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Economic Rights Over Data: A Framework for Community Data Ownership


With digitalization increasingly pervading every aspect of the economy, data rights cannot be seen solely as about privacy or otherwise just in an individualistic framework. Valuable data is often aggregated, group or anonymized data, and thus we make a case for collective rights over the economic resource of data. The article proposes a framework for community data ownership as being necessary for economic justice. It means that a national community, city, village or neighbourhood community, as well as communities/groups of workers, traders and producers, collectively have primary economic rights over the data that they contribute to different digital platforms. Unless such new alternative frameworks are developed, the proliferation of free trade agreements as well as efforts at a WTO plurilateral on e-commerce—with their ‘global free flow of data’ doctrine—will lock the default of de facto data ownership rights being solely that of the collectors of data.

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The authors are grateful to the Data Governance Network ( for their support on this paper.

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Correspondence to Parminder Jeet Singh.

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Singh, P.J., Vipra, J. Economic Rights Over Data: A Framework for Community Data Ownership. Development 62, 53–57 (2019).

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  • Data commons
  • Community data
  • Data ownership
  • Digital economy
  • Data flows
  • Data localization
  • Digital justice