Database Protection: Is It Broken and Should We Fix It?

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Science  14 May 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5417, pp. 1129-1130
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5417.1129

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In 1996, the European Union (EU) enacted broad, copyright-style protections for databases and demanded that the United States do the same. Congress is currently considering a bill (H.R. 354) that would bring U.S. law closer to that of the EU. Here, it is argued that existing legal, technical, and economic protections are already adequate and that H.R. 354 is at best unnecessary. On the cost side, European-style legislation would erode the traditional U.S. rule that "mere facts" should be available to all. Within the sciences, H.R. 354 is likely to reduce the viability of nonprofit databases and hamper free communication between scientists. Finally, database legislation could erode the purchasing power of government grants and encourage some database providers to seek monopoly profits.