Concentrations of illegal data in computer servers residing beyond copyright protection law. In the 1989 book Islands in the Net, author Bruce Sterling forecast that in the future, data would be not only pirated on a wide-scale basis and would be unable to be protected from crackers. He also said that sovereign nations not belonging to a copyright protection convention might copy information and resell it at low-end prices. Although in 1989 data havens were simply ideas in a book, today they are a practical possibility. But before explaining how this is possible, some important history on curbing Intellectual Property (IP) piracy is needed.
Back in 1886, primarily as a means of curbing IP piracy, several European states ratified the International Union for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. It was known then as the Berne Convention and formed the basis for IP property law. Since 1967, the Berne Convention has been administered by WIPO (the World Intellectual Property Organization). Under this convention, most nations afford foreign authors the same protection that they give their domestic authors. Since 1967, this principle has been adopted by over 150 nations.
Besides the Berne Convention, other additions such as the Universal Copyright Convention provide protections for artists’ works. In recent years, the Berne Convention protocols have been embedded into the WTO (World Trade Organization) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which includes IP protection for databases and chip architectures.
Despite the various means adopted by countries to protect IP, some small-nation exceptions, such as Bermuda, do exist. Therefore, the potential for a data haven in today’s world is a real possibility and not just fiction. In short, a small nation that is not a signatory to the Berne Convention or other such agreements could gain substantial market share by illegally copying and transmitting IP that is protected by copyright laws in most other nations.
American University. C:\Data_Havens_: Case Studies. American University Website. http://www.american.edu/TED/havens.htm.