[Cross posted from sarabannerman.blogspot.ca] Big data has a lot to offer, from curing disease to fostering economic development to fostering transparency. At the same time, from government mass surveillance to data leaks, the misuses of big data seem as pervasive as its uses.
Who owns big data? What rights do–and should–its owners have over what is done with it? Two different answers to this question have been posed. The first would allow free use of big data for non-profit scientific research. The second would release IP control of big data for commercial research also.
As noted in a recent paper by Handke, Guibault and Vallbé, the answer to the question of what IP rights subsist in big data varies by country. Research using mined data may, in some countries, be constrained by copyright and other IP laws, while in others (including Canada and the United States), copyright ownership in data may not stand in the way of researchers seeking to data mine.
Two international initiatives: The Hague Declaration on Knowledge Discovery in the Digital Age and the World Intellectual Property Organization’s proceedings toward the creation of a new international instrument on limitations and exceptions for educational, teaching and research institutions and for persons with other disabilities, seek to ensure internationally that copyright does not stand in the way of the ability to mine data for research.
At WIPO, the African Group of countries has proposed that non-profit scientific research be exempted from copyright. They propose that:
The reproduction and reuse […] of any lawfully obtained copyrighted work for purposes of not-for-profit scientific research, including storage, archiving, linking, data mining procedures, data manipulation, and virtual scientific experiments subject to attribution of the sources used to the extent reasonably feasible
Should we be concerned about giving up IP ownership of personal data?
There are opportunities and risks with the accumulation of data, just as there are for the accumulation of capital. However, one thing seems clear: we need to increase the power of the people. Banks pay interest; perhaps we should be paid directly for the use of our personal data. We need to be made aware of the value of our data and be given rights to control who accesses it. We need to form a data-democracy: data governance for the people, by the people and with the people’s consent.