In a rare departure from its own Advocate General’s opinion, the Court ruled that sporting data compiled by the British Horseracing Board (BHB) and Fixtures Marketing did not deserve protection under the EU database directive.
The decision is a victory for defendants – including bookmaker William Hill – who use data such as football and horse racing fixtures to provide betting information.
It is however a setback for the BHB, which had estimated that it could raise £100 million ($186 million) a year from licensing its database, thereby securing its commercial future.
[...] In response to questions on what was meant by investment in obtaining and verifying data, the Court said (in the BHB case) that investment must be shown in the creation of the database itself, as distinct from the pieces of data that make it up: “It does not cover the resources used for the creation of materials which make up the contents of a database.”
The Court added: “The resources used to draw up a list of horses in a race and to carry out checks in that connection do not constitute investment in the obtaining and verification of the contents of the database in which that list appears.”
[...] One comfort for database owners is that the Court said that indirect copying of databases that had been put in the public domain is outlawed: “The fact that the contents of a database were made accessible to the public … does not affect the right of the maker to prevent acts of extraction and/or re-utilization of the whole or a part of the contents of a database.”
The Court also said that assessing whether someone had copied a “substantial part” of the database, evaluated qualitatively, involved taking into account the scale of investment made in the database.
David Harding, chief executive of William Hill, told MIP Week that he believed “common sense seems to have prevailed”. He added: “We were not seeking to steal the BHB’s data. And in any case we didn’t take it from them as it was already in the public domain.”
See also the Scrivener’s Error entry: Database Protection