Database Protection Bill Passes House

(May 21, 1998) The Collections of Information Antipiracy Act (HR 2652) passed the House by a voice vote on Tuesday.  This bill, which would increase the protections afforded to people who build databases, has not yet been taken up in the Senate.

Related Page: Summary of HR 2652.

The key language of the bill states that "Any person who extracts, or uses in commerce, all or a substantial part, measured either quantitatively or qualitatively, of a collection of information gathered, organized, or maintained by another person through the investment of substantial monetary or other resources, so as to harm the actual or potential market of that other person, ... for a product or service that incorporates that collection of information and is offered or intended to be offered for sale or otherwise by that other person in commerce, shall be liable to that person ..."

Related Stories
Hearing on Database Protection Bill, 2/12/98.
HR 2652 Passes Subcommittee, 3/18/98.
Judiciary Committee Approves HR 2652, 3/25/98.

Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC), the bill's main sponsor, and Chairman of the Court's and Intellectual Property Subcommittee, spoke in support of the bill:

"H.R. 2652, Madam Speaker, prohibits the misappropriation of valuable commercial collections by unscrupulous competitors who grab data collected by others, repackage it, and market a product that threatens competitive injury to the original collection."

One of the main sources of criticism of the bill is academic librarians.  Rep. Coble addressed this matter:

As recently as yesterday, a representative from the university community made it clear that he could not give one specific instance where detriment would result, but that he felt that maybe some future unforeseen circumstance might crop up. Madam Speaker, that could happen with any legislation.  I will be doggone if I am going to stand in the path of small businesses and perhaps encourage their bankruptcy ultimately in the fear of a prospective unforeseen circumstance. If that circumstance does arise, then we will repair it and correct it at the time.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), the Ranking Minority Member of the Subcommittee, spoke in favor of the bill, as did Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-MA), and DC Delegate Elenor Norton, who represents several database clients in Washington DC.

The only member to speak in opposition on the House floor was Rep. George Brown (D-CA).  He stated that:

"The problem is that the bill has not found yet a proper balance between protecting original investments in data bases and the economic and social cost of unduly restricting and discouraging downstream application of these data bases, particularly in regard to uses for basic research or education."


Related Pages
Floor Statement in Favor of HR 2652 by Rep. Howard Coble.
Floor Statement in Opposition to HR 2652 by Rep. Brown.