As an instrument for advancing the data economy, the EU Data Act aspires to enhance the accessibility of data generated through the use of connected products and related services, thereby unlocking the potential of data for the benefit of society. This article focuses on data usability as an equally crucial factor in harnessing value from data, an aspect that gained recognition only in the later stages of the legislative process. In particular, we examine the technical state of data, which is both a technical factor for realising the value of data and a legal parameter delineating the scope of data access and usage rights, along with the respective obligations introduced by the Data Act.
Our analysis finds that data usability is not thoroughly considered in the Data Act and is only minimally addressed within the framework of its data-sharing regime. We identify several concepts bearing on the technical state of data – including the notions of ‘pre-processed data’, ‘readily available data’, ‘simple operation’, ‘insignificant investment’, and ‘disproportionate effort’ – that remain unclear, leading to uncertainties regarding the scope of data-sharing obligations. The attainment of the policy goals will, to an impactful extent, hinge on the interpretation and application of these criteria. While acknowledging that the final version of the Data Act represents an improvement over the initial proposal in terms of data usability, we contend that the imposition of restrictive criteria on the scope of ‘readily available data’ and ‘pre-processed’ data is not justified, whether viewed from the perspective of technical necessity, legal certainty, or a balance of interests.
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