Databases and software development: what legal issues?

With technological development, it is possible to create software that will be used in a variety of economic sectors, such as predictive software for medical devices, management software or technical software for construction, architecture and engineering. engineering.

The creation of computer software represents a “problem-solving” activity, according to the problem-solving method, based on a series of steps, including the development of algorithms.

Specifically, for the algorithms to perform the operations necessary for problem solving, they must be validated/trained using data selected from the database by the programmer.

However, careful consideration must be given to the type of data to be used, as it may be subject to confidentiality rules, be licensed or be “open”.

The problem therefore arises if one intends to create software intended for commercialization, in particular concerning the necessary steps to be followed for the use of the data used to develop the algorithm.

What are the terms of access to the databases?

Access to and use of data in the databases can be carried out by:

1. User Licenses

EU legislation (Real. 96/9/EC) provides for a series of rights for the author of the database, who will have the exclusive right to carry out or authorize the reproduction, distribution, translation or adaptation of the work but also to exclude extraction and reuse operations of all or part of the database.

The data contained in the databases can then be licensed by their author, subject to the express indication of the manner and purpose of the use of the data, the possibility or not of sharing, the subjects who can access it and possible sanctions in case of violation.

Indeed, it often happens that access to databases is done through licenses granted free of charge, but only for scientific research purposes, thus not allowing commercial use.

If you intend to use data from a licensed database for commercial purposes, you should therefore pay particular attention to the following aspects:

  • verify that the license allows data used for training and validation of algorithms to be used for commercial purposes;
  • or, if this is not contractually provided, attempt to negotiate specific user licenses with the owner of the database in order to be able to include the results obtained in software intended for commercialization.

2. Open Data

The use of Open datamade available by the Digital Italy Agency for use by computer programs aimed at the development of new services for citizens, is also increasingly widespread.

These are data shared by public administrations such as municipalities, regions or local authorities, covering different economic sectors such as health, education, culture and sports, science, technology, etc.

“Open” data and documents published on unless otherwise specified, are available under a Creative Commons BY 4.0 Licenseand are therefore freely distributable and reusable, provided that the source is always mentioned and, if possible, the web address of the page of origin.

The advantage therefore lies in the possibility of extracting, reusing, reproducing and sharing all the contents of the database and possibly incorporating them into a new database created by the programmer, freely and free of charge, in s acquitting the sole burden of citing the source.

Some Considerations

There are many possibilities for exploiting data, constituting an important opportunity for companies and economic operators in Italy.

Nevertheless, there are still a few precautions to be taken, by carefully examining the origin of the data that one intends to use and, above all, by checking that the databases consulted allow unrestricted reuse of the data.

Gordon K. Morehouse