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Foreword

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 December 2022

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Summary

This project has quite a long history. It goes back to an idea, presented some 25 years ago, that information could, as such, be an economically valuable, identifiable object to which a subject could have rights vis-à-vis a relevant and considerable group of other subjects. In other words, that information as such could be the object of a property right. The question proved to be almost unexpected and was met with reluctance as to whether this could be a relevant research question at all. At that time, information was generally considered to only be legally relevant in cases where intellectual property rights, including a database right, could be found, and where information qualified as a protected trade secret. To understand this reluctance better, we should realise that this idea was presented before the rise of the data economy, with its Big Data and a new profession – data scientists – and before new developments that have simultaneously and radically changed how we look at data, such as distributed ledger technology, blockchain, smart contracts, the sensorisation of society, the Internet of Things, machine learning and artificial intelligence. All these developments have transformed our society fundamentally, but they are all also very recent. Within a relatively limited time frame, we find ourselves no longer living in just one (i.e. real) world, but in a mixture of spheres where the physical world and the virtual world not only meet, but indeed come together as interwoven and interdependent, creating a hybrid world, particularly in our minds. Twenty-five years ago, there was also not the same awareness as now that there are more sources of valuable information than we tended to recognise, such as information hidden in customs and traditions. Arguing, as is done in traditional common law cases, that pure information can never be property is, therefore, from today’s perspective, an open-ended statement that is just too farreaching to be true, and at the end of the day even meaningless. What is pure information? Is not all information ‘pure’, whatever its contents and shape? We need to accept that, in our present society, information, laid down in data, is so omnipresent, affecting both our view of what it means to be a person and what we consider to be an object of economic value, that we cannot and should not deny its legal relevance.

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Intersentia
Print publication year: 2022

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