Data sets and databases that lack a relevant component of originality are not protected by Copyright in the EU. However, a Directive from 1993 establishes what became known as Databases rights, protecting databases for the material and human efforts invested in their creation.

Paragraph 3 of Article 7 states:

  1. The right referred to in paragraph 1 may be transferred, assigned or granted under contractual licence.

Does this means that an open source licence can be applied to a data set under Databases rights?

  • Could someone please add a tag for the EU (e.g. eu) to this question? I do not have enough reputation points. Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 7:54
  • Done, but not quite. I'm somewhat reluctant to put a region tag here, but I think [sui-generis-rights] would fit well (I'm pretty sure that's what they are called). Besides, welcome to Open Source :D
    – Zizouz212
    Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 1:43
  • (Oh, and as a side note, I'm getting an Access Denied on your link...)
    – Zizouz212
    Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 1:44
  • Thank you for the tags. I checked the link again, it is correct. Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 13:10

2 Answers 2


Article 7, paragraph 1 creates a right of ownership - ie personal property. That right is owned by the maker of the database.

Article 7, paragraph 3 makes it clear that the right of ownership can be transferred to another person, or licensed to another person.

"data" is a "copyrightable work" for the purposes of the GPL v03 (ie an open source licence), and so the answer is "Yes".

Watch out though, the Database Right isn't everything it's cracked up to be (assuming it ever was). There's a couple of pretty horrific exceptions to having protection of databases using these Database Rights. Especially if you're outside the EU.


Does this means that an open source licence can be applied to a data set under Databases rights?

Yes. With the caveat that these database rights may not be recognized everywhere and therefore may be problematic to apply internationally.

  • You are talking about a potential specific license that would be talking about these database rights and not a generic license that was designed for copyright, aren't you?
    – Zimm i48
    Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 12:23
  • 1
    Can you somehow substantiate your answer? Just the "Yes" part, naturally, European law only applies to the EU. Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 13:14
  • 1
    @LuísdeSousa The CC 4.0 licenses address Sui generis rights specifically. I can get an answer soon, but I'm at school so... It might take a while :)
    – Zizouz212
    Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 14:07
  • The Creative Commons suite is not entirely compatible with EU law, as far as I am aware. But I would like to have your answer in any case. Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 14:18

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