"Hands Off! That Fact Is Mine"


# "Hands Off! That Fact Is Mine"
Wired News (03/03/04); Zetter, Kim

The Database and Collections of Information Misappropriation Act, which is 
expected to be reviewed by the House Commerce Committee on March 4, is 
drawing controversy because its provisions essentially permit certain 
companies to own and license facts, making anyone who copies and 
redistributes those facts without authorization vulnerable to criminal 
prosecution, critics contend. The bill's major supporters are LexisNexis 
database owner Reed Elsevier, leading legal database publisher Westlaw, and 
the Software and Information Industry Association; opponents include the 
American Association of Libraries, Yahoo!, Google, Verizon, Charles Schwab, 
and Bloomberg. Public Knowledge's Art Brodsky says the bill would allow 
anyone to monopolize facts entered into a database or a collection of 
materials, in direct violation of the Copyright Act, which stipulates that 
ownership does not extend to information and ideas. Commercial database 
companies counter that if they cannot build databases because of theft, 
then the public will not be able to access the information. Opponents argue 
that the legislation would make facts available only to those who can 
afford them, adding that databases are already protected by copyright 
statutes and usage agreements. Keith Kupferschmid of the Software and 
Information Industry Association claims the bill would be inapplicable in 
cases such as researchers using facts taken from databases to compose 
academic papers. "The bill only applies where someone takes a substantial 
portion of the database and uses it in a way that causes commercial harm to 
the provider of the data," he explains. However, Joe Rubin of the U.S. 
Chamber of Commerce says the bill places no restrictions on the amount of 
information a person has to take from the database to break the law.
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-- http://www.acm.org/technews/articles/2004-6/0305f.html#item9


Graham Klyne
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Received on Monday, 8 March 2004 08:14:52 UTC