Would I be infringing copyright?

If you are worried about infringement or your work has been copied and you want to take action.
Post Reply
New Member
New  Member
Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Jun 13, 2012 10:40 am

Would I be infringing copyright?

Post by juliadee »

I am currently working on putting together a searchable database of the courses provided by Further Education Colleges. There would be no charge for searching the database . I was wondering if in this context it is illegal to use the following pieces of information; The college name, facts about their courses such as the duration and the costs gathered from the college websites and finally a short description of the course itself also compiled from the college site? I will not be using their logos and will imply no relationship with the colleges themselves. I would in no way damage colleges reputations, nor would it reasonably be mistaken for an official colleges websites. Thanks
User avatar
Posts: 2471
Joined: Fri Jan 29, 2010 12:43 am

Post by AndyJ »

Hi Julia,
I don't think there should be any copyright problems with what you propose because you will be quoting facts which are not themselves subject to copyright. And as you say that you will be writing your own descriptions rather than using anything written by the colleges, that also should be OK.
The problem, if there is one, lies with something called database right. This is a relatively new intellectual property right and as its name suggest, is designed to protect databases which have been compiled using skill and judgement. The main criterion is that there must have been a substantial investment in obtaining, verifying and presenting the contents of the database. In other words it is not the data within the database (which in this case would consist of facts so not eligible for copyright), but rather the overall compilation which is protected. This right is infringed if someone, without permission of the owner of the database right, extracts all or a substantial part of the contents of the database. A lawful user of a publicly available database (such as a list of courses on a college web site) is entitled to extract or re-utilise an insubstantial part of that database.
So there are two things to consider. Do you need to extract a substantial part of any of the source databases, and would those databases involve sufficient investment in their making to qualify for the right in the first place?
From your description it sounds as if, in quantitative terms, you would want to use a substantial part of the college databases which you intend as your sources, and presumably this information would have to be regularly updated (which in itself can amount to substantiality) so it is therefore important to see if the second consideration means the college databases are indeed protected.
The 'investment' mentioned is not just financial, but includes the investment in human and technical resources necessary to obtain, check and arrange the data which goes to make up the database. But the investment must be substantial.
A number of test cases give us an insight into how this works in practice. The first was between the British Horse-racing Board (BHB) and the bookmakers William Hill. The BHB operated a database showing details of the racing fixtures, the runners and riders and several other pieces of information, and they alleged that William Hill infringed their database right by extracting some of this information and providing it on their website. The court found that the level of investment by the BHB in pulling all the information together was not sufficiently substantial in terms of the investment that they made, and they also found that the specific bits of data which William Hill extracted had required no special effort at all, as much of it was supplied to the BHB by owners and trainers when they registered their horses for the various races. So the case failed.
The second case involving Fixtures Marketing Ltd (FML), which compiled English premier league football match fixture data, and several overseas pools companies which had not sought licences to use data from FML in order to re-publish it as part of their pools competitions. Once again the courts found that the investment which went into compiling FML's database was insufficiently substantial to warrant protection, even though in this case the defendants had used a substantial part of that database. So at this point it seemed clear that there was a high standard to meet before the investment could be considered 'substantial' and thus bring into play the database right.
Then in 2010 another football fixtures dispute arose, this time between Football Dataco and Yahoo. Once again the defendants (in this case Yahoo and others) were accused of extracting data from Dataco's database of football fixtures without a licence. The case went all the way the European Court of Justice, where once again the Court found that there was insubstantial investment in the process of obtaining and verifying the data, and more particularly that skill and labour in the selection and presentation of it was not enough; there needed to be sufficient creativity on the part of the compiler.
So that's a very long winded way of saying that I don't think that course listings supplied by colleges would ordinarily attract database right and so you should be reasonably safe in extracting data from them. But just for extra reassurance, there is a fair-dealing exemption in the Regulations I linked to above, which says it is not infringement to extract a substantial part of a publicly available database provided that the extracted part is used for the purposes of illustration for teaching or research and not for any commercial purpose, and that the source is indicated. I suggest you put a statement on your website to the effect that it is provided for the purposes of private research (which, presumably, it is), and you should be doubly safe.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007
Post Reply