Study on the Optimization of License Agreements for Legal Research Databases

The Bucerius IP Center has completed a study addressing the question of how license agreements for legal research databases may be optimized.

Research & Faculty |

From September 2021 to September 2022, the Bucerius Center for Transnational IP, Media and Technology Law and Policy (Bucerius IP Center) has successfully completed a study addressing the question of how license agreements for legal research databases may be optimized.

The study was funded by Schweitzer Fachinformationen, as well as several other German publishing houses specializing in the provision of legal information. Scientific independence was ensured in all stages of the study.


Research Focus and Methods

The study focused on license agreements between providers of legal databases as licensors and law firms and corporations as licensees. The latter represented the relevant research group investigated in this study; special attention was thus paid to the preferences of members of the legal professions as well as knowledge managers in law firms and corporations.

In a first step, the study collected data on the interests and demands of the research group with respect to the use and licensing of legal databases. The data was collected by means of an extensive online survey with approximately 150 participants, as well as semi-structured interviews with 13 participants.

In a subsequent step, the study then analyzed how the interests of the research group could best be reflected in the license agreements with legal database providers. Within this framework, the study focused on central clauses of database license agreements, such as the scope of the licensed content, the scope and transfer of user access passes, the term, and the remuneration of the licensor.

Furthermore, the study also evaluated the economic potential of certain other services, which – given the approval of the research group – could potentially launched by database providers and become part of future license agreements. The services examined included a meta-search option, a technical connection for the licensee’s own software applications (e.g., an API interface for legal tech), a single sign-on function (SSO), and the administration of user access passes by an external service provider.


Main Findings

Overall, the results of the survey showed a strong inclination among survey participants towards flexible and customizable license agreements. For example, many respondents appreciated the possibility to tailor the scope of user access passes as well as the licensed content to their own needs. Likewise, in the context of license term, user-defined license periods were the preferred option for the majority of survey participants. The desire for more flexibility was ultimately reflected in the license fees: Here, many participants requested a pay-as-you-go license, where only those legal documents that actually used by the licensee are billed.

In terms of the economic potential of possible additional services on part of the licensor, the data revealed all a meta search option as well as an API-interface for legal tech appear to be promising.

Overall, the study not only met its objective of uncovering areas for improvement within license agreements, but also concisely and holistically evaluated the interests of different stakeholders involved. Though focusing on legal databases in Germany, the results of the study may also be interesting to international audiences.



A copy of the study may be downloaded here. Please note that the study report is in German. Please direct all questions regarding content and access to Ms. Pauline Boppert, LL.B. (research assistant at the Bucerius IP Center; pauline.boppert(at) or Prof. Dr. Dana Beldiman, M.A., J.D., LL.M. (academic director and founder of the Bucerius IP Center; dana.beldiman(at)



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