Political and Legal Issues in the History of Cloud Computing

Political Issues :

The Cloud spans many borders and “may be the ultimate form of globalization.” As such it becomes subject to complex geopolitical issues: providers must satisfy myriad regulatory environments in order to deliver service to a global market. This dates back to the early days of the Internet, where libertarian thinkers felt that “cyberspace was a distinct place calling for laws and legal institutions of its own”; author Neal Stephenson envisaged this as a tiny island data haven called Kinakuta in his classic science-fiction novel Cryptonomicon.

Despite efforts (such as US-EU Safe Harbor) to harmonize the legal environment, as of 2009 providers such as Amazon Web Services cater to the major markets (typically the United States and the European Union) by deploying local infrastructure and allowing customers to select “availability zones.” Nonetheless, there are still concerns about security and privacy from individual through governmental level, e.g., the USA PATRIOT Act and use of national security letters and the Electronic Communication Privacy Act’s Stored Communications Act.

Legal Issues :

In March 2007, Dell applied to trademark the term “cloud computing” (U.S. Trademark 77,139,082) in the United States. The “Notice of Allowance” it received in July 2008 was canceled on August 6, resulting in a formal rejection of the trademark application less than a week later.

On 30 September 2008, USPTO issued a “Notice of Allowance” to CGactive LLC (U.S. Trademark 77,355,287) for “CloudOS”. A cloud operating system is a generic operating system that “manage[s] the relationship between software inside the computer and on the Web”, such as Microsoft Azure. Good OS LLC also announced their “Cloud” operating system on 1 December 2008.

Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation, believes that cloud computing endangers liberties because users sacrifice their privacy and personal data to a third party. In November 2007, the Free Software Foundation released the Affero General Public License, a version of GPLv3 designed to close a perceived legal loophole associated with free software designed to be run over a network, particularly software as a service. An application service provider is required to release any changes they make to Affero GPL open source code

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