The Internet Law Page
Featuring Laws and Regulations of Interest to Internet System Administrators, Webmasters, and Content Designers
This page is sponsored by Ralph C. Losey, Attorney at Law. The resources here are designed to help you understand the complex rules that currently apply to the rapidly growing area known as "internet law." The information is here for informational purposes only. Should you desire more general information law resources, you are encouraged to visit The Information Law Web. Have fun.
On this page:
a r t i c l e s - c a s e s - l i n k s
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- Trademarks and Domain Names - an Introduction. Start here first.
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- United States v. Robert Morris, 928 F.2d 504 (2nd Cir. 1991). This is the famous criminal case about the "Worm that ate the Internet," the college kids' computer virus experiment that went bad and inadvertently shut down most of the Internet on November 2, 1988. He was held criminally liable under the Computer Fraud Act for unauthorized access of other computers even though he had no intent to do any damage.
- Cubby, Inc. v. CompuServe, Inc., 776 F.Supp.135 (S.D. N.Y. 1991) Landmark cyber-law case shielding CompuServe from liability for libelous statements posted on one its forums. The court held that CompuServe was a distributor, not a publisher, since it did not attempt to exercise editorial control over the contents of the information flowing through its network.
- Playboy Enterprises, Inc. v. George Frena, 839 F.Supp. 1552 (M.D. FL. 1993) Another landmark computer-law case imposing liability on a BBS operator for files that his users had posted on his board of scanned copies they had made from Playboy magazine. Copyright infringement for illegal distribution was found even if sysop did not know the files were on his board, but as you can see from the decision, the sysop in fact did know, and even put ads for his board on many of the gifs.
- Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service Company, Inc., 916 F.2d 718 (CA 10 1990), reversed. Full Text of this landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision on Information Law. It stands for the proposition that "facts cannot be copyrighted." Still, the original selection and arrangement of facts can be copyrighted. Here an unanimous Supreme Court held that the alphabetical listing of names in the white pages of the phone book was not subject to copyright because it was an unoriginal selection and arrangement of mere facts, the names, addresses and phone number or everyone in a certain geographical location.
- BellSouth Advertising & Publishing Corporation v. Donnelley Information Publishing, Inc., 999 F2d 1436 (11th Cir. 1993). Important Information and Computer Law case which extends and enlarges upon Feist to include the Yellow Pages of the phone book as unprotected "fact." The computer copying and republication of yellow pages was found to be legal. The sharply divided appellate court in an enbanc rehearing reversed an earlier decision, provoking a bitter dissent from Circuit Judge Hatchett. This case significantly broadens the Feist decisions' "factual exception" to copyright.
- CCC Information Services, Inc. v. MacLean Hunter Market Reports, Inc., 44 F3d 61 (2nd Cir. 1994). This is a significant Information and Computer law case which start to put the brakes on Feist. The computer copying of Red Book car prices was found to be a copyright violation, not a lawful copying of "mere facts." The car price data compilation was held to be an "original work of authorship." The "Idea Merger," and "Public Domain" defenses were also considered and rejected.
- Arica v. Palmer 970 F.2d 106 (2nd Cir.). Another interesting case applying Feist to deny copyright to a system of psychological insights called by the courts, in semi "tongue in cheek" fashion, to be mere facts not subject to copyright.
- Carpenter v. United States, 484 U.S. 19, 108 S.Ct. 316, 98 L.Ed.2d 275 (1987). Landmark U. S. Supreme Court decision affirming that information is property. The criminal conviction of the Wall Street Journal reporter who wrote the "Heard on the Street" article was affirmed. The reporter had leaked information to investor friends as to what his article would say about the value of certain stocks. He was convicted of obtaining "property" from the Wall Street Journal by a fraudulent scheme. He defended on the basis that his advance knowledge of the contents of his articles was not "property," it was an "intangible right" not subject to the mail fraud law. The Supreme Court rejected this argument because the newspaper considered all information in its articles to be confidential prior to publication, and "its intangible nature does not make it any less "property" protected by the mail and wire fraud statutes."
h o m e | f e e d b a c k
- The Communications Decency Act of 1995. Press here to read the text of this famous (infamous?) law.
- Now visit the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and see what they have to say about the CDA.
- Your Cyber Rights and Responsibilites: Law and Etiquette, Chapter 2, Que's Special Edition, Using the Internet with Windows 95. I contributed the Chapter on Internet Law in this popular book on the Internet. Should be available in your local book store now.
- This website is called "Staking Your Claim On Cyberspace" and it tells you how to register a domain name and naively suggests you can get a good name belonging to somebody else and then make them pay you for it later when they want to use it on the internet. There is, however, some good and amusing information in this web.
- DOMAIN NAME DISPUTE POLICY. This offical policy by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ("ICANN") is the latest version as of February 2000, but it changes often, so check with ICANN to be sure this is still current. Word to the wise - I've had experience in dealing with Internic and othrs in this tricky area, and you need to be very careful how you handle domain name disputes.
© 1996-98 - Ralph C. Losey, Attorney at Law
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