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Position on U.S. Proposal Concerning Database Intellectual Property

Position on U.S. Proposal on Database Intellectual Property

Commissioner Bruce Lehman
Patent and Trademark Office
U.S. Department of Commerce

Dear Commisioner Lehman:

We, the undersigned organizations, are writing to express our concern over the “Draft Treaty in Respect to Databases” to be discussed at the diplomatic conference in Geneva this December on behalf of the World Intellectual Property Organization (the “Treaty”). The proposed Treaty grants a new sui generis property right, which does not incorporate a public “fair use” doctrine, or other traditional copyright conventions.

If enacted as proposed, the Treaty will do violence to the long-established practice in the academic and scientific communities of sharing information for educational and research purposes and will commercialize certain information that is and has always been freely available.

Section 1.03 of the proposed Treaty claims that current technology allows databases to be reproduced at “practically no cost.” This is not true. An online database is a complex system with much underlying structure that the user never sees. Accessing or copying large portions of the database at minimal or no cost is simply not feasible. But, the proposed Treaty would make the use of databases by the public or scientific and research communities even more prohibitive by permitting database owners or vendors to arbitrarily determine what portion of a database can be extracted, used, or reused.

Section 1.04 of the proposed Treaty argues that the originality requirement of U.S. Copyright law does not provide sufficient protection for database producers. This statement is curious in light of a long U.S. legal tradition protecting free speech and authorship on the grounds that facts cannot be copyrighted or otherwise removed from the public domain. By creating a new property right for facts, the Treaty will impose regulations on the use of facts—an idea that flies in the face of American history and values. The twin dangers are that we will now have to pay to buy collections of “facts” in the public domain, which we did not have to pay for before and that monopolies will be sanctioned and created by the Treaty. In other words, the Treaty strikes down “fair use” and extends sui generis protections to public and private collections.

Section 1.04 becomes increasingly incomprehensible in light of the Section 10.05 proposal that “Contracting Parties may design the exact field of application of the provisions envisaged in this Article taking into consideration the need to avoid legislation that would impede lawful practices and the lawful use of subject matter that is in the public domain.” In order to implement the spirit of Section 10.05, Section 1.04 and its progeny must be discarded.

Consider the numerous categories of public information for which only one practical and/or cost effective information source exists. The practical result of the Treaty will be to create commercial monopolies on these public information sources. Examples include telephone directory information, weather data, “official” sports statistics, government data administered under private contracts (such as the Official Airline Guide data) and other similar public information.

It is shocking that the United States Government is seriously considering supporting a proposal that will operate to maximize profits to a small number of database vendors at the expense of the public at large without first undertaking a careful domestic review of these concerns. We urge you to examine this issue through Congressional hearings and other meaningful public discussion.

Marcy J. Gordon, Esq.
66 Pearl Street #307
New York, NY 10004-2443660

On behalf of the Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility


Audrie Krause
Executive Director
601 Van Ness Avenue, No. 631
San Francisco, CA 94102
415 775-8674

Joe McCord, Ph.D.
President, Texas Library Association
2700 Bay Area Blvd
Houston, TX 77058
713 283 3931
Fax 713 283 3907

Coralee Whitcomb
Virtually Wired Educational Foundation

Analisa L. Balares
Co-Chair, The Economics Society
Mount Holyoke College
South Hadley, Massachusetts

First Amendment Project
1736 Franklin Street, 8th Flr.
Oakland, CA 94162

Richard Stallman
The Free Software Foundation

Gordon Cook
The COOK Report on Internet
431 Greenway Ave
Ewing, NJ 08618
609 882-2572 (phone & fax)

William Drake
Associate Director Communication, Culture and Technology Program
Georgetown University
Washington, D.C.
202 687-1722

Mike Godwin
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Scott Brower
Founder/Executive Director
Electronic Frontiers Florida

David Smith
President, EFF-Austin
PO Box 18957
Austin TX 78760

Alan Sugarman, President

Jamie Love
Consumer Project on Technology

Todd Lappin, Section Editor
WIRED magazine

Eleanor J. Lewis
Executive Director
American Association of Legal Publishers

Jane Gottlieb
Music Library Association
212/799-5000 ext. 265
fax: 212/724-0263

Dr. Pamela Czapla
Library Program
The National Cable Television Center
The Pennsylvania State University
Level B, Sparks Bldg.
University Park, PA 16802
814 865 1875
fax: 814 863 7808

Douglas Aerie

Prevention Point of Buffalo, Inc

ACT UP Western New York

AIDS Alliance

Aids Community Services

Buffalo Columbus Hospital, Project REACH

Geneva B Scruggs Community Healthcare Center

Upstate NY VA Healthcare System

Committee on AIDS and Policy Issues
716 862 3338

James E. Leinweber
Information Systems
State Laboratory of Hygiene
University of Wisconsin
465 Henry Mall
Madison WI 53706-1578
608 262 0736

Robert Nickerson
Agent, Communications World Network (
Director, Bevcom Internet Technologies (
Enthusiast, The Lycaeum (

Oliver Clarke
Chairman of CommUnit
The Pig Pen
Support Community, The Computer Communicators Association World Wide Web

Ron Ipsen
Managing Director
Gippsland Internet Pty Ltd
051 276543
Fax: 051 262020
Gippslands Community Network

Richard Hull
CROMTEC (Centre for Research on Organisations, Management & Technical Change)
Manchester School of Management
PO Box 88
Manchester M60 1QD
+44 (0)161 200 3401
Fax: +44 (0)161 200 3622

Dr Michael Baker
Board Member, Electronic Frontiers Australia
PO Box 5
Flaxley SA
5153 Australia
Ph:08 8388 8439
Fax:08 8262 3633 08=+618

Center for Information, Technology & Society Melrose, MA

Paul Healey
Davis Community Network

Educational Products Information Exchange Educational Products
Information Exchange
Hampton Bays, NY

Dr. Edgar Cahn
Time Dollar Institute
Washington, DC

Paul Foldes
Alexandria, VA

John German
Non-Profit Computing
New York, NY

Kenneth Komoski, Director
Dr. Edgar Cahn, Co-founder
Dr. W. Curtiss Priest, Associate Director
LINCT (Learning and Information Networks for Community Telecomputing)
Hampton Bays, NY
Center for Information, Technology, & Society
466 Pleasant Street
Melrose, MA 02176-4522
Fax: 617-662-6882
Policy & Sys. Div., Educational Products Information Exchange (EPIE)

Steve Peterson
Randy Boyer
Reality Interactive, Inc.
612 996 6717

Prof. Dr. Arie Dirkzwager
Board Member DB-NL
Digital Citizens Foundation Netherlands

David Levinger

Harry Hochheiser

Patricia Gould, M.L.S.

Beth Brunk
President, Gorgias Rhetoric Society at UT Arlington

Prof. B. Chandrasekaran
Dept of Computer & Information Science
The Ohio State University
Columbus, OH 43201

Mikki Barry
Attorney Internet Policy Consultants

Laurel Jamtgaard
Third Year Law Student
Boalt Hall School of Law
Berkeley California

Brad Neuberg

Alkesh M. Desai
New York, NY

Willie Schatz
The Schatz Group

Pat Noziska

Paul Czyzewski

Dan Sheridan
Box 841
Winchester, MA 01890

Joan Packard
745 Cortland Rd.
Groton, NY 13073

Thor Lancelot Simon

Brennon M. Martin
School of Communications
University of Washington
UWired Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology
Box 353080
Seattle, WA 98195-3080
fax 206.685.8485

Tam Beeler
Mountain Stream
304 Aberdeen Way
Inverness, CA 94937
415 669-7546

William K. Walker
P.O. Box 1941
North Valley Digital
Kalispell, MT 59903-1941
406 257-2306
406 752-3201 (fax)

Damon Gallaty
Computer Engineer
Johnson Yokogawa Corporation

Chris Mays
MLIS Student School of Library and Information Science
Box 76
Keeper of the CEGI List
Winner: James Madison Freedom of Information Award, 1996

Robert L. Sapp, Sr.
Box D-14
River Village Millsboro, Delaware 19966

Richard Shaner
PO Box 294
Bellingham, Wa 98227-0294

Geri R. Bunker

Stan Ruttenberg
ICSU panel on World Data Centers

Jim Ray
DNRC Minister of Encryption Advocacy

Theresa Amato
Executive Director
Citizen Advocacy Center
P.O. Box 420
Elmhurst, IL 60126

Paul Hyland
Internet Consultant
Alexandria, VA

John Levine
Trumansburg, NY
Primary Perpetrator of "The Internet for Dummies"

Marilyn Davis, Ph.D.
3790 El Camino Real, #147
Palo Alto, CA 94306
415 493-3631

Michael Gersten
1255 McNell Road
Ojai, Ca, 93023

Rick Crawford
Computer Security Researcher
UC Davis

Bill Stager
US citizen currently resident in France

Prof. Shelly Warwick
Baruch College

Leonard Chung

Kate Jensen
53N 200W
Cedar City, UT 84720
801 865-5963

Dave Sifry
Sifry Consulting
408 471-0667
408 471-0666 (fax)

Glenn B. Manishin
Washington, DC
Fax 202.955.6460

Robert Costner
Executive Director
Electronic Frontiers Georgia
770 512-8746

K. Claffy National Laboratory for Applied Network Research PI
619 534 8333

Bill Lambert [Dr. W. M. Lambert, Jr.]
Apdo 111-2070
Sabanilla Montes de Oca
Tel. (506) 224-6136

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