White Paper on Intellectual Property in Cyberspace Released
By Neal J. Friedman
A federal government task force has released its long-awaited report on "Intellectual Property and
the National Information Infrastructure." The task force was charged with making
recommendations for revising the law of copyright and other intellectual property to keep pace
with the nation's growing computer communications system. It found existing copyright law
"fundamentally adequate and effective," but suggested changes to bring it in line with current
The task force noted that technology had altered the copyright balance in favor of copyright
owners in some instances and in favor of users in others. Its principal recommendation was to
classify transmissions over computer networks as "copies," which would expressly include them
under copyright law.
It also addressed a concern of libraries and archives by permitting them to make a limited number
of copies of a work for preservation purposes without being liable for royalties or infringement
The report's other major recommendations include:
The report is advisory only. It will now go to Congress, which is not likely to act on the proposed
changes in the law until next year.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has made the entire document available as a single, 1 MB, PDF file, a Microsoft Word 6.0 file, as well as in ASCII form.
- Prohibiting the manufacture or distribution of any device that would circumvent electronic
tags that may be used to protect copyrights in cyberspace.
- Continuing existing law that does not require a mandatory copyright notice on any
- Proposed legislation that would make it unlawful to distribute copies worth more than
$5,000, which would protect casual and inadvertent infringement.
- Supported new rules that would allow parties to establish legally binding contracts online,
abolishing an ancient requirement that most contracts need to be in writing and signed in
order to be enforceable.
- Supported the development of encryption technology that "could be exported without
compromising U.S. intelligence gathering and law enforcement," a modification of the
Clinton Administration's previous stand on encryption technology that had come under
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|Copyright © 1996 Neal J. Friedman
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Neal J. Friedman