Cloud Innovation and the Law: Issues, Approaches, and Interplay

32 Pages Posted: 18 Mar 2014

See all articles by Urs Gasser

Urs Gasser

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society

Date Written: March 17, 2014


We live in a quicksilver technological environment where one innovation in information and communication technology (ICT) follows the other. From a user’s perspective, the speed of innovation in the Internet age becomes particularly visible when looking at ever-changing hardware devices that enable instant access to information, knowledge, and entertainment, or when navigating the rapidly evolving social media space where new platforms and powerful services emerge periodically, like Instagram, Pinterest, and Quora.

Many of today’s trends and developments in the ICT space are powered by a less visible and arguably more evolutionary innovation at the lower layers of the ICT infrastructure: cloud computing. It describes a multi-faceted technological phenomenon in which important aspects of computing (such as information processing, communication, networking, data acquisition, storage, and analysis) move from local systems to more efficient, outsourced systems where third parties provide aggregated computational resources and services on an as-needed basis from remote locations. Cloud computing is arguably responsible, at least in part, for the speed at which new social platforms are being developed and brought to market. This paper starts with a brief introduction to and framing of cloud computing as both a technological innovation and innovation-enabling technology – in short: cloud innovation. It then focuses on one particular aspect of the emerging cloud computing ecosystem by describing and discussing the legal and regulatory responses to cloud technology. It ends with general observations regarding the design of interfaces between cloud innovation as an example of an innovative and innovation-enabling technology and the legal and regulatory system.

The paper builds upon and aims to synthesize previous contributions by the author and his collaborators on cloud law and policy issues on the one hand and pattern recognition in ICT regulation on the other hand. Against this backdrop, the paper seeks not only to distill and share insights about the interplay between cloud computing technology and the legal and regulatory system, but also contribute to a broader understanding of and emerging analytical framework for technology regulation in digitally networked environments.

Suggested Citation

Gasser, Urs, Cloud Innovation and the Law: Issues, Approaches, and Interplay (March 17, 2014). Berkman Center Research Publication No. 2014-7, Available at SSRN: or

Urs Gasser (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society ( email )

Harvard Law School
23 Everett, 2nd Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States


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