High Court judgment in rare database right case

The High Court has ruled that 77m Ltd's use of address data infringed the database rights of Ordnance Survey Ltd

The court ruled in 77m Ltd v Ordnance Survey Ltd; Ordnance Survey Ltd and another v 77m Ltd and another [2019] EWHC 3007 (Ch) that the claimant (77m Ltd) did not have a licence to use Ordnance Survey’s address information and therefore infringed its database right. There was database right because there had been substantial investment in verifying data. The scale of 77m’s use meant there had been extraction of a substantial part of the database. 

Background to case

Ordnance Survey is the national mapping agency for Great Britain. Its ‘AddressBase’ database comprises verified address records, which are linked with geospatial coordinates. 77m created a competing database called Matrix, which used information from various sources.

77m did not have a contract with OS. However, it did have arrangements in place with the Land Registry and Registers of Scotland. It also accessed data made public by Lichfield District Council under the Open Government Licence.

77m sought a declaration that it did not infringe the defendants’ database right. The defendants counterclaimed for infringement of its database right.

Judgment

The judge considered a number of issues including whether the data was protected by any rights, whether the data was being consulted or whether 77 was extracting data, if so, was the extraction of a substantial part, and were there any applicable defences.

The claimant was using addresses that originally came from Royal Mail but were verified by OS. The verification process was expensive and cost millions of pounds every year. Given the high number of addresses, the investment in verifying them was exactly what a database right was created to protect. This level of investment meant there was a protectable database right.

The court also found that 77m’s activities amounted to extraction and that a substantial part had been used.

The court rejected the defences raised by 77 under paragraph 3 of Schedule 1 to the Copyright and Rights in Databases Regulations 1997 (SI 1997/3032).  This was because 77m did not have authority for most of the use.

Published: 2019-11-18T08:00:00

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