The Web is a creation of intellect, talent, hard work, and persistence. There are no physical artifacts that can be designated as “the Internet,” for it all exists as ephemeral bits stored on disk and displayed on screens. The words, algorithms, programs, images, and designs available on the Net are the product of hard work, and represent an asset to those who have performed the work or commissioned it.
Society labels this work as intellectual property. The law recognizes certain forms of protection for intellectual property to protect such assets and encourage their development and use. The three forms of protection most applicable to material on the Web are copyright, patent, and trademark protections. Each covers a slightly different form of material, and in a different manner.
Copyright is intended to cover the expression of ideas rather than the ideas themselves. Copyright covers text (including programs), pictures, typefaces, and combinations of these items once they are assembled in some fixed form. Or, as the law phrases it, “A copyright exists in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.”
This definition clearly covers any material entered into a computer and stored on disk, CD-ROM, or tape for display via a web browser. Once it is fixed in ...