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Cloud Computing Law: Law Enforcement, Competition, & Tax

Queen Mary University of London via Coursera


Have you ever wondered how a police officer in Europe can obtain evidence from a cloud provider in the USA? Or whether a major cloud provider might abuse its market power? Or in which countries cloud providers pay taxes? If so, then this course is for you!

First, we’ll look at how law enforcement agents can request access to cloud data, including data stored outside their borders. You’ll learn to advise cloud providers on responding to access requests and on dealing with potential conflicts with European Union (‘EU’) data protection law.

Second, we’ll cover EU competition law, including how to define the relevant market for cloud services and to assess market power. You’ll learn to identify when cloud providers might be found to have entered into anti-competitive agreements, or to have abused a dominant position in a market.

Third, we’ll look at how the income from cloud services is taxed. We’ll cover how such income is classified and which countries have the right to tax cloud providers. You’ll learn how tax principles apply to cloud services today, and how this might change in future.

In short, we’ll cover how the rules of law enforcement access, competition law, and tax law apply to cloud services – and you’ll discover the practical steps that cloud providers can take to comply with their obligations.


  • Law Enforcement Access to Cloud Data
    • In this course, we cover issues that arise when law enforcement authorities need to access data in the cloud. We consider how the technology itself presents forensic challenges and how different types of data are treated differently by the law. We then focus on issues that law enforcement agents face when they seek data that is controlled by a cloud service provider outside of the territory of the law enforcement authority. We discuss the cooperative mechanisms for law enforcement to obtain cross-border data and the conflicting legal obligations that cloud providers may face in this context. By the end of this week, you'll be able to describe how cloud providers can comply with law enforcement access requests.
  • Competition Law and Cloud Markets
    • In this course, we cover the basics of competition law and examine how it applies to the provision of cloud computing services. Further, we look at what it means to engage in anti-competitive behaviour in cloud markets and the role of competition law in establishing means to prevent or regulate such behaviour. We also explore how interoperability and portability have the ability to both facilitate and hinder competition in the cloud. By the end of this week, you will be able to apply concepts of competition law to practical cases involving cloud services.
  • Taxing the Cloud
    • This week, we cover the basics of tax law and examine how it applies to the provision of cloud computing services. We start with some basic international tax law concepts, before focusing on the tax treatment of different cloud services. We consider the classification of cloud services for tax purposes and how taxing rights are distributed among different countries. We focus primarily on direct tax, but also briefly refer to indirect tax issues. Furthermore, we look at the challenges digitalization poses to the current international tax framework, and explore how countries and policy-makers have responded to these challenges. By the end of this week, you’ll be able to describe a cloud provider's potential tax liabilities in a hypothetical case study.

Taught by

Ian Walden, Jessica Shurson and Vasiliki Koukoulioti


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