Legal/ethical aspects and privacy: enabling free data flows

Panagiotis Papapaschalis

This chapter presents a working definition or categorisation of (digital) data from a legal viewpoint, with an emphasis on European Union (EU) law. Based on this categorisation, it discusses the domains of public and private law related to data, with an emphasis on intellectual property and data protection law. It concludes with a discussion of the major obstacles for free data flow, and offers perspectives on addressing them.


There is no universal legal definition of data. Some pieces of legislation (see, for example, European Parliament and the Council of the European Union 2019a) define data-related notions by resorting to terms such as “documents” or “content”, either disregarding their “medium” or “form” or prescribing a certain form (eg, dynamic data can only be data in digital form). Others resort to the broader notion of “information” (European Parliament and the Council of the European Union 2016a), which more accurately matches the term’s Latin origins: “something given”, ie, that can be taken for granted. This dichotomy between substance and form is crucial for the treatment of data by the law, as well as for understanding and removing obstacles for free

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