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Beyond the Writer's Strike: Real-World Cases Highlighting "Data as an Asset"

On October 9, 2023, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) membership approved a new contract, marking the end of the 148-day writers' strike. Central to this contract was an emphasis on writer involvement, particularly against the deployment of AI in writing rooms without their consent.

The strike highlighted a growing movement for individuals and organizations to assert their ownership over their data, particularly in the context of AI. As AI becomes increasingly sophisticated and pervasive, the value of personal data is soaring. This has led to a growing number of lawsuits and initiatives aimed at ensuring that individuals and organizations are compensated for the use of their data and have a say in how it is used.

One notable example is Taylor Swift's 2019 lawsuit against Scooter Braun. Swift challenged Braun's acquisition of her master recordings without her approval, alleging "unlawful and unjust enrichment." Though the lawsuit settled, it underscored a prevailing message: artists have the right to own their work and deserve compensation for its use.  Similarly, a collective of musicians is currently suing OpenAI and Google for allegedly using their music without permission to train AI models like ChatGPT and Bard. This ongoing lawsuit signifies a broader movement for artists to reclaim and control their creative outputs.

Beyond these high-profile cases, numerous individuals and entities are making strides toward data ownership and compensation. For instance, at PlanetX Labs, we are pioneering a platform where individuals can take ownership of their data . In a similar vein, Verily is crafting a system for individuals to monetize their health data by sharing it with researchers.

Other notable mentions in this wave of data ownership include:

These instances epitomize a growing trend: individuals and organizations are not just recognizing but asserting the worth of their data in the AI landscape. This shift is not just commendable, but necessary, reflecting a heightened societal understanding of data's intrinsic value.

Globally, there are recent developments by countries and organizations to push for data ownership and compensation:

  • In 2022, the European Union passed the Digital Markets Act, which gives consumers more control over their data and requires tech giants to be more transparent about how they collect and use data.

  • In 2023, the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) proposed a new rule that would give consumers the right to opt out of having their data collected and used by companies.

  • A growing number of states in the United States are passing laws that give consumers more control over their data and require companies to be more transparent about how they collect and use data. 

  • A growing number of data cooperatives are being formed, which are organizations that give individuals ownership and control over their data. For example:MIDATA (Switzerland)Data Commons Cooperative (United States)Personal Data (United Kingdom)Data Solidarity (France)Coopernic (Canada)

The movement for data ownership and compensation is gaining momentum as individuals and organizations become more aware of the value of their data and the importance of asserting their rights. This is a necessary shift that reflects a heightened societal understanding of data's intrinsic value.


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