Re: Analysis of Database Legislation

From: Spectrum Press <specpres[_at_]>
Date: Wed, 18 Sep 1996 07:39:02 +0000

If the arguments below by Vance Koven are all that can be offered in favor of the proposed database legislation, then the legislation had better be buried quickly. The only reason to pass legislation is to improve the Public Good. We have had months of discussion of this proposed legislation on this list, and no strong arguments have yet been put forth to support it. If and when hearings are held, the "Information Providers" will make an appearance to whine how they need this legislation to pave the Super-Duper Infobahn for the 21st century. Can you imagine if such legislation had been proposed in 1896 to protect print reference publishers? It's of great significance that the nation's librarians, who serve the public and no one else, are vehemently against this bill. Most certainly, passage of this bill will scam the public.

(Now the above is polemic. What Professor Jaszi wrote is only mild and reasoned advocacy.)

Dan Agin

Spectrum Press Inc.

Vance Koven wrote:
> Prof. Jaszi's "analysis" should be taken for the polemic it is rather
> than anything like the sort of analysis one would expect from a
> disinterested scholar.
> While I haven't read the proposed legislation, and can easily see how
> some provisions if accurately depicted by Prof. Jaszi could require
> modification (for example, the term of protection should probably be
> something like 5-10 years, or even less for dynamic databases, and a
> compiler should be forced to choose whether to go for database or
> copyright protection), the logical deficiencies in the "analysis"
> presented demand some rebuttal on their face:
> 1. The statement that Feist was a constitutional case is debatable.
> 2. The fact that the Moorhead bill uses Commerce Clause legislative
> authority means, first, that limitations on that authority apply, such
> as germaneness to the subject area (not a big limitation, to be sure,
> but from time to time the Supreme Court allows itself to be persuaded
> that some activity or another isn't close enough to interstate and
> foreign commerce to warrant application of legislation); second, that
> laws like the antitrust laws apply, so that a database owner couldn't
> use its protections to stifle competition; third, that laws prohibiting
> restraints on alienation could apply to create something like a "first
> sale" doctrine.
> 3. The government database exemption is considerably broader than what
> copyright law affords (states appear to be covered by Moorhead), so in
> this respect Moorhead might be an improvement over the current unsettled
> situation.
> 4. There is nothing sacrosanct about the copyright rule that sweat of
> the brow is not protectable. In most other contexts, we recognize the
> value of labor, so why not in the creation of IP? I don't disagree with
> the copyright cases ruling against s-o-t-b as interpretations of the
> Copyright Act, but I see no great moral objection to protecting it
> under some other legislative scheme.
> For the record: I have no personal interest, other than as a consumer,
> in the subject matter of the legislation, nor does any client of mine
> have a "position" on the matter I am aware of, or a strong enough
> interest to warrant one.
> Vance R. Koven
> <vrkoven[_at_]>
Received on Wed Sep 18 1996 - 12:41:44 GMT

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