The History of Copyright on the Internet [Infographic]

The rise in digital technology and social networks has resulted in changes in how we understand copyright.

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When it comes to the Internet, copyright can be a difficult thing to police. Users frequently misunderstand how copyright works, which leads to spurious legal notices in the form of status updates going viral. An infographic from WhoIsHostingThis.com hopes to clear some of this up by detailing the history of copyright on the Internet.

The first public website was launched in 1991, but there was no legislative action until 1993, when a working group on intellectual property rights was created. The group extended fair-use doctrines to the Internet in 1994.

The first legal challenge occurred in 1995, when ISP Netcom was sued by Religious Technology Center for not removing copyrighted materials posted by a Netcom subscriber. The court could not reach a verdict, but the precedent of holding ISPs accountable for copyrighted content was established.

Perhaps the most well-known piece of legislation, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which determined how copyrighted content on the Internet works, was signed into law in 1998 by then-President Bill Clinton. This move updated the copyright act to bring it in line with new technology.

Other notable events include Metallica suing Napster in 2000, the indictment of Pirate Bay founders in 2009 and the lawsuit against Aaron Schwartz for breach of copyright in 2011.

According to the infographic, the general rule is to assume that material is under copyright unless you can prove otherwise and be sure to attribute content to its creator where possible. With the attribution-stripping nature of some social sites, providing credit where credit is due can be tricky.

For more tips on how to navigate copyright online, view the infographic below:

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