Intellectual Property Rights Overview

What is new, where are related resources, etc.
Version 0.0: December 15, 1996


Networking technology is requiring us to rethink and reinterpret existing intellectual property law. For instance, digital networks cache copies of documents to improve performance -- is this infringement, should royalties be paid? If it isn't an infringement because it is temporary, how long is temporary? What happens if these cached copies decrease the hits a Web service sees, and consequently the revenue it generates from marketing? Does a link to an infringing copy of intellectual property constitute contributory infringement, or is this well within the bounds of fair use?

Intellectual property rights on the Internet is a contentious topic for a number of reasons. These include (1) does the nature of the technology require us to change the legal understanding or status of copyright as it stands now, (2) what rights should be associated with Web content, (3) how should the rights be expressed, and (4) should the expression of the rights be used for notification, enforcement, or payment negotiation? We expect the answer to these questions does not lie solely in technology nor policy, but the rational combination of both.

The W3C Intellectual Property Rights Activity Page describes how the W3C is addressing these questions.

Drafts, White-papers, and Presentations

In the News

Intellectual property rights (IPR) and the Web are newsworthy topics, such stories from 1996 include:

IPR Issues and Resources

Copyright Infringement


Copyright has been the focus of protecting intellectual property on the Internet. As such, there have been both technological (IPR/encryption wrappers) and legislative efforts to continue incentives for authors to create useful works. Recent initiatives have been at the international level include at the OECD, and a conference (Dec. 96) hosted by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).


Basics of Copyright
Copyright FAQ
INTERNATIONAL LAW Government Agencies
The EU Green Paper in IPR
EFG Intellectual Property Page
Liability Based on Traditional Forum Analogy
Intellectual Property Implications of WTO and NAFTA
Online Service Operator and Provider Liability for Contributory Infringement Is Still Uncertain

Link Liability (Contributory Copyright Infringement)


Contributory infringement (and the consequential liability) is one of the most contentious areas of the copyright debate. For instance, is an ISP liable for contributory infringement when it allows its users to link to hacker sites? If an ISP closed a user's account when informed by an IP owner, would the ISP be liable for the violation of civil rights or breach of contract?


EFG Intellectual Property Rights Page
Battle Sites: Online Service Operator and Provider Liability for Contributory Infringement Is Still Uncertain
Computer Information Systems Law and System Operator Liability in 1995

Domain Name Registration (Trademarks)


The issuance of trade marks was not conceived of in the context of a global view. Hence, a number of recent controversies have occurred with respect to large trademark holders pursuing smaller pre-existing "ma & pa" sites. Also, some companies have purchased domain names related to competitor's names  in order to make it more difficult for the competitor to enter the online market. Others are purchasing domain names for their resale value (stockpiling).


InterNIC is not a Net cop
Trademarks and DNS
Domain Name Legal Bibliography
Remedies in Internet Domain Name Trademark Lawsuits

Font Protection


Owners of fonts want to distribute them for different purposes at different prices. They fear that freely distributing fonts for reading documents might allow people to author documents without paying for additional rights such as redistribution. Neither a purely legal nor purely technical solution is likely to be successful.


Are Fonts Copyrightable - Copyright FAQ
Font Discussion and Protecting Embedded Fonts
OpenType Initiative
The Font Meeting at W5, Paris



Bandwidth on the network is limited, and continues to be so. The traditional technical solution , caching, is to allow copies to be saved at distributed points throughout the network. However, caching raises two issues. First, cached copies can be out of date yet still contain information which is time sensitive (such as prices or stock quotes). Second, some Web sites derive revenue based on the amount  and kind of access to their servers, and they currently have no verifiable way of counting the number of accesses to their documents cached elsewhere on the network.



17 December 1996