The Threat to Astronomical Databases
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What is the threat?
The WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation) database protection treaty (proposed)
The EU (European Union) database protection directive (enacted)
The US database protection bill (status?)
These all have very similar content, and will be treated here as one issue
Why do we need a database protection treaty?
US Supreme Court ruled that a white-pages telephone directory was not covered by copyright
A French court ruled that a complete chronological list of French wines based on production region and vintage was not protected
WIPO argue that:
Without protection, there is no incentive for companies to produce useful databases
Intellectual Property Protection
protects written work and creative work
Proposed database protection
protects information (about anything)
So what's wrong with the proposed treaty?
A problem of principle
For the first time in our history, a person can "own" facts about the Universe
Recent genomics controversies ("patenting a gene") could be extended to all of science
- I measure a set of redshifts
- I charge people to use them
- Citing my redshifts in a publication without paying me would be illegal and punishable
Problems with the details of the treatyE.g. no (default) fair use provision
Compare with copyright rules:
All countries that signed the "Berne convention" include a "fair use" clause in their copyright laws.
I can photocopy a paper for my own use
I can copy a diagram on to an overhead for a lecture
The WIPO treaty does not include a "fair use" clause.
I can not cite a redshift in a lecture without getting permission
It does allow countries to include such a clause, but this would need to be argued on a country-by-country basis
It makes protection the default
It uses the word "database" to include nearly everything on the www
It makes perpetual protection possible
It imposes civil or criminal penalties for infringement
A scientist passing protected data to a colleague will be subject to prosecution
It allows use of "insubstantial parts" but then voids this by banning "repeated and systematic use"
If you use data in a publication
You have to check the data is not protected (and maybe pay fees)
If you use data cited by someone else, you will need to get permission from the original owner
make it very difficult to compile data from many sources (e.g. radio-FIR correlation, Tegmark diagram, logN-logS correlation)
kill off data-miming projects
make books of reference data near-impossible to compile (e.g. K.R.Lang, Astrophysical Quantities, etc)
Presumably NASA & other gov't agencies will declare their data to be public domain (but NB Landsat!)
What about the business manager of a small fund-starved university?
What about a small developing country?
What about individuals?
Almost certainly, at least some astronomical data will be protected
Science has a tradition of open scrutiny and access
Problem: we will not have access to data used by an author
We won't be able to check or reproduce an author's results
Treaty proposed in 1996
Withdrawn after pressure from ICSU and others
On back-burner - will re-appear!
Directive (96/9/EC) enacted to apply from 31-Dec-97
This has already happened!
All the above is becoming a reality within Europe
It will be reviewed in 2001
Bill passed by House of Reps in 98 but rejected by Senate
Bill re-introduced in 1999 - current status uncertain
What can we do?
Join with our colleagues in other scientific unions to defeat this at all levels, especially through CODATA and ICSU
[Click here for graphic showing relationship between IAU, CODATA, ICSU, WIPO]
Attend CODATA meeting on EU directive in October 2000 in Italy (see www.codata.org)
Encourage national WIPO and CODATA representatives to oppose it
For more details, see www.codata.org/codata/data_access/summary.html