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Review of the EU database directive

Here is the documentation on the review of the EU database directive I
picked up at the ICSTI Winter committee meeting. As I think the matter
is of some importance to the IUCr and to the management of
crystallographic databases I enquired if others had received this letter
from the ICSU President. Frank had not so I copy to you all. (see list
of addressees)
-------------------------

[1]
20 November 2001
To: European National Scientific Members of ICSU
From: H. Yoshikawa, President
cc: European Engineering Academies; Participants in Workshop on the
European Directive on the Legal Protection of Databases organized by the
ICSU/CODATA Ad hoc Group on Data and Information in Baveno, Italy,
October 2000: J. Rumble, President CODATA: ICSU/CODATA Ad hoc Group on
Data and Information.

I am writing in regard to a matter of concern to ICSU. As you may know,
for some time now ICSU has been following the issue of access to data
and information for research and education. Constraints on access,
imposed for a number of reasons, are limiting the open use of data and
information for scientific and educational purposes, thereby reducing
the public benefit that might otherwise be derived. ICSU, in
collaboration with CODATA, the Committee on Data for Science and
Technology, which is one of ICSU's interdisciplinary scientific
committees, established the ICSU/CODATA Ad hoc Group on Data and
Information to examine problems, policies, and possible solutions to
issues of international access and exchange of data for scientific
research and education.

In 1998, the European Union put into effect a Database Directive whose
terms could potentially severely limit access to data and information of
many kinds. The Directive creates a new kind of intellectual property
protection for databases produced in the European Economic Area. Under
the Directive, database producers can prohibit use of more than an
insubstantial part of the database. The term of protection is 15 years,
but each time the database is updated significantly the entire database
(not just the updated parts) receives another 15 years of protection.
Consequently, active databases apparently can be protected in
perpetuity. The term 'database' is so broadly defined that nearly any
kind of organized information can be considered to be a database.

The Directive was scheduled to be reviewed after three years, that is in
2001. In preparation for this review the ICSU/CODATA Ad hoc Group held a
one-day workshop in Baveno, Italy on 14th October 2000. This workshop
addressed
 - The importance of traditional, full and open data access for science
and technology in Europe and on the worldwide stage.
 - The implications of the Directive on EU countries and non EU Member
countries.
 - The impact of this Directive on research.

However, all European states did not implement the Directive until a few
months ago. Thus the review has been delayed, and will probably be
carried out sometime in 2002. At that time, the contractor for the EU
will be seeking advice on the impact of the Directive. Their study
should include the views of the scientific community in Europe, and the
National Scientific Members of ICSU should be prepared to make their
views known.

The Chair of the Ad hoc Group has been in contact with the European
Commission in Brussels, and expects to hear when the review of the
Directive has in fact begun. At that time, ICSU will contact you again
to bring some specific points to your attention. We hope by then you
will be prepared to bring the views of the scientific community in your
country to the attention of the Commission in this study.

With kind regards.


-----------------
David Russon said that the EU were the stage of appointing a
consultant/constractor to undertake the review.

ICSTI has formulated a draft paper to send to ICSU on this matter. If I
find the time I'll send you a copy.

H.


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Howard Flack        http://www.unige.ch/crystal/ahdf/Howard.Flack.html
Laboratoire de Cristallographie               Phone: +41 22 702 62 49
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