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Copyright refers to the rights of authors in works of authorship as distinguished from patents (whose subject matter is inventions), trademarks (which concern symbols of an enterprises reputation and goodwill) and trade secrets (information whose value derives from being kept secret). Copyright protects the expression in a work of authorship against copying. Copyright law does not protect the underlying ideas embodied in a work; neither does it protect against independent development. There are three basic requirements for copyright protection: that which is to be protected must be a work of authorship; it must be original; and it must bfixed in a tangible medium of expression. The term `database' generally refers to an aggregate of information systematically arranged and stored in a computer system or in any other form. In the Indian Copyright Act, there are no specific meanings attached to the expression databases or computer databases. Compilations including databases are defined as literary works.

In contrast, the latest version of the draft European Commission Directive on Databases Copyright states "Database means a collection of works, data or other materials arranged in a systematic and methodical way and capable of being accessed by electronic or other means. It includes the materials necessary for the operation and consultation of a database, such as a thesaurus and indexing".