The reason that you don’t hear about database piracy is that for the most part it isn’t considered piracy at all. In the United States, database piracy is generally not even against the law.
This is a major gap in our intellectual-property laws. There is no serious dispute that intellectual-property laws — such as patent and copyright — are the engine of creation and invention. While reasonable people may therefore disagree about the scope of protection that should exist under the copyright and patent laws, no one seriously disputes that our intellectual property laws play an essential role in encouraging the investment of time and money in protected works and inventions in the first place.
But ever since 1991, when the Supreme Court held that the underlying facts in a database may not be copyrighted at all, database creators have enjoyed little or no intellectual property protection in the creation and maintenance of even the most comprehensive, commercially valuable and publicly useful databases.
Of course, as pointed out in Code, we don’t offer IP protection to cooking recipes, or fashion, either. And, if IP is the (rather than an) engine of creativity, where did these very valuable and useful databases come from in the absence of such protection?
Ernest also points out:
You would think that if these databases were so darn valuable, people could come up with ways to protect them that do not require onerous new law. Here are a few ideas, given away free in the public interest: