Specificity of protection
Databases are intellectual assets which are strongly connected to the
digital environment. The originality criterion for databases is
appreciated in the same way as for computer programs. According to
article of the Database Directive databases are protected if by reason
of the selection or arrangement of their contents constitute the
author’s own intellectual creation (see “software” below). This is not a
very high threshold to pass. However, copyright protection shouldn’t be
granted if the way the database is structured or the selection of the
contents is the usual or standard way of classification or selection for
this type of databases.
For example, in a personal phonebook in which the
phone numbers are classified by alphabetic order, there won’t probably
be any copyright protection because of the lack of originality. On the
contrary, a personal phonebook in which the phone numbers are organised
by the feelings of the person towards the people mentioned in the
phonebook could be original.
Another example : in the library catalogue of the Faculty of Law of
Thessaloniki, if the books are classified by the name of their author or
by their subject-matter e .g. civil law, international law etc., there
is probably no originality in the arrangement of the contents of the
For the protection of databases which are used by libraries or
created by libraries and the possibility of protection of a digital
library as database see my article (in Greek): Databases and libraries,
δεδομένων και Βιβλιοθήκες
Traditional categories of copyright protected works find new ways of
expression or fixation : special digital effects in films and artistic
performances, electronic music derived by the use of computers, digital
books and virtual libraries.
Revolutionary changes have also been made to the role of audience. The
role of the users of copyrighted works has become more active.
Multimedia works offer to their user the possibility to be truly
involved with the work or to have a real dialogue with the work.
A new reality for the users emerges. They don’t just read, watch or
listen but they can influence the content of the work by their
decisions. This new way of communication of the work to its user is
called interactivity and it emerges from the extended use of special
New technologies offer the possibility for more advanced and more
complex kinds of communication with the work. In this context,
interactivity is inextricably linked to digitisation.
Specificity of protection
Computer programs are specific works of mind because their character
is primarly functional. In other words, they are more informational
tools and less forms of expression of the personality of their author.
This reality has important legal consequences.
The terms of protection of computer programs present some differences
compared to the terms of protection of classic copyrighted works of
mind. Although the main condition for protection is the originality
criterion, this criterion is evaluated for computer programs in a more
objective way. A computer program, thus, will be protected if it
possesses some specific functions, new arrangements, etc. This lower
level of protection closer to the sweat of the brow approach.
A new threat to copyright
Internet file-sharing is based on the technology of « peer to peer ».
Generally, a peer-to-peer (or P2P) computer network is any network that
does not have fixed clients and servers, but a number of peer nodes that
function as both clients and servers to the other nodes on the network.
Peer- to -peer technology itself does not appear to be illegal, because
it’s just in fact a certain type of network. The existence of the
network doesn’t make any infringement itself, but the circulation and
sharing of copyrighted works through the network is an act of
infringement of copyright when it is done without the consent of the
In Intellectual Property Rights sector, we often use the word
“piracy” to determine the total of illegal acts infringing the
intellectual property rights.
There are different and various forms of piracy. Piracy can take place
by the unauthorized making of every act which is covered by the economic
legal monopoly of the author or other rightholder over the work or any
object of related rights, such as the reproduction, the communication to
the public, the broadcasting, the cable transmission or distribution of
material copies of a protected work or of an object of related rights
without the authorization of author or other rightholder and usually for
commercial purposes. Piracy through Internet Sites or via the use of
peer-to-peer networks have become a real threat to the survival of the
effective protection of copyright in the digital environment.
Intellectual Property Protection in the Web
Normal intellectual property principles and rules apply also in
Internet. That means that text, sounds, pictures, animation put on a
Website normally belong to their author or other rightholder and the use
of these work of mind without autorization is illegal except for uses
which normally fall within an exception or limitation, such as
quotations, use for parody or educational uses.
The protection starts automaticly from the creation of the work of mind. That means that the creator doesn’t need any kind of special measure of deposit or other formal act in order to obtain protection. In practice, the author has to prove two important elements : the date of the creation, in order to proove the anteriority of his work in case of counterfeiting, and his quality as author of the work. Different ways of protection can be used :
What is Copyright ?
Copyright law is a type of proprietary protection of a specific
category of intangible assets: the works of mind. In other words, the
subject matter of this “property” is incorporeal.
Copyright law has limited duration and is subject to various
restrictions which are justified by the public interest, such as the
right of information, the freedom of expression, educational purposes
etc or by practical or technical reasons.
There isn’t any uniform European intellectual property law system.
Open and closed lists of categories of works
In the continental author’s right tradition there is no exhaustive list of protected works of mind, because the principle is clear : every kind of work can be protected regardless of
the merit or the aesthetic value of the work. According to this basic
principle, any kind of discrimination among the works of mind is
forbidden. Utilitarian works or works with primarily informative
character, such as works created by journalists, can be protected too. For example, a timetable, the menu of a
restaurant, even a pornographic film can be protected, if they are
original. The film of last Canne’s festival winner can be granted the
same protection as a software or a tv guide.
For the protection of works of journalists in French copyright law see my article: Les
droits d’auteur des journalistes
On the contrary in the common law tradition there is a closed, exhaustive list of categories of protected works. If a work does not fit in the list, it is not protected. See for ex,ample, from the UK the Creation Records Ltd. v News Group case (1997).
For the concept of work in European copyright law see: T. Synodinou, “The foundations of the concept of work in European Copyright Law” in: Synodinou (ed.), “Codification of European Copyright, Challenges and perspectives, the Hague, Kluwer Law International, 2012, p. 93-113.