Previous by Date Index by Date
Threaded Index
Next by Date

Previous by Thread Next by Thread

Re: Boston Globe Article--response in favor of database legislation


Well, having seen the Boston Globe article by Simson Garfinkel against the
database legislation, I thought it was important to present the other
side.  My business op-ed in favor of database legislation ran in
yesterday's ( June 2) Boston Globe, on page 4 of the Business Section.
The link is: piracy.htm

and I've copied the article below, in case the link soon expires.

I believe that not only will publishers benefit from having an incentive
to continue producing their databases, but users will also benefit from
the continued production of high-quality, reliable databases.

And for those of you who are going to the SLA conference in Indianapoli s,
and want to throw a tomato [virtual, please] at me directly, you can do
so--I'm talking about "SuperHighway Robbery: Protecting and Using
Intellectual Property on the Internet" at 10:30 on Monday morning.

David Mirchin
VP & General Counsel
SilverPlatter Information, Inc.
tel: 781-769-2599, ext. 235


Putting an end to database piracy

By David Mirchin, 06/02/98

Warren Publishing, a family owned business in Washington, has been
publishing ''the bible'' of the cable television industry since 1948.
Warren's 25 employees compile, verify, and update extensive information on
each of the nation's 9,000 cable TV systems. A few years ago, a
competitor-to-be walked into a public library, copied Warren's Television
& Cable Factbook, and published it under its own name.  Warren sued to
prevent this wholesale copying - and lost.

The court concluded that this information was not protected by copyright
law. Pirating of the Factbook could, under the law, continue. To protect
its book, Warren resorted to mailing it with a license agreement that
limits its use to those who purchase the book.

The problems of Warren - and other database publishers - can be traced to
a 1991 decision by the US Supreme Court. It ruled that a telephone
directory was not protected by copyright law, overturning a long history
of cases that had prevented the copying of directories and databases.
Since the ruling, increasing numbers of publishers have had their
directories ripped off.

The issue has reached a crisis point because of the
Internet, where it is free
and easy to distribute databases worldwide. One can copy
an entire electronic database and post it on the Internet with a
undermining a company's entire line of information

The issue is important because these directories are key informational
tools for businesses, researchers, and consumers. For example:  Where
should you apply to college? Look in Peterson's Guide, which profiles
3,500 universities in North America. Is your small company looking for
financing? Turn to Pratt's Guide to Venture Capital. If your child
swallows a household chemical and is rushed to an emergency room, what
might the doctor consult? Poisindex, which provides instructions for
treatment of more than a million different substances.

If a competitor can copy these directories and sell them with impunity,
original publishers will have no incentive to update them. The real losers
are the users of information who will have fewer high-quality databases.

The European Union recognized the problem caused by this gap in
intellectual property law and, in March 1996, passed a law called the
Database Directive to protect databases made by European companies. The
directive only protects databases made by US firms if US law offers
similar legal protections. Since US law does not, the result is that some
US database producers are considering shifting their operations to Europe.

A bill in the US Congress would rectify this situation.  The House of
Representatives on May 19 passed legislation that would, for the first
time, protect database makers. The Collections of Information Antipiracy
Act (HR 2652) provides incentives for continued production of
high-quality, private-sector databases. The bill now goes to the Senate
and deserves support from both the producers and users of these databases.

The legislation provides that any person who invests a lot of money to
produce a database can bring a claim against someone who takes all, or a
substantial part, of the database or who harms the actual or potential
market for the product. And the Antipiracy Act would protect companies
from theft of information, whether in electronic or print form, whether
distributed over the Internet or by traditional channels.

These databases will not win the Nobel Prize for literature. They are,
however, of growing importance in the information age when quick access to
reliable information is critical.

David Mirchin is vice president and general counsel of SilverPlatter
Information Inc., an Internet publisher in Norwood. He can be reached at
davidm@silverplatter. com.

This story ran on page C04 of the Boston Globe on
Copyright 1998 Globe Newspaper Company.
© 1996, 1997 Yale University Library
Please read our Disclaimer
E-mail us with feedback