Data protection intrigue

I was intrigued to see that DLA Piper has just published Data Protection Laws of the World. This 274-page PDF handbook “offers a high-level snapshot of national data protection laws as they currently stand in 58 jurisdictions across the world. It provides a quick overview of the aspects of data protection law that are often of great practical significance to businesses. International data transfer restrictions, security obligations and breach notification requirements are among the topics covered.” It is offered for free download and promises to be updated frequently. You can subscribe to updates which I must assume is also a free service. What DLA Piper gets of course is to develop client relationships.

Meanwhile, Sweet & Maxwell continue to publish Data Protection Laws of the World (yes, sic, indeed) in looseleaf format in two-volumes (so, let us guess 1500 pages or so). Edited by Marcus Tearle ex of FFW and now Consultant Counsel to Charles Russell, it covers the data protection legislation of over 60 countries, is updated twice a year and will set you back £752 with year 1 updating, followed by (currently) £742 per annum for updating (yes, you read that correctly).

Crazy, no?

It should be clear from the page extents that the Sweet & Maxwell work is more in depth and that’s of course because it is aimed at lawyers, whereas the DLA Piper work is aimed at their clients and potential clients. It’s now commonplace for firms to publish free guides for their own market, so this one should come as no surprise. What is surprising is that DLA should choose a title identical to that of the long-established S&M publication.

Crazy too is the pricing of the S&M product. We know that this is high value information being purchased in the main by well-heeled firms, but that does not mean it is infinitely price-insensitive. For many years S&M have been increasing print publication prices by several percentage points above inflation, continually chasing the same absolute short-term returns from an ever-shrinking subscriber base, to the point where some of their print publications (especially looseleafs) may well have doubled in price in real terms since the turn of the century. This has to end sometime soon. Some print will die; will digital ride to the rescue?

In this case that’s an ironic question. S&M’s Data Protection Laws of the World was originally conceived as a parallel-published print + digital (CD) product. I know: we (infolaw) produced both. But the CD was soon pulled.

Now, a dozen years later, S&M are trumpeting the benefits of eBooks, but I look in vain to find Data Protection Laws of the World on their list of  ProView eBooks. The titles in the list are all best-selling hardback publications. That’s a logical place to start, but it begs the question whether low volume loosleaf titles, having been driven into the ground through aggressive pricing, will be given the new digital life they deserve. Can the ugly ducklings transform into swans? Might pigs fly?

Image: The Famous Data Protection Bin by otzberg