Hearing on Database Protection Bill

(February 12, 1998)  The Courts and Intellectual Property Subcommittee of the House Judiciary held a hearing again today on several pending bills, including HR 2652, the Collections of Information Anti-Piracy Act.  Chairman Howard Coble (R-NC) gave several opponents of his bill the opportunity testify regarding their objections.

The committee held its first hearing on this bill on October 28, 1997.  Developers of easily appropriated online databases have been pushing for its passage.

Related Page: Summary of HR 2652
Related Page: Text of HR 2652
Related Page: Prepared Statement of Rep. Howard Coble

Content of HR 2652

Rep. Coble described the bill in his prepared opening statement: "This bill fills a void recognized by the Supreme Court in our intellectual property system and strikes a balance as the information age arrives.  The balance provides adequate protection to ensure there is an incentive for companies to invest in the development of collections of information, without inhibiting members of the scientific, library, and research communities from carrying on their work."

"This bill, as a complement to copyright law, relies on unfair competition principles to prevent a party from misappropriating another's collection of information.   In the event a person steals a substantial portion of another's collection of information where that person invested substantial time and resources to collect it, and where it will harm the original collector's ability to compete, the misappropriator would be subject to injunction relief and possible money damages."

Jane Ginsburg, a professor at Columbia University Law School, and a specialist in intellectual property law, testified regarding copyright law, unfair competition law, and the content and context of the proposed bill.  Text of Prepared Statement.


James Aber, a NASDAQ VP, spoke on behalf of the Information Industry Association.  Aber's position is that the bill is needed to provide protection for databases, both because of a recent EU Directive which "seems to invite" "legalized piracy," and to reinstate the "sweat of the brow" doctrine struck down by the Supreme Court in Feist Publications v. Rural Telephone Service Co., 499 U.S. 340 (1991).  Aber added that there is a real problem for businesses that develop databases for financial quotes and trade information reports.  Text of Prepared Statement.

Richard Corlin, a medical doctor appeared on behalf of the American Medical Association.  The AMA develops, owns, and derives licensing revenues from several large medical profession databases.  Dr. Corlin testified that the AMA needs legislative protection to prevent unauthorized use.  Text of Prepared Statement.


Tim Casey, Chief Technology Counsel for MCI, appeared on behalf of the Information Technology Association.  "We feel strongly, however, that the evidence is lacking to support passage of the legislation as currently drafted."  Text of Prepared Statement.

Jonathan Band, of the Online Banking Association, testified that the bill would be harmful to OBA members.  Text of Prepared Statement.

William Hammack, of Sunshine Pages, spoke on behalf of the Association of Directory Publishers.  He represents businesses which use data collected by local phone companies.  Their objection to the bill is that it would undermine or terminate Section 220 of the Telecom Act of 1996, which guarantees access to such data under reasonable rates and terms.  Text of Prepared Statement.

Debra Stewart, speaking on behalf of the Association of American Universities, opposed the bill.  College professors, who are generally not known for their support of any form of property rights - except academic tenure - oppose this bill.  Text of Prepared Statement.