A Guide to Digital Ownership and IP Protection in the Cloud

Referring to a creation of the mind, the concept of intellectual property (IP) has existed long before any of us knew what the terms copyright, patent, trademark or even a “trade secret” was. 

Since the mass adoption of the internet in the late 90’s and early 2000’s the entire concept of copyright and IP protection has changed drastically. Industries such as music, film and television have notoriously been at the forefront of the sweeping shift in attitudes towards copyright over the past 20-30 years. 

However, it would be remiss to suggest that the internet has only changed the way that IP is protected. In fact – if we are to look at music and movie streaming platforms such as Spotify and Netflix, or even the games on demand services such as ‘Game Pass’ & ‘PS Plus’ by Microsoft and Sony Playstation respectively, the concept of ownership in today’s digital world has also changed drastically.

Throughout this post, we will be taking an in-depth look at digital ownership & IP protection in the Cloud and reflecting on what this means for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

What is digital ownership? 

As the name implies, digital ownership is the ownership of something in a digital space. Traditionally, digital ownership has been used to refer to files, images and other digital data types. However, the concept of digital ownership has changed in recent years with the emergence of new technologies such as cryptocurrency and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), further blurring the boundaries of what digital ownership looks like. 

To answer the question then of what digital ownership is, we must break it down into two categories – A) The future of digital ownership and B) The past and present of digital ownership.

Starting with the future, digital ownership in years to come will more likely be synonymous with the ownership of digital assets such as NFTs that can be traded using the decentralized cryptocurrency. 

When looking at the past and present of digital ownership, the importance of the 1998 US copyright law, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), cannot be understated. The DMCA sought to criminalize the production and distribution of technology, devices or services such as websites that could host copyrighted content. Over the years, the DMCA has effectively become an internet verb in itself and is now synonymous with the removal of copyrighted content from Youtube.

Digital ownership as it is today, primarily refers to the ownership over data and IP that exists digitally. However, as we move into Cloud storage for personal use and Cloud computing solutions for businesses, the question of digital ownership and who actually owns the data stored in the Cloud becomes ever more prominent. 

Who owns the data in the Cloud? 


For all of the marketing behind the term, the ‘Cloud’ is actually nothing more than a set of internet-connected servers stored in massive complexes around the world. Cloud services and their masses of servers are owned by some of the world’s largest corporations, such as Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and Google. As such, it would be easy to suggest that any data stored on the Cloud is the property of the Cloud service provider… Yet, this isn’t quite the case.

 

The importance of contracts 

 

As mentioned above, most of the world’s Cloud infrastructure is owned by some of the largest tech giants in the world. However, the truth lies within the contract when it comes to who owns the data stored on their services.

Amazon Web Services states: “With AWS, you own your data, you control its location, and you control who has access to it” meanwhile, Microsoft Azure similarly states: “you are the owner of the data that you provide for storing and hosting in Azure services” 

As with most things in life, it’s important to always read the fine print before signing up with any Cloud storage or service provider. 

Most reputable providers will explicitly explain that you retain ownership of any content you upload to their platform. However, it’s essential to double-check the legalities around data and IP with your legal team before deciding to host your IP or data on a Cloud platform.

The importance of data protection

Data protection should be of considerable significance to any business, regardless of the size or sector that your organization operates in. 

Unfortunately, a recent CNBC|SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey found that just 5% of business owners consider cybersecurity to be the biggest risk to their business. Perhaps because of this laissez-faire approach to cybersecurity, small businesses are in fact, the number one target for criminals, and represent 43% of all data breaches.

A recent report has suggested that the cost of global ransomware damage could exceed $265 billion within the next ten years. As more business goes online and away from traditional footfall channels, there is an ever greater sense that data protection will become even more important in the years ahead. 

Businesses operating within highly regulated sectors such as finance and insurance spend a considerable amount of their budget on cybersecurity to ensure that their data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Yet, research suggests that a number of other businesses operating outside of these two sectors tend to neglect data protection..    

 How to protect IP in the Cloud 


While your data and IP are often safe from being stolen by Cloud service providers, there is still a threat that your IP could be stolen or harmed by malicious third parties. 

As we explained in a previous article, managing who has access to your files and data is a great way to protect your IP from harm when operating in the Cloud. Additionally, when signing up for any Cloud storage or Cloud infrastructure solution, it’s a good idea to check that the provider is in compliance with the latest security protocols.

Lastly, one of the best ways to protect your IP in the Cloud is always to maintain a backup. While the likelihood of Google, Microsoft or Amazon’s services being inaccessible is slim, this has indeed happened in the past and caused much of the internet to experience connectivity issues. Maintaining a backup of your data and IP can help protect you both in the case of a loss of data or an identity/IP theft.

Protecting your IP and maintaining ownership of your digital assets is vital for any business.  

Data ownership allows your organization to have a reliable data source at your fingertips, allowing your data teams to make informed decisions.

Book a demo with Astrato today and see how our data analytics solution can help your business to harness the power of your data.

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