Resolution on the SUI Generis Protection of Databases

Approved by the Executive Board Nov 1996, Tab 33

WHEREAS, The U.S. Delegation is working with the World Intellectual Property Organization (W.I.P.O.) to prepare a Treaty for the Sui Generis Protection of Databases, despite the fact that the 104th Congress failed to reach consensus on similar legislation (H.R. 3531) and did not even hold any public hearings on the bill; and

WHEREAS, The proposal would overrule Feist Publications v. Rual Telephone Service Co., 499 U.S. 340 (1991), which held that originality is a bedrock requirement for copyright protection, and that mere investment of resources or effort is not sufficient; and

WHEREAS, The proposal would therefore dramatically expand the scope of protection over factual data and other non-copyrightable information; and

WHEREAS, The protection term of 25 years, renewable each time a significant change, addition or deletion is made to the database, would provide protection that could last in perpetuity; and

WHEREAS, The Proposal would specifically protect any databases of government information compiled by outside entities, thereby increasing the potential for monopoly over the very kinds of public data on which law librarians, attorneys, government officials and the general public regularly rely; and

WHEREAS, The proposal would violate the public good by removing from the public domain government information whose contents have not been substantially changed or modified; and

WHEREAS, The proposal effectively overrides fair use for database information and lacks library exemptions (Sections 107 and 108 of Title 17 of the U.S. Code); and

WHEREAS, Taken together, these provisions provide protection well beyond what has traditionally been contemplated by Congress or the courts, giving to non-copyrightable works protection greater than that given to creative works that are copyrightable; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the American Association of Law Libraries reaffirms the principle that access to government information, created at taxpayer expense, is a valuable national resource essential to a democratic society; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the American Association of Law Libraries opposes any initiative, either through treaty negotiations or future legislative proposals, that would extend sui generis database protection outside of current copyright law; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the American Association of Law Libraries transmit a copy of this resolution to the United States Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks, to the W.I.P.O. Chairman of the Committee of Experts, and to other appropriate officials as necessary.