Database Protection narrowed: British Horseracing Board v William Hill ECJ, 9 November 2004

December 2004

Retail, Internet

This case arose out of a referral by the Court of Appeal who asked the European Court of Justice to clarify the extent of the Database Right. The Database Right, which was thought to provide wide-ranging protection for databases far beyond that afforded by standard copyright, has been narrowed in reality once a fixture database was published it became unprotected. The right was thought to be useful where a database may not qualify as an original literary work under the provisions of the Copyright Designs & Patents Act 1988. The European Court of Justice finally ruled in the case by giving answers to some key questions regarding interpretation of the Database Right, which was created by an EU directive and implemented in the UK by the Database Regulations 1997. The ECJ ruled in William Hill’s favour by finding no infringement of BHB’s Database Right. The case involved the accessing of data from BHB’s database of pre-race information by William Hill bookmakers (via an intermediary subscription service), which was then displayed on the William Hill website. Given the immense amount of information in the original database, it was accepted by both sides that William Hill had only displayed a small proportion of the total amount. The ECJ ruled that whilst the BHB had spent time and money in compiling the database they had not ‘substantially invested in the obtaining, verifying and presenting’ of the listed material meaning that the Database Right protection would not extend to the database. A substantial investment in the collation of the database must be made. Here the data was captured at the stage it was created which was not enough to qualify for database protection.

The full text of the judgment can be accessed via:

and see :

See also Media Guardian, 15 November 2004, p16

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