The highest courts in the United Kingdom, Finland and Sweden have almost simultaneously requested the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to issue preliminary rulings regarding the copyright protection of databases under the EU Database Directive (96/9/EC). Coincidentally, they all relate to the copyright protection of race programmes and fixture lists.

The British case (British Horseracing Board v William Hill, C-203/02) concerns the legal protection of horseracing programmes and fixtures. The claimant alleges that the defendant has used parts of its racing lists when creating its own racing lists. The Finnish and Swedish actions (Fixtures Marketing Ltd v Oy Veikkaus Ab and Fixtures Marketing Ltd v Svenska Spel respectively) are two parallel cases with the same claimant, Fixtures Ltd. It claims that the defendants, Svenska Spel AB (the Swedish state lottery) and Oy Veikkaus (the Finnish state lottery), have created football game lists on the basis of Fixtures Ltd's databases and thereby infringed Fixtures Ltd's unique database copyright in the football fixture lists.

All three cases raise interesting questions with reference to the Database Directive. The ECJ's answers to those questions will make the application of the database copyright rules more straightforward in the future. The outcome of the cases will be of particular significance in the media sector, where different kinds of lists and programmes are of commercial importance. Among others, the following questions will be considered by the ECJ:

  • Is the purpose of the database relevant to its copyright protection?

  • What kind of investment and how much work is considered to be a "substantial investment" under Article 7(1) of the directive?

  • What is meant by the expression "a substantial part of the database" in Article 7(1) of the directive?

For further information on this topic please contact Agne Lindberg at Advokatfirman Delphi & Co by telephone (+46 8 677 54 00) or by fax (+46 8 20 18 84) or by email ([email protected]).