International law firm Bird & Bird proposes new EU data right to European Commission

12 April 2017

The European Commission should consider introducing a new data ownership right to ensure that both EU citizens and companies can benefit from new data technologies in today's data-driven economy as the current legal framework is inadequate. This was the message of a White Paper on "Data Ownership" produced by a team of technology lawyers at international law firm Bird & Bird in the context of an EU-funded research & innovation project.

After publication of the White Paper on 6th February 2017, partner in the Tech & Comms group at international law firm Bird & Bird Benoit Van Asbroeck and associates Julien Debussche and Jasmien César were able to discuss the proposed new EU right with EU Commission officials, colleagues, legal scholars and clients. These discussions resulted in the recent publication of a Supplementary Paper, which aims to further detail the main features of the proposed right.

The right would create a non-exclusive entitlement to individual pieces of data, naturally extending to the entire dataset. It would be paired with a compulsory data transfer obligation and a data traceability obligation to act as a safeguard against abuse and to provide legal certainty. As such, it would accommodate the currently existing rights and obligations at EU level that currently hinder the development of a true data economy.

The Supplementary Paper thus details why it disagrees with the statement from the European Commission that "the use of existing general contract law and competition law instruments available in the EU might be a sufficient response", and with the contention that a sectorial approach would provide the necessary response.

Bird & Bird's updated proposal will be submitted as a formal response to the EU Commission's public consultation on "Building the European Data Economy", which closes on 26th April 2017.

Benoit Van Asbroeck, partner in the Tech & Comms group at international law firm Bird & Bird said:

"It's vital to have a regulatory framework which covers all issues relating to data in order to build a strong digital economy. It is not simply a case of making an umbrella agreement which will cover general areas that individuals and organisations are subject to, but to implement the appropriate rights and regulations across the board.

This new right that we propose would offer a more solid and legally secure solution to regulating the issues related to the ownership of data gathered, created and analysed by various parties of the data value chain."

View the Supplementary Paper >