Legislative efforts are currently under way in the United States, the European Union, and the World Intellectual Property Organization to greatly enhance the legal protection of proprietary databases. These new legal approaches threaten to compromise traditional and customary access to and use of S&T data for public-interest endeavors, including not-for-profit research, education, and general library uses. At the same time, there are legitimate concerns by the rights holders in databases regarding unauthorized and uncompensated uses of their data products, including at times the wholesale commercial misappropriation of proprietary databases.

Because of the complex web of interdependent relationships among public-sector and private-sector database producers, disseminators, and users, any action to increase the rights of persons in one category likely will compromise the rights of the persons in the other categories, with far-reaching and potentially negative consequences. Of course, it is in the common interest of both database rights holders and users—and of society in general—to achieve a workable balance among the respective interests so that all legitimate rights remain reasonably protected.

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