[Bell Historians] proto-National Bell Register work

John Camp camp at ...
Fri Oct 7 21:17:17 BST 2005

Back to copyright.

Necessary disclaimer: Anyone wanting advice on a specific matter
should obtain legal advice from an appropriate advisor. I am just
contributing to the discussion.

Chris Pickford has asked me about European law on copyright in things
like 'Dove', following the recent discussion on this list. There are
fairly recent directives on databases (1996, implemented in 1997) and
harmonisation of copyright law (2001).

Mike Richardson, who works for the Patent Office in Geneva, suggests
that I should mention the case of British Horseracing Board Ltd (BHB)
and others v William Hill Organisation Ltd in the European Court of
Justice, in which judgement was delivered on 9 November 2004

The BHB compiled and maintained a database containing lists of horses
running in races. William Hill had an internet site displaying
information obtained in part from the BHB's database. The information
displayed represented a very small proportion of the total amount of
the data on the database.

The court said that, even if you make a database public, that doesn't
prevent you from stopping someone else from using a 'substantial part'
of the contents of the database.

The importance of the decision is that it defined 'substantial part'
in a way which may possibly be more restrictive than has previously
been accepted by English (or Scottish or Northern Irish) courts. Any
use of the material must not "seriously prejudice the investment by
the maker". The court held that William Hill had not done this.

Actually, I don't think that this changes UK law. The test has always
been qualitative rather than quantative. It may be, though, that a UK
court would now interpret the test of what is a 'substantial part'
more restrictively.

John Camp


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