Politicians Start To Push For Autonomous Vehicle Data To Be Protected By Copyright Or Database Rights

from the battle-for-the-internet-of-things dept

Autonomous vehicles are much in the news these days, and seem poised to enter the mainstream soon. One of their key aspects is that they are digital systems -- essentially, computers with wheels. As such they gather and generate huge amounts of data as they move around and interact with their surroundings. This kind of data is increasingly valuable, so an important question poses itself: what should happen to all that information from autonomous vehicles?

The issue came up recently in a meeting of the European Parliament's legal affairs committee, which was drawing up a document to summarize its views on autonomous driving in the EU (pdf). It's an area now being explored by the EU with a view to bringing in relevant regulations where they are needed. Topics under consideration include civil liability, data protection, and who gets access to the data produced by autonomous vehicles. On that topic, the Swedish Greens MEP Max Andersson suggested the following amendment (pdf) to the committee's proposed text:

Notes that data generated during autonomous transport are automatically generated and are by nature not creative, thus making copyright protection or the right on databases inapplicable.

Pretty inoffensive stuff, you might think. But not for the center-right EPP politicians present. They demanded a vote on Andersson's amendment, and then proceeded to block its inclusion in the committee's final report.

This is a classic example of the copyright ratchet in action: copyright only ever gets longer, stronger and broader. Here a signal is being sent that copyright or a database right should be extended to apply not just to works created by people, but also to the data streams generated by autonomous vehicles. Given their political leanings, it is highly unlikely that the EPP politicians believe that data belongs to the owner of the vehicle. They presumably think that the manufacturer retains rights to it, even after the vehicle has left the factory and been sold.

That's bad enough, but there's a bigger threat here. Autonomous vehicles are just part of a much larger wave of connected digital devices that generate huge quantities of data, what is generally called the Internet of Things. The next major front in the copyright wars -- the next upward move of the copyright ratchet -- will be over what happens to all that data, and who, if anyone, owns it.

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Filed Under: autonomous vehicles, copyright, database right, eu, eu parliament, iot, juri


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  1. icon
    RedBeard (profile), 12 Oct 2018 @ 11:40am

    Re:

    Interesting question. Looking solely at the data, it is just factual spatial information that is collected at certain intervals. Taken as a whole, or as a collection, is the data alone recognizable as creative output or does the data have to be transformed in order to identify the creation? Unless the data was presented in a novel way, e.g., as ASCII art, it would not appear to be very pretty or creative. I think it is unlikely that the data alone, i.e. a series of numbers would be recognized as being creative until it is transformation into a map/picture or even sound. That transformation would include additional creative choices, such as the colors used, size, etc. The data is part of the creation, but the data alone it is not a creation it is a small piece of the creative process.

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