Commission launches public consultation on Database Directive

Commission launches public consultation on Database Directive

The Database Directive, adopted in 1996, aims at encouraging the development of databases through appropriate legal protection and the use of data. The Commission launches today a consultation to understand better how the Database Directive is used, to evaluate its impact on users and to identify possible needs of adjustment. Since the entry into force of the Directive, the database market, and more generally the role of data in the economy, has evolved. The Commission has recently presented several initiatives to boost the European data economy. 

The public consultation is open from 24 May until 30 August 2017.

Once the Commission has reviewed the submissions, it will decide on the next steps to take. 

The Directive on the legal protection of databases provides for two types of protection for databases. Firstly, databases can be protected, when original, under copyright law. Secondly, databases for which a substantial investment has been made can benefit from the “sui generis” protection. Owners of protected databases can prevent reproduction, communication, extraction or re-use of their database content on the basis of the protection granted by this directive. The directive also guarantees rights to the users, including the provision of specific exceptions in the fields of teaching, scientific research, public security or for private purposes.

The Commission has recently presented several initiatives to foster European data economy. In this context the objectives of the directive translate into increasing legal certainty for database makers and users and at enhancing the re-use of data. Evidence regarding the application and effects of the directive is however very scarce. It is therefore necessary to gather information on the functioning of the directive to assess its impact on relevant stakeholders, the data market and to identify possible needs of adjustment. 

Respond to the Consultation


The database directive was adopted in 1996 to create a harmonised legal framework to establish the ground rules for the protection of databases in the information age. The directive introduced the sui generis protection which is specific to the European Union. This protection is used in various sectors such as publishing, media and telecoms. 
The directive aims at striking a balance between rights and interests of both rightholders and users. Lawful users are allowed to perform certain acts necessary to use the contents of databases and facilitate the dissemination of information. There is also an optional list of exceptions to facilitate use of contents for example in research, education and public security. 
Since 1996, the Commission has published one evaluation of the database directive in 2005. The 2005 evaluation reported that the sui generis protection was used in various fields by different companies but that there were a number of issues linked e.g. to the scope of protection or the exceptions which were by some stakeholders considered unclear or insufficient to ensure full legal certainty for users. The evaluation concluded, amongst others that further empirical analysis was necessary to assess the usefulness of the Directive. The Court of Justice of the European Union has issued several judgements since the directive’s adoption, in particular on the sui generis protection. These judgements will also be analysed in the evaluation work by the Commission.