Digital data is becoming a hot commodity these days because it enables AI tools to do powerful things. Companies that offer content should keep up with the evolving technology and laws that can help them protect their online data.
As data becomes available online, it can be accessed in different ways leading to various legal issues. In general, one basis for protecting online data lies in the creativity of the data under the Copyright Act of 1976. Another basis lies in the technological barrier of the computer system hosting the data under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) and Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It is also possible to protect online data based on contractual obligations or tort principles under state common law. In terms of the data, a company would need to consider its proprietary data and user-generated data separately, but any creative content is invariably entitled to copyright protection. Without owning the data, the company can still enforce the copyright via an exclusive license from its users. In terms of the computer system, a company could evaluate different security measures for restricting access to the data without severely sacrificing visibility and usability of the company, the data and/or the computer system.
In a typical scenario, a company may make its data accessible to the public as is, publicly available in an obscured or tracked form, and/or accessible only to a select group. Let’s consider these scenarios separately.