create a database from a book

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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donatello
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create a database from a book

Post by donatello » Tue Sep 29, 2015 11:07 am

Hi,
I've bought a book which indexes and provides information about historical places. Places where famous people lived or grew up in.

Some of these places are now ordinary buildings, others are private houses, and some others have been turned into museums opened to the public.

Am I breaking a law if I make these places available in a free database accessible via app or website?

Thanks a lot for your answers.

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Tue Sep 29, 2015 2:40 pm

Hi donatello,

This is a tricky one to answer with precision. Strictly speaking 'facts' (such as that so and so was born in this house) are not subject to copyright because no-one created them, they just exist as common knowledge. However where an author has used skill and judgement in assembling all these facts into structure such as a book, this work may have many of the qualities of creativity which we associate and protect with copyright. In fact if the book is laid out in a way which might be termed a 'database', say with the information in tables or lists, it is quite probable that it could be regraded as subject to the database right which is the near neighbour of copyright.

You can find out more about database right from the regulations which created it in UK law. There is nothing in law which prevents a printed book from being treated as a database if it meets the other criteria (it is a methodical or systematic arrangement accessible by electronic or other means). I suggest you compare your book to the definition in the regulations and see if you you think they could apply. If not then re-using the facts alone would not infringe. If the book was published more than 15 years ago, then even if it would have qualified for database right, that protection will now have lapsed.

Even if you are pretty sure that database right either does not apply or has lapsed, you should still be careful not to quote the author's actual words verbatim since copyright is likely to apply to them. Obviously a bit of common sense needs to be applied to this. For Instance if the book says something like "Nell Gwynne lived here between 1680 and her death in 1687" then there are a limited number of alternative ways of saying the same thing. You should be safe in saying "this was the home of Nell Gwynne for the last seven years leading up to her death in 1687" or something like that.

I imagine that as your project progresses, you will use other sources as well. Thus your completed database will itself qualify for database right provided you use a degree of skill in selecting and arranging the data you acquire, and this may offer some protection against rival app makers from merely siphoning data from your database to fuel their own app etc, even though you want to make it freely available.
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

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