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Copyright and Legal Stuff

Legal Issues


There are actually three laws I know of that have a direct relationship to accessibility and access issues on the Internet. They are:
(USA) Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act ( - The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has rules requiring telecommunications manufacturers and service providers to make their products and services accessible to people with disabilities, if readily achievable.
U.S. Section 508 Guidelines ( - In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. The law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. Under Section 508 (29 U.S.C. ‘794d), agencies must give disabled employees and members of the public access to information that is comparable to the access available to others.
(USA) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ( - Signed into law in 1990, it “prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, programs and services provided by state and local governments, goods and services provided by private companies, and in commercial facilities.”  See also
And here are some guideslines to follow generally:
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 ( - It has the same aim: to explain how to make Web content accessible to people with disabilities and to define target levels of accessibility.


Top Internet-Related Statutes (U.S.) as listed on

1. The 'No Electronic Theft' Act (1997)
2. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (1998)
3. The Internet Tax Freedom Act (1998)
4. The Child Online Protection Act ("Son of CDA") (1998)
5. The U.S. Trademark Cyberpiracy Prevention Act (1999)
6. The Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) (1999)
7. The Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA) (2000)
8. The Electronic Signatures in Global & National Commerce Act (E-Sign) (2000)
9. The Children’s Internet Protection Act (2001)
10. The USA Patriot Act (2001)

Click here to learn how to report internet crime if you come across it according to the US Department of Justice.


Before getting too far into copyright, please also consider creative commons:

Creative Commons

Creative commons is a means for authors, scientists, artists, and educators easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry -- from no restrictions to some rights reserved to all rights reserved. If offers alternatives. Learn more about Creative Commons.

That said, now lets look specifically at copyright. Copyright is the exclusive legal right of the author of a creative work to control the copying of that work.

Copyright is the exclusive legal right of the author of a creative work to control the copying of that work.

It is a myth to believe that if it doesn't have a copyright notice, it's not copyrighted. Templeton points out, "This was true in the past, but today almost all major nations follow the Berne copyright convention. For example, in the USA, almost everything created privately and originally after April 1, 1989 is copyrighted and protected whether it has a notice or not. The default you should assume for other people's works is that they are copyrighted and may not be copied unless you know otherwise. There are some old works that lost protection without notice, but frankly you should not risk it unless you know for sure."

Recently in the USA commercial copyright violation involving more than 10 copies and value over $2500 was made a felony

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What is intellectual property? Well, according to it is "A product of the intellect that has commercial value, including copyrighted property such as literary or artistic works, and ideational property, such as patents, appellations of origin, business methods, and industrial processes."

As noted by the World Intellectual Property Organization, "Intellectual property is divided into two categories: Industrial property, which includes inventions (patents), trademarks, industrial designs, and geographic indications of source; and Copyright, which includes literary and artistic works such as novels, poems and plays, films, musical works, artistic works such as drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures, and architectural designs. Rights related to copyright include those of performing artists in their performances, producers of phonograms in their recordings, and those of broadcasters in their radio and television programs." (WIPO, n.d.)

Brad Templeton notes, "Intellectual property is the least respected form of property in our society." He explains, "When you steal a car, the former owner loses the car. The reasons for property here seem clear to all. But when you copy a copyrighted work, the original owner still has their copy. Nothing physical is stolen, so it seems very different." (Templeton, n.d.).

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A cybersquatter is a person who registers another's trademark as a domain name. Effective October 1999 due to the Trademark Cyberpiracy Prevention Act, it is now illegal to cybersquat. Statutory damages in cybersquatting cases will range from $1,000 to $100,000 per domain name as the court deems just.

Cyberpiracy includes:


Patents can be one of a company's most important and valuable assets.

What is a patent? Gigalaw summarizes best:

A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the Patent and Trademark Office. The term of a new patent is 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the United States or, in special cases, from the date an earlier related application was filed, subject to the payment of maintenance fees. U.S. patent grants are effective only within the United States, U.S. territories and U.S. possessions.

The right conferred by the patent grant is, in the language of the statute and of the grant itself, "the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling" the invention in the United States or "importing" the invention into the United States. What is granted is not the right to make, use, offer for sale, sell or import, but the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, selling or importing the invention. (Gigalaw, n.d.)

Why is it important to us in the Internet environment? Well, because patents are now applied to autmated business processes. Amazon has a patent on the "one click" method for example, "automated business methods are now not only being accepted by U.S. courts and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, but they are being used quite effectively by some of the largest (and smallest) players in the Internet world" (Kirsch, G. J., 2000) We need to ensure we are not infringing on the patents of others when developing our Internet technology for our sites.

If you want to find out if something is already patented visit

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Some privacy violations may include:

If you are not sure how your personal information will be handled by a site, check their privacy policy. What should you expect in a privacy policy? Well, according to the Federal Trade Commission, a privacy policy is "a statement on a web site describing what information about you is collected by the site, and how it is used. Ideally, the policy is posted prominently and offers you options about the use of your personal information. These options are called opt-in and opt-out. An opt-in choice means the web site won't use your information unless you specifically say it's okay. An opt-out choice means the web site can use the information unless you specifically direct it not to." (Federal Trade Commission, n.d.)

There have been special rules established to protect childrens privacy rights, called Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998. Basically, in collecting personally identifying information on children under the age of 14 the site must obtain permission from the parent. This must include the information being collected, what it will be used for, and how they can provide consent or non-consent. If you want to learn more about how to comply with this rule, visit

Note: Guard your passcode. No one should be asking for it other than in a login session.

If you wish to file a complaint in this area, visit$.startup?Z_ORG_CODE=PU01

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Optional: Learn more about Internet law in general at:


Federal Trade Commission (n.d.). Site Seeing On The Internet. Retrieved on June 21st, 2003 from

Gigalaw (n.d). Questions and Answers About U.S. Patent Law Adapted from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Retieved on June 21st, 2003 from (link no longer in operation)

Kirtsch, G. J. (2000). The Software and E-Commerce Patent Revolution. Retrieved on June 21st, 2003 from (link no longer in operation)

Templeton, B. (n.d.). A Radical Theory of Property. Retrieved on 06/09/03 from

World Intellectual Property Organization [WIPO] (n.d.). About Intellectual Property. Retrieved on June 21st, 2003 from


Article: US Dept of Justice: Cyber Sweep

Sample cases: