EU court rules that meta search engine infringes database right

On 19 December 2013, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) gave an important ruling on database rights and meta search engines. The ruling will have far-reaching implications for owners and commercial users of online databases.

In Case C 202/12, Innoweb BV v Wegener ICT Media BV, Wegener Mediaventions BV, questions of interpretation of the EU Directive 96/9/EC on the legal protection of databases (the ‘Database Directive’) had been referred to the CJEU for a preliminary ruling. The CJEU decided that a meta search engine — which presented search results on its own website that were derived from searches of third-party databases — would reutilise all or a substantial part of the third-party databases. If this was done without the database owners’ consent, the owners’ database right under the Database Directive would be breached. The case is now back to the Appeal Court of The Hague in the Netherlands for a final decision.

This CJEU landmark ruling will be welcomed by organisations that have invested in their own databases. However, meta search engine operators will be greatly concerned — and should review their practices in light of the preliminary judgment…

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