gress could enact the proposed sui generis database regime, despite the risk that "it would allow a limited group of database creators to control the dissemination of information" and that the "resulting restrictions on the transfer of knowledge would be detrimental to society, as information lies at the core of social advancement."180

In most cases the proposed sui generis regime will simply engraft a strong legal monopoly onto the preexisting natural monopolies that are typical of the database industry. As noted in Chapter 4, it is the social costs of these double-barreled monopolies to the public at large that must actually be taken into account, along with their overall impact on a scientific community whose leading role in world technological production is linked in still unexplored ways to the traditional funding of scientific data by government.

Clearly, U.S. policy makers should not incur such risks without evaluating in advance the possible repercussions that sui generis database laws might have on the nation's scientific and technological capabilities and future progress, and without taking measures to alleviate them before embarking on such an uncharted course. By the same token, the scientific community has a vital stake in the formulation of new database laws, in order to ensure that legal incentives to stimulate investment in the production and distribution of data do not end by impeding the full and open flow of those same data to basic science.

The scientific community can ill afford to remain indifferent to these proposals for database protection, if only because its whole modus operandi has been based on the principle of full and open exchange of data. This principle is indirectly undermined by the pending proposals concerning legal regulation of the national information infrastructure and directly threatened by the drive to institute sui generis intellectual property rights in the contents of electronic and other databases. As regards the database laws in particular, the foregoing analysis suggests that science and education have two paramount concerns that need to be pursued in the course of future legislative deliberations:

  • Sui generis laws to protect databases should, on the whole, reflect a proper balance between public and private interests, including the public interest in free competition, that is, between public goods and private intellectual property.
  • Such laws should contain measures specifically designed to preserve and promote the scientific and educational enterprise, including the need to facilitate and encourage the establishment and maintenance of databases essential to the work of science.

Reconciling the Needs of Science with Those of a Competitive Market

The advent of new proprietary rights where none previously existed will influence the collection and distribution policies of all data providers, including

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