The Singapore Court of Appeal upheld the decision that copyright could not be said to subsist in such data and that the compilations lacked ‘sufficient creativity or intellectual effort in the selection or arrangement of the material’.
Copyright only protects ‘original’ expressions or arrangements. The court agreed with the view that has been adopted in various other jurisdictions in recent years that for copyright to subsist in any literary work, there must be an authorial creation that is causally connected with the engagement of the human intellect. This means the application of sufficient intellectual effort, creativity, or the exercise of mental labour, skill or judgment. Efforts that are not applied towards authorial creation will not suffice.
While I hold reserved opinions on the judgement, I do wish to comment on a missed opportunity by the courts to consider a possible new legal solution to the problem at hand. This was admitted as much, by the High Court, George Wei JC [at 206] when he commented:
´ I have no doubt that in the modern world databases have a tremendous commercial significance and arguments can be raised that it is in the public interest to protect them. But the scope and strength of any new form of database protection (if necessary) must be appropriate. That is a matter best left for Parliament. The protection of databases engages distinct concerns from what copyright was originally concerned with, namely, the protection of artistic expression.”