New Report Analyzing Intellectual Property Protections for Data Concludes Consumers Should Not Be Paid for It

January 22, 2019

WASHINGTON—While data-driven innovation is increasingly important for economic growth and societal progress, a new report released today by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the world’s leading think tank for science and technology policy, argues against paying consumers or giving them exclusive rights to the data they share with companies and other organizations in exchange for products or services.

This conclusion is one of 13 policy guidelines in the report, which analyzes the intersection between intellectual property (IP) protection and data. The report offers a conceptual framework to strike an appropriate balance between IP and data.

“People are thinking about data the wrong way. It is not the ‘new oil,’ the ‘new infrastructure,’ or the ‘new oxygen’—it is a fundamentally different exchange of value than other transactions, and it needs to be treated that way,” said ITIF President Rob Atkinson, author of the report. “Innovation in the modern economy depends on gathering, analyzing, and acting on data, so regulators should be careful not to stifle data-driven innovation.”

To strike the right balance between data and IP rights, the report identifies thirteen key policy issues to consider:

  1. How to balance protection and incentives for collecting, curating, and analyzing data with the benefits of encouraging its widespread use?
  2. How to account for the fact that data is non-rivalrous and often readily available?
  3. Who has rights to data?
  4. Should individuals own “their” data?
  5. Who should own private, non-personally identifiable data?
  6. Should companies be forced to share data?
  7. How should competition policy treat data?
  8. Should companies be forced to provide access to data they have collected?
  9. How should data mining rules be designed?
  10.  How should database protection rules be designed?
  11.  Under what circumstances should government be able to access and use data?
  12.  How should policymakers resolve conflicts between international regimes?

“Better use of data will be an important driver of economic and societal progress in the decades to come,” said Atkinson. “Tilting too far toward granting data rights runs the risk of stifling needed data sharing, but tilting foo far in the other direction could limit incentives for data collection and innovation. Policymakers should seek to strike the right balance.”

Read the report.