I have compiled a bunch of data released by the UNECE and government agencies into a multilingual searchable database on my website. In total it's about 2000 database entries in 4 languages, so about 8000 database entries, 2MB compressed data total. This has taken a lot of time, work and effort to do, so I included some random "nonsense strings" into the database to be able to find out if someone had scraped my site for the content.

Now it turns out that someone has.

While searching for one of the random nonsense strings I found another website which appears to have copied the content from my site onto their own.

What should I do? I guess contacting them and kindly asking them to either link to my site or to take the information down would be a first step. But can I claim any form of copyright on the data that I have compiled?

Addition: The data in question consists of technical specifications (i.e. measurements, technical names, properties, etc). The site that has copied the data from my website has not included all the details (yet), just a summary of them - however, it's the exact same summary that I have on my website, which then links to pages with more details. Not sure if it matters, but it makes it obvious that there was no reorganization or other "creative" work on their part, simply cut'n'paste.

  • 1
    So, you scraped the UNECE site and collected that information, and now someone has scraped your site and you want to claim copyright on it? It seems either you infringed a copyright first, or if the informaiton is not copyrightable, then no infringement has occurred (not by you and not be the scraper).
    – Brandin
    Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 13:45
  • @Brandin OP makes the distinction that it was not solely the UNECE site that the information was collated from. I'm not sure if that makes a difference or not, though. Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 15:17
  • @Brandin I don't know where you got the idea that I scraped the UNECE website? The material is released by both UNECE in english and various national agencies in local languages as PDF and print. Extracting the data from there is much more difficult than simply scraping a website, and compiling, crosslinking and error checking it makes it exponentially more complicated. I even found a bunch of errors in the material, which I informed my local national agency about so they could correct it in the next revision. I'm asking about copyright for the compilation and organization of the data(base).
    – Magnus
    Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 16:22
  • @BadCash It doesn't matter how difficult it is; If I painstakingly copy a text by hand, correcting errors as I go, it is still a copy. Similarly, translating documents from one language to another is still a form of copying (derivative work).
    – Brandin
    Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 16:32
  • @Brandin Of course. What I'm implying is that I didn't simply copy the data and dump it on my website. I collected data from various sources, crosslinked, error checked and organized it into a completely different format (a multilingual searchable database organized into rows and columns vs. tables from multiple PDF documents). Not sure how much it matters though, but I believe I read something about a "compilation copyright" somewhere...
    – Magnus
    Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 16:37

2 Answers 2


There is no copyright protection for data. You do however have protection for the creative expressions made by you yourself, such as organization of data into rows and columns, clever field tagging, etc. When you consult with your attorney, he could tell you what the best course of action would be for you, which could include suing the infringer for economic damages, forcing him to take down the material, etc. (assuming that you prevail in court). You can also file a DMCA takedown notice with the ISP.


Databases are not protected by copyright in most countries in the world, since they do not meet the standard of originality: they are a simple compiliation of existing data with minimal creative effort.

However, the EU does provide a sui generis database right. Directive 96/9/EC art 3(1) provides:

In accordance with this Directive, databases which, by reason of the selection or arrangement of their contents, constitute the author's own intellectual creation shall be protected as such by copyright. No other criteria shall be applied to determine their eligibility for that protection.

If a database meets these requirements, no one else can copy or distribute it. That is, article 5 provides:

In respect of the expression of the database which is protectable by copyright, the author of a database shall have the exclusive right to carry out or to authorize:

(a) temporary or permanent reproduction by any means and in any form, in whole or in part;

(b) translation, adaptation, arrangement and any other alteration;

(c) any form of distribution to the public of the database or of copies thereof. The first sale in the Community of a copy of the database by the rightholder or with his consent shall exhaust the right to control resale of that copy within the Community;

(d) any communication, display or performance to the public;

(e) any reproduction, distribution, communication, display or performance to the public of the results of the acts referred to in (b).

Of course, the applicability of this directive would depend on whether the other party is based in an EU state.

  • Both I and the other party are "based" in the EU - but what about the server location? Does that matter? Also, the reproduction is only partial, it's not like they have copied and published the entire database file. They do, however, seem to have done an obvious copy-and-paste of the source HTML, since it is exactly identical to mine (same tags, same exact (unusual) CSS class names, same appearance). How does all this affect any potential copyright? Under what circumstances would it be ok for them to reproduce the content? I mean, it is after all available elsewhere online?
    – Magnus
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 6:32
  • @BadCash (1) Re the country, it's hard to say, and would likely depend on how each country interprets jurisdiction. But typically it is where the actor is based, not where you or the server is based, that matters. (2) Partial reproduction is explicitly disallowed by art 5(a) above. (3) Copying source HTML would possibly be separate copyright infringement, since HTML could be a literary work: this would depend on whether the HTML is original though. (4) Per art 6, individual countries may set out exceptions to the database protection; there is no general rule that applies across the EU.
    – Maca
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 8:34
  • "Databases are not protected by copyright" is misleading. If I write a poem and put it in a database, it is protected by copyright. Whether it is in a database or not is not important.
    – Brandin
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 10:23

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