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The Threat to Astronomical Databases Ray Norris CSIRO ATNF.

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Presentation on theme: "The Threat to Astronomical Databases Ray Norris CSIRO ATNF."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Threat to Astronomical Databases Ray Norris CSIRO ATNF

2 l The WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation) database protection treaty (proposed) l The EU (European Union) database protection directive (enacted) l The US database protection bill (status?) These all have very similar content, and will be treated here as one issue Where does the threat come from?

3 Why do we need a database protection treaty? Example 1: –US Supreme Court ruled that a white-pages telephone directory was not covered by copyright Example 2: –A French court ruled that a complete chronological list of French wines based on production region and vintage was not protected WIPO argue that: –Without protection, there is no incentive for companies to produce useful databases

4 Intellectual Property Protection Patents –protect inventions Copyright –protects written work and creative work Proposed database protection –protects information (about anything)

5 So what’s wrong with the proposed treaty? A problem of principle For the first time in our history, a person can “own” facts about the Universe Recent genomics controversies (“patenting a gene”) could be extended to all of science Example I measure a set of redshifts I charge people to use them Citing my redshifts in a publication without paying me would be illegal and punishable

6 Problems with the details of the treaty E.g. no (default) fair use provision Compare with copyright rules: All countries that signed the “Berne convention” include a “fair use” clause in their copyright laws. E.g. –I can photocopy a paper for my own use –I can copy a diagram on to an overhead for a lecture The WIPO treaty does not include a “fair use” clause. – I can not cite a redshift in a lecture without getting permission –It does allow countries to include such a clause, but this would need to be argued on a country-by-country basis

7 More problems Range –It makes protection the default –It uses the word “database” to include nearly everything on the www –It makes perpetual protection possible –It imposes civil or criminal penalties for infringement Example – A scientist passing protected data to a colleague will be subject to prosecution –It allows use of “insubstantial parts” but then voids this by banning “repeated and systematic use”

8 Paper-trails If you use data in a publication –You have to check the data is not protected (and maybe pay fees) –If you use data cited by someone else, you will need to get permission from the original owner This will –make it very difficult to compile data from many sources (e.g. radio-FIR correlation, Tegmark diagram, logN-logS correlation) –kill off data-miming projects –make books of reference data near-impossible to compile (e.g. K.R.Lang, Astrophysical Quantities, etc)

9 Commercial Pressures –Presumably NASA & other gov’t agencies will declare their data to be public domain (but NB Landsat!) –What about the business manager of a small fund-starved university? –What about a small developing country? –What about individuals? Almost certainly, at least some astronomical data will be protected –Science has a tradition of open scrutiny and access –Problem: we will not have access to data used by an author –We won’t be able to check or reproduce an author’s results

10 Current status WIPO –Treaty proposed in 1996 –Withdrawn after pressure from ICSU and others –On back-burner - will re-appear! EU –Directive (96/9/EC) enacted to apply from 31-Dec-97 –This has already happened! –All the above is becoming a reality within Europe –It will be reviewed in 2001 US –Bill passed by House of Reps in 98 but rejected by Senate –Bill re-introduced in current status uncertain

11 ICSU International Council of Scientific Unions United Nations IAUURSIetc... CODATA WIPO United Nations National Representatives Committee on Data for Science and Technology World Intellectual Property Organisation

12 What can we do? Join with our colleagues in other scientific unions to defeat this at all levels, especially through CODATA and ICSU Attend CODATA meeting on EU directive in October 2000 in Italy (see Encourage national WIPO and CODATA representatives to oppose it For more details, see


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