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Data according to Private Law

April 2020

Although data represents the cornerstone of the new economy and possesses significant economic value as a crucial component of companies (together with human, material and financial resources), the study of data has yet to stretch beyond a certain type: personal data. However, data can actually be unwrapped to reveal further groups, including both protected and unprotected data. With that in mind, this article has sought to provide a legal definition of data in a bid to conclude that data is information represented symbolically in computable form.

The piece analyses the physical aspect of data, its content, the questions regarding data as such and the relevance of the reality to which it refers, as well as taking a glance at the category of data on data. The relationship of this concept with existing legal categories has also been outlined, not to mention the ideas of a “thing” and a “legal asset”, to determine that data itself is not a thing, rather by and large a legal asset subject to entitlement and protection, as well as other rights. Arguments as to whether data can be owned have been put forward in view of the different data categories, with a particular focus on unprotected data.

A detailed examination has been included of the regulations applicable to unprotected data and its entitlement, possession or custody, free flow, transfer and other legal transactions, as well as succession by way of mortis causa. Lastly, given that data by its very nature exemplifies a shifting landscape, the conflict of rules which allow us to pinpoint the legislation applicable to data – whether personal or non-personal – under International Private Law have also been reviewed.

Read the full chapter by downloading the document below.

*A Spanish version of this paper could be found in Anuario de Derecho Civil, vol. 72 n. 3, 2019, pp. 825-877.

Data According to Private Law


Picture of Javier Torre
Javier Torre de Silva