The most important date in history?

On March 12, 1989, the same year the Berlin Wall fell, Tim Berners-Lee, a researcher at CERN, wrote up and distributed a revolutionary proposal to improve information flows among computers: “a ‘web’ of notes with links between them.” (See diagram below from Berners-Lee’s proposal.) A few years later, CERN declared that the WWW technology developed by Tim Berners-Lee would be free, open, and available to all, without payment of royalties or other legal restrictions. In the words of Berners-Lee:

This decision (to keep the Internet free and open) enabled tens of thousands to start working together to build the web. Now, about 40 percent of us are connected and creating online. The web has generated trillions of dollars of economic value, transformed education and healthcare and activated many new movements for democracy around the world. And we’re just getting started. How has this happened? By design, the underlying Internet and the WWW are non-hierarchical, decentralized and radically open. The web can be made to work with any type of information, on any device, with any software, in any language. You can link to any piece of information. You don’t need to ask for permission. What you create is limited only by your imagination.

Notice the role (or should we say, non-role) that intellectual property rights played in the development of the Internet.

A circles and arrows diagram relating concepts discussed in the paper

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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2 Responses to The most important date in history?

  1. shelbynfla says:

    Thankfully he granted us the use of an amazing gift of his genius and desire for the flow information uniting people around the planet. It’s interesting that is was also the same year and a only a few weeks after the United States became a member of the Berne Convention (March 1, 1989); which provides for international copyright protection. Of course in today’s world you have to worry about copyrights and infringement and required licenses, at every right click and upload. How much of the site do you own? What can be copied? Seriously, my daughter’s gymnastic routine video I made with my phone was locked off a social video site because there was a vendor with exclusive rights at the competition.?! There was music in the background did I violate another license as well? I apparently have to be cautious of my own fair use of my own video creations. Although, I am very happy to see that Prior Probability is using the requisite creative comments license so that at least you will have exclusive rights to everyone’s comments. — they’re all yours now…well with some exceptions of course.

    • enrique says:

      I share your concerns … for instance, because this website is educational and because we do not generate any revenues from this site, prior probability is going to continue to assume that the fair use doctrine applies to educational, non-commercial blogs

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