09.11.2020 | 11th International Media Law Forum: Legal foundations of (digital) surveillance capitalism

The term surveillance capitalism covers the use of digital data for private profit maximization. Shoshana Zuboff, who coined this term, describes its rise largely as taking place outside the current legal system, or as “lawless”. In doing so, she overlooks the fact that digital capitalism has made use of the same legal structures that were the foundations of capitalism for several centuries. Surveillance capitalism is thus not an aberration, but rather a logical continuation of the capitalist system. Prof. Dr. Katharina Pistor shows in her lecture that a more socially acceptable use of the potential of the digital age requires a reorganization of legal structures.

This webinar was held in English. The digital event was organized together with the Institute of Media and Communications Law (IMKR) and the Sonderforschungsbereich “Media of Cooperation” of the University of Siegen. The lecture was followed up by a discussion.

Please find a short review of 11th International Media Law Forum here.


Prof. Dr. Katharina Pistor, LL.M. (London) serves as an Edwin B. Parker Professor of Comparative Law at the Columbia Law School in New York. Katharina Pistor is a leading scholar and writer on corporate governance, money and finance, property rights, and comparative law and legal institutions. Before joining Columbia Law School in 2001, she held teaching and research positions at Harvard Law School, the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government and the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Law in Hamburg. She has been a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, New York University Law School, Frankfurt University, London School of Economics, and Oxford University. Pistor is a research associate with the Centre for Economic Policy Research and has served as principal investigator of the Global Finance and Law Initiative (2011–2013) and member of the board of directors (2011–2014) and 2019 fellow of the European Corporate Governance Institute. In 2015, she was elected a member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences.

Pistor is the author or co-author of nine books. Her most recent book, The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates Wealth and Inequality, examines how assets such as land, private debt, business organizations, or knowledge are transformed into capital through contract law, property rights, collateral law, and trust, corporate, and bankruptcy law (https://press.princeton.edu/books/hardcover/9780691178974/the-code-of-capital). The Code of Capital was named one of the best books of 2019 by the Financial Times and Business Insider and will be published in German language in November 2020 (https://www.suhrkamp.de/buecher/der_code_des_kapitals-katharina_pistor_58760.html).


Prof. Dr. Hannes Rösler, LL.M. (Harvard) is a Professor for Civil Law, International Private Law and Comparative Law and a director of the Institute for Media and Communications Law (IMKR) at the University of Siegen. He attended law school in Marburg (Dr. iur. 2003), as well as the London School of Economics and Harvard University (LL.M. 2004). He concluded his “Habilitation” at the University of Hamburg in 2012. From 2004 to 2013 he was a Senior Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law in Hamburg. Before being a professor in Siegen, he has held interim professorships at the Universities of Freiburg, Bonn and Frankfurt (Oder). Rösler has an extensive list of publications to his credit including articles on privacy and the media. He is a member of the Hamburg Regional Board of the DAJV since 2012 and founded the IMLF together with Dr. Daniel Biene in 2008.