The Political Economy of Data Protection
27 Pages Posted: 4 Dec 2007 Last revised: 1 Feb 2014
Date Written: November 1, 2011
Information is the lifeblood of a knowledge-based economy. The control of data and the ability to translate them into meaningful information is indispensable to businesspeople, policymakers, scientists, engineers, researchers, students, and consumers. Having useful, and at times exclusive, information improves productivity, advances education and training, and helps create a more informed citizenry. In the past two decades, those who collected or obtained access to a large amount of data began to explore ways to use the collected data as an income stream. Because the then-existing laws did not offer adequate protection for that particular purpose, they actively lobbied for stronger protection of their data assets.
As part of the Data Devolution: Corporate Information Security, Consumers and the Future of Regulation Symposium, this essay recounts the development of two new forms of data protection: sui generis database protection and data exclusivity. It also discusses the concerns raised by the undemocratic processes used to develop such protection. It explains why policy laundering and backdoor lawmaking are harmful to both the United States and the larger international community. The essay then offers suggestions on how to recalibrate the balance of the intellectual property system. It concludes with a plea for caution concerning the development of new intellectual property rights to protect data, drawing on the European Commission's recent evaluation of the EC Database Directive.
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