Databases and Dynamism

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This article offers a novel account of the relations between copyright and databases. Databases are generally perceived in legal scholarship as static warehouses, storing up valuable facts and information. Accordingly, scholarship examining the relations of copyright and databases concentrates on the social need to access those contents. This article argues, that the copyright-databases debate is not a static 'access to information' story. Rather, it is a dynamic story of relations, hierarchies and interactions between pieces of information, determined by databases' creators. It is also a story of patterns, categories, selections and taxonomies, that are often invisible to the naked eye, but influence our perceptions of the world in manners we are seldom aware of. Relying on socio-psychological literature and communication theories concerning complexity, categorization and stereotyping, this paper examines the dynamic dimension of the copyright–databases relations. It argues that this narrative should direct legal attention towards the protection afforded by copyright not to contents of databases, but rather to their ‘selection and arrangement’, an element which has been largely ignored by legal scholarship. While the article does not advocate a complete expiry of copyright in ‘selections and arrangements’, it does hope to spark a discussion with respect to their social and economic role, and add a new dimension to the copyright-database debate.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)315-342
JournalUniversity of Michigan Journal of Law Reform
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2011


  • Intellectual Property
  • Copyright
  • Databases
  • Complexity
  • Categorization
  • Technology and the law


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