A database is a collection of independent elements. It must be possible to separate the independent elements without reducing the informative value of each element.

For example, a novel is not a database since it consists of several chapters that need to be read in a certain order. The chapters are not considered independent data. An encyclopedia, on the other hand, contains thousands of elements that can be consulted as separate entities. That means it is a database.

The data in the database may be protected by copyright. However, this is not always the case, since these data can also be simple facts not protected by copyright.

A collection of 20th-century poems is a database containing works protected by copyright. If this collection only contains data that are not original (for example titles, author names, dates etc.) but not the actual texts of the poems, these separate data entities are not protected, even though it is possible for the repertory itself to be protected as a database.

The works and data in the database must be organised systematically or methodically. Non-organised data collections are not considered databases. Moreover, every work or data entity must be accessible separately. This means that a tool is required to search for a specific element (for example: an index, table of contents, electronic search tool or another search feature).

As such, a telephone directory is considered a database. Every telephone number can be accessed separately thanks to the alphabetical order of the names.

Both electronic and non-electronic databases (such as paper databases like dictionaries, telephone directories, index cards) are protected.

There are many examples of electronic databases on the Internet, such as:

  • websites with real estate advertisements;
  • websites with job vacancies;
  • websites with financial information;
  • film screening schedules on Belgian cinema websites;
  • etc.

These examples are considered databases since they are collections of data that are organised systematically or methodically, and the different data entities can be accessed separately via the electronic tools. 

A collection of paper index cards describing sculptures in Brussels is an example of a non-electronic database.

Last update
24 March 2022