Mind the Gap: The Status of Digital Files Under Property Law

28 Pages Posted: 14 May 2019

See all articles by Johan David Michels

Johan David Michels

Queen Mary University of London, School of Law

Christopher Millard

Queen Mary University of London, School of Law - Centre for Commercial Law Studies; Oxford Internet Institute

Date Written: May 13, 2019

Abstract

This paper explores the property status of digital files under English law. Since digital files do not fit the definition of things in possession, nor of things in action, we argue that users are unlikely to have a property right in their files. This may have various legal consequences, including for rights of access and compensation in commercial disputes, as well as under succession, copyright, and criminal law. We consider whether the law should be amended so as to extend property rights to cover digital files and conclude that this is not necessary, since solutions can be found under contract law or by introducing specific, sui generis legal provisions as appropriate.

Keywords: property law, digital files, information ownership, cloud computing, possession, tort of conversion, liens of possession, succession, estate, copyright law, criminal law, theft

JEL Classification: K1, K10, K11, K12, K13, K14, K36, O34, P14

Suggested Citation

Michels, Johan David and Millard, Christopher, Mind the Gap: The Status of Digital Files Under Property Law (May 13, 2019). Queen Mary School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 317/2019. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3387400

Johan David Michels (Contact Author)

Queen Mary University of London, School of Law ( email )

67-69
Lincoln's Inn Fields
Holborn, London WC2A 3JB
United Kingdom

Christopher Millard

Queen Mary University of London, School of Law - Centre for Commercial Law Studies ( email )

67-69 Lincoln's Inn Fields
London, EC2A 3JB
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.qmul.ac.uk/staff/millard.html

Oxford Internet Institute

1 St Giles
Oxford, OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.oii.ox.ac.uk/

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