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Brexit: The effects on database rights

View profile for Tracey Dickens
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Brexit: The effects on database rights

In the modern internet and smartphone society, the value of data has never been more valuable and the collection, storage and access of such data in databases is key to many businesses. Mobile applications and websites which track users' data can be used to help businesses profile and effectively target customers. The value of this data to companies, as you might have experienced, is obvious. 

Currently the United Kingdom is protected under the EU Database Directive, but at the end of the transition period this will change unless an agreement is reached between the UK and the EU.

Firstly, it is important that from a starting point we know what we mean when we talk about a database. It has been defined under legislation as "a collection of independent works, data or other materials which are arranged in a systematic or methodical way and are individually accessible by electronic or other means."

This is a very wide definition which can cover many different forms, including but not limited to:  

  • traditional mailing lists of customers 
  • telephone directories 
  • card indexes, whether held electronically or in paper form

It is important that we note there is a distinction between a database as a whole and its building blocks (the customer data). Database right protects the database as a whole, not the individual building blocks.

Any software which is used in the making or operation of a database is excluded from protection as a database. Some elements of a computer program, e.g. on screen look up tables which users may search in order to find information, might constitute a database.

From the 1 February 2021 onwards, UK businesses and individuals will not qualify for database right protection in the EEA. This will mean these companies will need to put in place other intellectual property rights (e.g. copyrights and/or rights in confidential information) or contractual rights to protect their databases in the EEA instead.

This will cause many companies to look at alternatives to protect their databases, with some companies setting up companies in an EEA country and transferring databases for protection. 

We are able to advise you on the best way to protect your database following Brexit and ensuring that you have the protection you need. If you would like to discuss this, I can be contacted on 01206 217326 or tracey.dickens@birkettlong.co.uk.

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