Rethinking Database Rights and Data Ownership in an AI World

Always revitalising and evolving


About the project

Against the backdrop of increasing development and use of Artificial Intelligence systems and other data-driven technologies, the Singapore Academy of Law’s Law Reform Committee (‘LRC’) considered whether Singapore's laws currently operate effectively to promote the beneficial production of and access to databases, while also protecting individual rights. 

In particular, the LRC analysed:

  • who controls or has rights over the ‘big data’ databases that underpin AI technologies, including whether new, standalone intellectual property protections for databases are needed; and
  • how to ensure that those who contribute data to databases retain appropriate control over and/or access to that data, including whether to create a new right of ownership of data.

Summary of Recommendations

Following its review, the LRC's report recommends:

  • As regards databases, that:
    • Amendments are made to copyright law to expressly protect ‘computer-generated works’ that have no human author.
    • Clarification is given through guidance or subordinate legislation regarding: a) how existing ‘compilation rights’ apply to electronic databases; and b) how effective records of database authorship can be maintained where several people have contributed to the database’s creation.
    • Creation of a new standalone intellectual property right for databases is not required nor necessarily beneficial in the Singapore context. 
  • As regards control of data, that:
    • For personal data, existing and incoming data protection laws (including in particular data portability) currently provide individuals with sufficient control over their data. 
    • For non-personal data, consideration be given to introducing a right akin to data portability.
    • A right to ‘own’ data as property is not required, nor would it necessarily be practicable or beneficial.

Project status: Completed

  • The report was published in July 2020. Click here to download a copy
  • This report is part of the Law Reform Committee’s Impact of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence on the Law series. Further reports in this series are available here.


Areas of law

 Technology Law

 Data Protection and Privacy Law

 Robotics & Artificial Intelligence



Click on the image above to view the full report


Last updated 9 July 2020


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