Michael Bloomberg on WIPO database treaty.

Ewald (ewald@ctaz.net)
Tue, 10 Dec 1996 21:52:51 -0700


This comes from Mr. James Love at the center for responsive law.

Shawn Ewald
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The following letter by Michael R. Bloomberg, on behalf of Bloomberg L.P.,
expresses opposition to the WIPO database treaty. Bloomberg is a major
publisher of financial and business information, and one of the few U.S.
news organizations which has taken an official corporate position on the
WIPO database treaty. (for a list of other comments on the treaty, see
http://www.public-domain.org/database/database.html)

Among the more interesting points by Mr. Bloomberg:

- Bloomberg is aware of no commercially significant piracy
of US-owned databases that would be meaningfully reduced by
early adoption of the proposed treaty.

- Bloomberg perceives a real danger that the legislation
contemplated by the proposed treaty would unreasonably
curtail access to basic factual data.

- Bloomberg is unaware of any evidence that existing
economic incentives have proven inadequate.

The letter follows:
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November 22, 1996

HAND DELIVERED

Ms. Carmen Guzman Lowrey
Associate Commissioner for Governmental and International Affairs
United States Patent and Trademark Office
Crystal Park Two
2121 Crystal Drive
Arlington, Virginia 20231

Re: Comments of Bloomberg L.P. on the Proposed Treaty for the Sui Generis
Protection of Databases

Dear Ms. Lowrey

This letter is submitted by Bloomberg L.P. ("Bloomberg") in response to
the October 10, 1996 Request for Comments on the Chairman's Text of the
Proposed Treaty for the Sui Generis Protection of Databases, which is
currently scheduled for consideration at a Diplomatic Conference of the
World Intellectual Property Organization ("WIPO") in Geneva December
20-20, 1996 (the "December Conference").

Bloomberg appreciates this opportunity to express its views on a matter of
great importance to the United States and all the people of the world .
Being in the business of data collection and dissemination makes Bloomberg
particularly sensitive to the law as it relates to information and ideas.

I. THE INTEREST OF BLOOMBERG

Bloomberg collects news and information concerning business, finance,
current events, entertainment, sports, human interest stories, securities
and securities markets from a wide variety of sources and supplies this
information to customers in various ways, including over the BLOOMBERG
network, by television and radio broadcast, through books and magazines,
through seminars and conferences, and through electronic data transfer. In
so doing, Bloomberg acts both as a creator/supplier of databases and as a
consumer/user of databases maintained by others.

Bloomberg supports WIPO's efforts to focus attention on the issue of
database protection but does not favor the call for immedieate adoption of
the proposed database protection treaty.

II. US SUPPORT FOR ADOPTION OF THE PROPOSED TREATY WOULD BE PREMATURE
BEFORE THERE IS ADEQUATE OPPORTUNITY TO DEBATE AND FORM A CONCENSUS ON THE
UNDERLYING ISSUES.

The November 14, 1996 issue of BNA's Patent, Trademark, & Copyright
Journal reports there was considerable debate about the value and
consequences of database protection at the November 12, 1996 public
briefing on the three proposed treaties to be considered at the December
Conference. The contentiousness of this issue is not surprising, given the
novelty of the concept of database protection to concerned parties in the
US.

Bloomberg respectfully submits that the newness of the database proposal
and the evident uncertainty about the form an substance of the rights and
obligations it would create counsel that the database proposal should be
discussed, but not voted upon, at the December Conference.

At the November 12 briefing, Chairman Liedes reportedly noted that experts
in Europe have been considering sui generis database protection for a
number of years and that the European model had its origin in domestic
laws of the Nordic countries. These issues have received dramatically
less, if any, attention in the US, where such distinctive factors as the
Patent and Copyright Clause of the Constitution require particular and
careful public evaluation.

III. THERE IS NO APPARENT REASON TO RUSH TO A VOTE ON THE DATABASE
PROPOSAL.

Bloomberg is unaware of any commercial or technological threat requiring
the current rush to adopt the proposed treaty.

The treaty's proponents apparently argue that the European community's
"Database Directive" contemplates national legislation in the EC that
would discriminate against database proprietors in countries without
comparable domestic legislation. This would not seem to threaten existing
rights of US database proprietors and, in any event, only adoption of
domestic US legislation would address this issue. Although such
legislation was recently introduced into the House, no comparable bill has
been introduced in the Senate and the subject seems to have attracted
little public attention, suggesting there is no urgency to enactment of
such legislation.

The treaty's proponents also point to the threat of international piracy.
However, Bloomberg is aware of no commercially significant piracy of
US-owned databases that would be meaningfully reduced by early adoption of
the proposed treaty.

Bloomberg finds the existing combination of copyright law, contractual
limitations, administrative practices and technological security to be
adequate at present to protect its commercial interests. Bloomberg
believes these existing protections also are likely to suffice during the
time needed for careful evaluation and public debate of the need for sui
generis database protection.

IV. PRECIPITOUS ACTION COULD UPSET THE BALANCE BETWEEN THE RIGHTS OF
DATABASE PROPRIETORS AND BROADER SOCIETAL INTERESTS IN THE FREE FLOW OF
INFORMATION.

Bloomberg perceives a real danger that the legislation contemplated by the
proposed treaty would unreasonably curtail access to basic factual data.
Such concerns clearly have been expressed by the scientific and academic
communities. Scientific, political and cultural progress all depend on
access to information, increasingly on a global scale. Given the complete
absence of evidence that the flow of such information is inhibited by the
absence of the proposed treaty, care should be taken to ensure the
proposal will help rather than hinder the advancement of science and other
important societal interests.

Around the world, intellectual property protection generally embodies the
notion of a limited monopoly on creative expression or novel inventions in
order to create an economic incentive to create useful works that will
eventually be dedicated to the public. Sound public policy should ensure
that the monopoly conferred is no greater than is necessary to create the
desired incentives. However, Bloomberg is unaware of any evidence that
existing economic incentives have proven inadequate.

CONCLUSION

For the foregoing reasons, Bloomberg respectfully submits that the US
should support discussion of the proposed database treaty at the December
Conference but oppose any effort to bring the treaty to a vote and, if a
vote is nonetheless taken, the US should oppose adoption of the treaty at
this time.

Respectfully submitted,

BLOOMBERG L.P.

Michael R. Bloomberg

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James Love / love@tap.org / P.O. Box 19367, Washington, DC 20036
Voice: 202/387-8030; Fax 202/234-5176
Center for Study of Responsive Law
Consumer Project on Technology; http://www.essential.org/cpt
Taxpayer Assets Project; http://www.tap.org
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__________________________________________________________________________
"Political rights do not originate in parliaments; they are rather forced
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time been no guarantee of thier security. They do not exist because they
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will meet with the violent resistance of the populace."

--Rudolf Rocker
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