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This case dealt with the question of whether Ryanair Ltd can forbid PR Aviation BV from using its flight information for the website where customers can search for flight information from budget airlines, compare prices and, against payment of a commission, book flights. PR Aviation BV claimed before the Dutch court that such a restriction on the part of Ryanair violated Directive no. 96/9. However, even in the EU, direct references cannot be made to the validity of a directive as it must first be transposed into national legislation, which must then be interpreted in accordance with the directive.

Following various assessments by the Dutch court, the Supreme Court of the Netherlands asked the European Court of Justice whether the effect of Directive 96/9 also extends to online databases that are neither protected by copyright nor by the sui generis right under that directive, and whether the freedom to use such a database may be contractually restricted.

The ECJ stated that Directive 96/9 is based on the idea of balancing the rights of a database creator and the rights of the rightful user of this database. However, a creator of a databased protected by the directive would by all means be free to govern the use via an agreement concluded with the rightful user and to determine the purpose and manner of the use of the database or a copy thereof in compliance with the provisions of Directive 96/9.

In this case, however, Directive 96/9 on the protection of databases was interpreted as not being applicable to databases that are neither protected by copyright nor by the sui generis right under this direction, as was the case for Ryanair’s database. According to the ECJ, Ryanair cannot therefore be denied the possibility of establishing contractual restrictions for the use of this database, at least not according to this directive. The case has been remanded to the Dutch court for the assessment of the legal situation according to national legislation.

Although this judgment, which is applicable to the EU, does not change the current legal situation in Switzerland, it could lead to database creators in the EU imposing more contractual restrictions in the future, which should be assessed in the event of an international screen scraping of databases from Switzerland.