The argument against property rights in data

Report by Open Future: “25 years after the adoption of the Database Directive, there is mounting evidence that the introduction of the sui generis right did not lead to increased data access and use–instead, an additional intellectual property layer became one more obstacle.

Today, the European Commission, as it drafts the new Data Act, faces a fundamental choice both regarding the existing sui generis database rights and the introduction of a similar right to raw, machine-generated data. There is a risk that an approach that treats data as property will be further strengthened through a new data producer’s right. The idea of such a new exclusive right was introduced by the European Commission in 2017. This proposed right was to be based on the same template as the sui generis database right. 

A new property right will not secure the goals defined in the European data strategy: those of ensuring access and use of data, in a data economy built around common data spaces. Instead, they will strengthen existing monopolies in the data economy. 

Instead of introducing new property rights, greater access to and use of data should be achieved by introducing–in the Data Act, and in other currently debated legal acts–access rights that treat data as a commons. 

In this policy brief, we present the current policy debate on access and use of data, as well as the history of proposals for property rights in data – including the sui generis database right. We present arguments against the introduction of new property rights, and in favor of strengthening data access rights….(More)”.