Infringement of a Legal Data Base


Since 1991, the publishing house P has been publishing a dictionary of Legal Texts (presentation and synthesis of about 400 legal texts in form of cards.

The factsSince 1991, the publishing house P has been publishing a dictionary of Legal Texts (presentation and synthesis of about 400 legal texts in form of cards. This dictionary is also available as a CD-ROM, that was recorded by the French Software Protection Agency (APP).In 1995, the publishing house P noticed that 5 Legal Texts with a number of synthesis cards were placed at the public's disposal on the French Minitel network.By judgment of December 28, 1998, the First Instance Court of Lyon condemned the defendant to pay 10 millions of French Francs to the publishing house P for damages and ordered to stop the exploitation of the Minitel sites. Appeal was made of this decision.The decision. About the protectiveness of the workThe dictionary of the publishing house P was considered as an original work, protectable by copyrights. Indeed :- the thematic presentation is original ;- the synthesis of the essential elements is done according to an own plan and an own cutting ;- the texts of the synthesis cards are a rewriting of the basis documents ;- the work is not a simple compilation of documents but a real intellectual creation that is protected according to Article L.112-1 of the French Intellectual Property Code (the text that was taken into account is the one of the general copyrights law which was the only one enforceable in 1991 ; we now have at our disposal the specific text of the July 1st, 1998 Law relating to data bases).. About infringement (L. 122-4)An expert has been appointed for comparing the synthesis cards of the two services. It appears that numerous cards are identical or similar (same sentences, same plan..). Some cards also copy the mistakes with regard to the Legal Texts.These similarities are not due to the fact that the analyzed sources are identical. They characterize well the pillage of the original intellectual work. The fact that the cards presented on the Minitel networks have been updated is not important.. About unfair competitionThe service of the defendant was offered to the same customers as those of the publishing house P (all publics, including the companies and the legal practicians). Furthermore, the defendant did not demonstrate to have recruited jurists in order to do the work necessary for the fast establishment of an important data base.. About the responsibilityThe defendant company (which furnishes, publishes and commercializes the counterfeiting information) and the legal director of the company (creator of the counterfeiting data base and only responsible of the defendant company) are responsible in solidum for the facts of infringement and of unfair competition.The provider of the telematic services had arranged by contract with the defendant company that information are diffused under the one and only responsibility of the publishing company. The provider was therefore not responsible.Enacting termsThe damages have been evaluated to 6 millions of French Francs by taking into account the lost opportunity for the publishing house P due to the free diffusion of the counterfeiting data.The exploitation of the networks was forbidden under compulsion of 50 000 French Francs per day of delay.Appeal Court of Lyon - First Chamber - June 22, 2000