When it comes to data we upload to the web and digital content in all its forms, it's hard to tell who owns it. At Expand NY's panel today, Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF) Julie Samuels, Techdirt's Mike Masnick and American University Washington College of Law professor, Michael Carroll discussed that very issue in the context of the user data lockdown from Megaupload, legal concepts of digital ownership and privacy and how increasingly irrelevant copyright laws could change in the future.
Carroll reckons a major issue isn't how the law views our digital data and what we store online, but rather how the data itself is defined. Are your pictures and videos like physical content, or like a bank account, where the bank "owns" it? Exactly how it's defined will have a big effect on legal ownership. Masnick added that the situation is currently in flux, while Samuels added that because laws and policies have a huge effect on businesses (especially small and nascent ones), this uncertainty makes new digital companies harder to grow. The US government seized several digital content sites before it went for Megaupload, and in two cases, the government ended up returning the content. However, the panelists added, this was because they were the only cases that fought back. Responding to the government is often difficult.