Principles for a Data Economy (with the ALI)

With the rise of an economy in which data is a tradeable asset globally, more certainty is needed with regard to the legal rules that are applicable to the transactions in which data is an asset. Critical questions arise such as who has which right with regard to the data generated by connected devices? They need to be answered urgently, as lack of clarity in this field potentially hinders innovation and growth and, more importantly, troubles consumers, data-driven industries, and start-ups.

For an overview of past and upcoming meetings of this project, please click here.

ELI Members, who are interested in actively contributing to the development of this project are invited to join the Members Consultative Committee (MCC). Kindly contact the ELI Secretariat  if you would like to join the MCC of the ALI-ELI project or if you have any questions concerning the project.

Quick Facts

Project Type: Instrument
Procedure: Regular
Adopted: CD 2018/2 (On Projects)
Project Period: February 2018
September 2021


The law governing trades in commerce has historically focused on assets, and on trade in items, that are either real property, or goods, or rights (including shares, contract rights, intellectual property rights, licenses, etc). With the emergence of the data economy, however, tradeable items often cannot readily be classified as goods or rights, and they are arguably not services. They are often simply ‘data’, which may be considered as any piece of information recorded in any form or medium.

Both in the US and in Europe, the data economy is beginning to trouble stakeholders, such as consumers, data-driven industries, and start-ups, because there is uncertainty as to the applicable legal rules and doctrines. Concerns range from manifest uncertainty of the law, potentially inhibiting innovation and growth, to a loss of control by governments, legislatures and judiciaries, to serious issues of consumer protection and fundamental rights. More fundamentally, there is already uncertainty about what rights parties ‘own’ and can trade in, eg, who ‘owns’ the data generated by an activity such as driving a connected car, what are the attributes of that data and rights related to it, and who might have to pay compensation to whom for exploiting the data’s economic potential. This uncertainty undermines the predictability necessary for transactions in data and has resulted in lawmakers and the courts grappling with these issues.


This project, conducted as a joint project of the ELI and the ALI, will study, identify, and collate the existing and potential legal rules applicable to transactions in data as an asset and as a tradeable item and assess the ‘fit’ of those rules with these transactions.

The project aims to produce a set of transnational Principles that can facilitate the drafting of model agreements or provisions to be used on a voluntary basis by parties in the data economy. They can also be used as a source for inspiration and guidance for courts and legislators worldwide. Because data does not have a ‘location,’ the goal would be to have a common set of Principles that would apply wherever the parties happen to be.


From October 2016 to February 2018 a Feasibility Study for the project was carried out, resulting, inter alia, in a 'Draft Framework for Discussion' prepared by Christiane Wendehorst, Neil Cohen and Steven O Weise and presented at the ELI Annual Conference 2017. Following the New York meetings on 15—16 February 2018, a ‘Pre-Draft’ dated 20 August 2018 was produced and presented at the ELI Annual Conference in Riga on 6 September and discussed in detail with ELI Advisors and the ELI Members Consultative Committee (MCC) on 8 September 2018. After the guidance received at this meeting, some further changes were made to the document before it was submitted as ‘Preliminary Draft No. 1’ to the ALI Advisors and Members Consultative Group (MCG) to be discussed in Philadelphia on 25 and 26 October 2018. Both meetings together resulted in a broad range of changes, including a re-ordering of the Chapters and Principles and a clearer focus on the transactional aspects, reflected in ‘Preliminary Draft No. 2’, dated 4 February 2019, and discussed at a joint meeting with the ALI and ELI Advisers and MCG/MCC members in Philadelphia on 22 February 2019.

An interim ‘Preliminary Draft No. 2bis’ was discussed with ELI Advisers and MCC members in Vienna on 3 September 2019, resulting in ‘Preliminary Draft No. 3’, which was completed on 15 October and discussed with ALI Advisers and MCG members in Philadelphia on 31 October 2019. It took on board guidance received since the earlier 2019 meetings, including scrutiny undertaken by the Berlin based tech-company acs-plus GmbH, suggestions from the industry, and inspirations gained at a meeting hosted jointly by UNCITRAL and French governmental institutions in Paris on 15 March 2019 as well as at the 52nd Commission session of UNCITRAL in Vienna on 17 July 2019. It also took on board inspiration gained from other international sources such as the Contract Guidelines on Utilization of AI and Data (Data Section) from June 2018, issued by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry as well as first report on collected model contract terms of the Support Centre for Data Sharing which was initiated by the European Commission in early 2019.

On the basis of guidance received at and after the 31 October meeting, selected Parts of the Principles were submitted as ‘ALI Council Draft No 1’ to the ALI Council for its meeting on 17 January 2020 and got approved. Taking on board further guidance received by ALI and ELI members, by UNCITRAL Working Group No IV on Electronic Commerce on 28 November 2019 and by the participants of a conference hosted by the German Ministry of Justice on 12 and 13 December 2019 in Berlin, the Reporters are currently drafting ‘Preliminary Draft No 4’.

Case Studies

For some illustrative examples that the Principles for a Data Economy project seeks to tackle, please click here.

Members Consultative Group (ALI)

  • Joseph R Bankoff
  • Shawn J Bayern
  • Spyridon V Bazinas
  • Michael M Baylson
  • Jeffrey A Beaver
  • Harvey G Brown, Jr
  • Timothy W Burns
  • Stephen Yee Chow
  • Wayne Dale Collins
  • Michelle Williams Court
  • Anuj C Desai
  • J William Elwin, Jr
  • Daniel M Filler
  • Henry D Gabriel
  • David Gruning
  • Peter E Halle
  • Richard E V Harris
  • Edwin E Huddleson
  • Howard O Hunter
  • Catherine Kessedjian
  • Renee Knake
  • Peter R Kochenburger
  • William K Kroger
  • C Scott Maravilla
  • Juliet M Moringiello
  • Iain D C Ramsay
  • Dan Robbins
  • Victor E Schwartz
  • Kenneth W Simons
  • George Prescott Slover
  • Mary L Smith
  • H Mark Stichel
  • Guy Miller Struve
  • Louise Ellen Teitz
  • Sjef van Erp
  • Jane K Winn
  • Peter A Winn

Project Reporters

  • Neil B Cohen
  • Christiane Wendehorst

Project Chairs

  • Lord John Thomas
  • Steven O Weise

Advisory Committee (ELI)

  • Benoit van Asbroeck
  • Jose Antonio Castillo Parrilla
  • Peter Donnelly
  • Josef Drexl
  • Sjef van Erp
  • Bénédicte Fauvarque-Cosson
  • Simon Geiregat
  • Zoubin Ghahramani
  • Friedrich Graf von Westphalen
  • Václav Janeček
  • Ana Keglević Steffek (Assessor)
  • José Carmelo Llopis Benlloch
  • Axel Metzger
  • Francisco Molina Balaguer
  • Joanna Perkins
  • Pascal Pichonnaz (Assessor)
  • Radim Polčák
  • Giles Pratt
  • Martin Schmidt-Kessel
  • Juliette Sénéchal
  • Sam De Silva
  • Gerald Spindler
  • Alain Strowel
  • Loredana Tassone
  • Christian Twigg-Flesner (Assessor)
  • Jos Uitdehaag
  • Hebert Zech

Members Consultative Committee (ELI)

  • Nahel Asfour
  • Francesco Avolio
  • Mariangela Balestra
  • Elena Bargelli
  • Wojciech Biernacki
  • Marco Botta
  • Christoph Busch
  • Ana María Cediel Serra
  • Rossana Ducato
  • Wian Erlank
  • Fabio Ferraro
  • Mateusz Grochowski
  • Hana Horak
  • Sarah Houllier
  • Tatjana Josipović
  • Hendrik Mildebrath
  • Meliha Povlakic
  • Andrea Purpura
  • Albert Ruda
  • Marta Santos Silva
  • Hans Schulte-Nölke
  • Academy of European Law (ERA, represented by Magdalena Kędzior)
  • American Constitution Society (represented by Timothy Burns and Caroline Fredrickson)
  • Austrian Data Protection Authority (represented by Matthias Schmidl)
  • Civil Department of the Curia of Hungary (represented by Zsuzsana Kovács)
  • Colegio de Registradores de la Propiedad y Mercantiles de España (represented by Gabriel Alonso Landeta)
  • Curia of Hungary (represented by Szilvia Zsuzsanna Gölley)
  • Dickson Poon School of Law (represented by Mateja Durovic)
  • European Parliament (represented by Rob Van de Westerlaken)
  • European Union of Judges in Commercial Matters (represented by Reiner Sedelmayer)
  • European Women Lawyers Association (EWLA, represented by Dace Luters-Thümmel and Katharina Miller)
  • Faculty of Law of the Eötvös Loránd University (represented by Attila Menyhárd)
  • Faculty of Law of the University of Sarajevo (represented by Kanita Imamovic-Cizmic)
  • Faculty of Law of the University of Zagreb (represented by Hano Ernst)
  • Faculty of Law of the Western University "Vasile Goldis" of Arad (represented by Daniel Berlinger Remu and Anca Moroșteș)
  • German Judges Association (represented by Dagmar Winkelsträter)
  • Portucalense Institute for Legal Research (represented by Jose Caramelo Gomes)
  • School of Law of the University of Hull (represented by Gonzalo Villalta Puig)
  • Società Italiana per la Ricerca nel Diritto Comparato (represented by Rosella Esther Cerchia)
  • Supreme Court of Albania (represented by Ina Hoxhaj)
  • The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP, represented by Leigh Sagar)
  • United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL, represented by Luca Castellani and Alexander Kunzelmann)
  • University of Lyon (represented by Michel Cannarsa)

Advisers (ALI)

  • Hannah Bloch-Wehba
  • Amelia H Boss
  • Julie S Brill
  • Molly Cutler
  • Sarah C Dodds-Brown
  • Stacy-Ann Elvy
  • Lindsey Finch
  • Ivan K Fong
  • Ahmed Ghappour
  • James Grimmelmann
  • Anton G Hajjar
  • Teresa Wilton Harmon
  • Michele C Kane
  • Harold Hongju Koh
  • Lucy H Koh
  • Carolyn B Kuhl
  • Travis LeBlanc
  • Henry Lebowitz
  • Ronald D Lee
  • Michael Leiter
  • Lance Liebman
  • Christina Mulligan
  • Christopher H Schroeder
  • Paul M Schwartz
  • Peter P Swire
  • Christopher S Yoo