Europe: CJEU - Dedicated Meta Search Engine Infringes Database Rights (Autotrack v Gaspedaal)

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On 19 December 2013 the Court of Justice of the European Union rendered an important judgment concerning the interpretation of Article 7 of Directive 96/9/EC regarding the legal protection of databases (the 'Database Directive'), in the context of the dedicated meta search engine www.gaspedaal.nl.
The CJEU's decision effectively bans the 'scraping' of databases, and provides a strong incentive to those who invest in the setting up and operation of a database.

This decision will be welcomed by websites that have compiled their own databases and do not wish third parties to scrape their data and pass it on to the public. On the other hand, websites which aggregate data from third party websites (even if only in response to user queries) should consider auditing their data usage, and ensuring they have appropriate licences to allow them to make the desired use of third party data.

Background

The CJEU was asked preliminary questions in this case C-201/12 between Innoweb B.V. ('Innoweb') on the one side and Wegener ICT Media B.V. and Wegener Mediaventions B.V. ('Wegener') on the other, by the Appeal Court of The Hague in the Netherlands.

Wegener runs the website www.autotrack.nl on which Wegener provides access to an online collection of second-hand car ads. Users of the website are enabled to carry out targeted searches for a vehicle on the basis of various criteria such as the make, model, mileage, price, year of manufacture and colour of vehicles. Innoweb runs the website www.gaspedaal.nl, a so-called 'dedicated meta search engine', which enables users to, through a single query, conduct searches of various third party websites, including www.autotrack.nl.

The questions asked of the CJEU were intended to ascertain whether the maker of a protected database such as www.autotrack.nl can prevent the database from being included for no consideration in the service of a dedicated meta search engine, such as www.gaspedaal.nl.

The CJEU's decision

The CJEU decided that the act on the part of the operator of a dedicated meta search engine such as www.gaspedaal.nl, which is intended to translate the queries keyed in by its end users into the search engine of a protected database, constitutes 'making available' the contents of the protected database within the meaning of Article 7(2)(b) of the Database Directive. More specifically, the CJEU decided that the dedicated meta search engine re-utilises the whole or a substantial part of the contents of a database protected under Article 7 of the Database Directive where that dedicated meta search engine:

  • provides the end user with a search form which essentially offers the same range of functionality as the search form on the database site
  • 'translates' queries from end users into the search engine for the database site 'in real time', so that all the information on that database is searched through, and
  • presents the results to the end user using the format of its website, grouping duplications together into a single block item but in an order that reflects criteria comparable to those used by the search engine of the database site concerned for presenting results.


In the view of the CJEU, making the dedicated meta search engine www.gaspedaal.nl available on the internet, comes close to the manufacture of a parasitical competing product as referred to in recital 42 of the Database Directive. The dedicated meta search engine resembles a database, but without actually containing the data.

Wider implications

This decision will be welcomed by websites that have compiled their own databases and do not wish third parties to scrape their data and pass it on to the public. On the other hand, websites which aggregate data from third party websites (even if only in response to user queries) should consider auditing their data usage, and ensuring they have appropriate licences to allow them to make the desired use of third party data.

Topics:  CJEU, Databases, EU, Metadata, Search Engines, Web Scraping, Websites

Published In: Communications & Media Updates, Privacy Updates, Science, Computers & Technology Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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