The Patents County Court (PCC) has provided a useful ruling relating to the infringement of database rights. Beechwood House Publishing published and maintained a database of names involved in GP practices, in which it inserted a number of fake identities which, if that identity received a mass-mailed letter at a fake address that could be tracked, would indicate the infringement of the database right. This occurred, and Beechwood House Publishing issued proceedings against Guardian Products, which had sent the letter, and Precision Direct Marketing, which had provided the data to Guardian Products, on the grounds that they had extracted and re-utilised all or a substantial part of the contents of the database without the owner’s consent.
The PCC ruled that there had been an infringement under the Copyright and Rights in Databases Regulations 1997 for the following reasons:
- there had been a substantial extraction of records from the database by loading the records onto computers in preparation for the mass-mailing, which amounted to infringement; and
- the mass-mailing was an infringement as each letter with the name and address printed on it amounted to an insubstantial extraction in a systematic and repeated way.
This ruling is useful in that there are relatively few cases relating to infringement of database rights, and this offers significant guidance in the interpretation of the Copyright and Rights in Databases Regulations.