Who Controls COVID-Related Medical Data? Copyright And Personal Data
International Review of Intellectual Property and Competition Law (Forthcoming, 2021)
4 Pages Posted: 19 Apr 2021
Date Written: April 15, 2021
Who controls big medical data of relating to COVID-19 vaccines? The January 2021 Real-World Epidemiological Evidence Collaboration Agreement between Pfizer and the Israeli Ministry of Health highlights the interrelationship between two modes of protecting data: data protection law and copyright law. The former provides legal protection to data subjects and limits the data controller, but generally speaking, allows the data to be processed for the benefit of public health; the latter awards the databases’ controller with rights regarding the dataset, a control which may hinder others’ access to highly important data. This editorial unpacks this relationship.
Under the Agreement, the Ministry shares “aggregate project data” with Pfizer, meaning “any de-identified data.” “Project data” are owned by the MoH or Israeli Health Maintenance Organizations. The data are about millions of people from a variety of sources and are used as they are collected. Combining copyright law and the obligations imposed by data protection law, pushes the parties to protect data under both copyright law and additional layers of protection, such as trade secret law. This result means that other parties may have access to outcomes but not to raw data. To facilitate broad access to crucial data during a global health crisis, we need to address both bodies of law in an integrated manner.
Keywords: copyright, data protection, COVID-19, big medical data
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