unauthorised access or (re)use of (a part of) the data by others.

Step 2/8 What are the requirements to protect my database ?

No registration is required as protection starts automatically as soon as the material exists in recorded form. You automatically acquire database rights when the database is created. However, protection only applies if you made a substantial investment in the creation of your database (the term ‘substantial investment’ is not restricted to money alone, this can also be time, effort and energy). This means protection only belongs to the person that produces the database, this is the investor who takes the initiative and carries the risk of the investments leading to the creation of the database.

Step 3/8 How long do database rights last ?

Protection lasts up to 15 years after completion or disclosure of the database. This term of protection restarts each time a substantial investment is made to update the database.

Step 4/8 What costs are involved ?

There is no registration fee and therefore there are no costs for acquiring database rights. This is because the right arises automatically from the creation of the database.

Step 5/8 Are database rights the same all over the world ?

In Europe this legislation is similar in all EU Member States. Outside the European Union, different systems exist and in several countries database protection falls under copyright. If you want international protection, you have to keep this in mind.

Step 6/8 How can I benefit from my database rights ?

The fact that your database is protected against unauthorised access or use gives you a competitive advantage as you can prohibit others from (re)using a substantial part of your database for 15 years. You can also can earn money with your database. You can allow access to your database with a login and ask in return either a fixed fee or a subscription fee or sell data. Even if it concerns a database with confidential data, you can share it as a trade secret under a licence.

Step 7/8 Are there other ways to protect my database than with database rights ?

Database rights are a very specific right, and sometimes you want to protect more than just the unauthorised access to your database, or the (re)use of (a part of) the data by others. If your database contains secret information for example, the secret database content can be protected as a trade secret. For more information see the smart guide on trade secrets.

Databases might also be protected by copyright. That’s the case if your database consists of copyrighted content, for example photos and if the data in your database is ordered in an original manner (not a logical arrangement such as alphabetical order), this structure might also be protected by copyright. This copyright does not protect the content of the database, and that is why database right and copyright can co-exist. Keep in mind that the design of your database can also be protected under copyright. For more information see the smart guide on copyright.

Step 8/8 If someone uses my data, does that mean they have infringed my database rights ?

Someone can freely (re)use or extract only element or insubstantial part of your database. But when someone else uses more or even your entire database to create for example their own database, they infringe your database rights.

If you can demonstrate that the other person accessed or used a substantial part of your database without your permission, you can take action.

However, another person can create a database with comparable data, if these data have been lawfully obtained.

If you can demonstrate that the other person accessed or used a substantial part of your database without your permission, you can take action.

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