Research from BSA: The Software Alliance shows that the legal environment around cloud computing is hit or miss around the world, but the overall global cloud policy landscape is improving. Japan is leading the world in global policy rankings, according to the “2013 BSA Global Cloud Computing Scorecard,” but also among worldwide leaders are Australia, the United States and Europe.

This is BSA’s second report to track changes in global cloud computing policies. According to the study, many of the world’s biggest markets, including many countries in Europe, have stalled when it comes to making progress in cloud policies, and some have even taken a step or two backwards. However, many countries overall have made good progress in embracing laws and regulations “conducive to cloud innovation.”

“We’re seeing patchy progress in the policy landscape for cloud computing,” said Robert Holleyman, BSA’s president and CEO, in a prepared statement. “Mismatched privacy and security rules are making it hard for data to flow across borders. Too many countries are chopping off pieces of the cloud for themselves. This undercuts economies of scale that can benefit everyone. To have a cohesive global marketplace, we need more bridges and fewer barriers.”

The study evaluates countries in seven policy areas BSA has deemed critical to the cloud computing market: data privacy, cybersecurity, cybercrime, intellectual property, technology interoperability and legal harmonization, free trade and ICT infrastructure.

In the report, BSA also proposed an updated, seven-point policy blueprint for governments to improve the legal environment to accelerate cloud growth and innovation:

  • Ensuring privacy: Users must have faith their information will be treated carefully and providers must have freedom to move data efficiently in the cloud.
  • Promoting security: Effective risk management requires flexibility to implement cutting-edge security solutions.
  • Battling cybercrime: Law enforcement and cloud providers alike need effective legal mechanisms to combat illicit access to data.
  • Protecting IP: Laws should provide clear protection and enforcement against infringement of underlying cloud innovations.
  • Ensuring data portability and harmonizing global rules: Governments should work with industry to develop standards that facilitate data flows while minimizing conflicting legal obligations.
  • Promoting free trade: Eliminate barriers such as preferences for particular products or service providers.
  • Bolster IT infrastructure: Provide incentives for investment in broadband and promote universal access.

“In the global economy, companies should be able to do business wherever they find a market—and customers should have access to the best the world has to offer,” Holleyman said in a prepared statement. “Everyone’s policies affect the global cloud marketplace. We don’t need identical laws across every country, but they all should promote good data stewardship while enabling business innovation in a fast-moving marketplace.”