A Question of Balance: Private Rights and the Public Interest in Scientific and Technical Databases

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New legal approaches, such as the European Union's 1996 Directive on the Legal Protection of Databases, and other legal initiatives now being considered in the United States at the federal and state level, are threatening to compromise public access to scientific and technical data available through computerized databases. Lawmakers are struggling to strike an appropriate balance between the rights of database rights holders, who are concerned about possible commercial misappropriation of their products, and public-interest users of the data such as researchers, educators, and libraries.

A Question of Balance examines this balancing act. The committee concludes that because database rights holders already enjoy significant legal, technical, and market-based protections, the need for statutory protection has not been sufficiently substantiated. Nevertheless, although the committee opposes the creation of any strong new protective measures, it recognizes that some additional limits against wholesale misappropriation of databases may be necessary. In particular, a new, properly scoped and focused U.S. statute might provide a reasonable alternative to the European Union's highly protectionistic database directive. Such legislation could then serve as a legal model for an international treaty in this area. The book recommends a number of guiding principles for such possible legislation, as well as related policy actions for the administration.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780309068253
  • Publisher: National Academies Press
  • Publication date: 12/16/1999
  • Pages: 158
  • Product dimensions: 6.03 (w) x 9.06 (h) x 0.44 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Importance and Use of Scientific and Technical Databases 16
Scientific and Technical Data and the Creation of New Knowledge 17
Scientific and Technical Databases as a Resource - The Current Context 18
The Challenge of Effectively Balancing Private Rights and the Public Interest in Scientific and Technical Databases 38
2 Incentives and Disincentives Affecting the Availability and Use of Scientific and Technical Databases 39
Divergent Objectives of Organizations That Produce and Distribute Scientific and Technical Databases 40
Scientific and Technical Database Costs, Pricing, and Access 43
3 Access to and Protections for Databases: Existing Policies and Approaches 51
Access to U.S. Government-funded Scientific and Technical Data 52
Existing Protections for Databases in the United States 58
Tipping the Balance: The European Union's Database Directive 69
4 Assessment and Recommendations 73
Assessment of Legislative Options, with Recommendations on Guiding Principles 74
Assessment of Policy Options, with Recommendations for Government Action 100
Recommended Approach for the Not-for-Profit Scientific and Technical Community 109
App. A Biographical Sketches of Committee Members 113
App. B Workshop Agenda and Participants 118
App. C Workshop Proceedings - Listing of Contents 128
App. D European Union Directive on the Legal Protection of Databases 130
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