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Chronology of Events - 1990s

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The following is a chronological listing of significant events in the development of the field of Information Technology law between 1990 and 1999. For other time periods see:

1990 Edit

1990 — The accuracy of the existing GPS system is deliberately degraded by the U.S. Department of Defense to prevent its use by military adversaries.

1990 — The FCC Computer Inquiry III order is vacated and remanded

1990Archie, an archive of FTP sites, which is the first effort to index the Internet, is launched.

1990 — The Federal Trade Commission begins its investigation of Microsoft.

1990 — John Romkey and Simon Hackett create the first Internet "device" — a toaster that can be turned on and off over the Internet.

1990 — The NSFNET terminates ARPANet.

1990 — Olivetti develops an active badge system, using infrared signals to communicate a person's location.

1990 — The Computer Misuse Act 1990 is passed in the United Kingdom

July 10, 1990 — The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is announced by Mitchell Kapor and John Perry Barlow.

Sept. 20, 1990 — The first commercial Internet dial-up access provider ("The World") launches.

November 12, 1990 — Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web; publishes a report titled "WorldWideWeb: Proposal for the HyperText Project" (full-text).

December 1, 1990 — The Computer Software Rental Amendments Act of 1990 goes into effect. The Act grants the owner of the copyright in a computer program the exclusive right to authorize or prohibit the rental, lease, or lending of the program for direct or indirect commercial purposes.

December 25, 1990 — The initial version of the World Wide Web becomes operational on the CERN computer network. The code is released for free to the public.

1991 Edit

1991Gopher, which provides point-and-click navigation, is created.

1991 — The BOCs are permitted to fully enter the enhanced services market.

1991WAIS (Wide Area Information Server) is developed by Brewster Kahle of Thinking Machines Corp.

1991 — The Semiconductor International Protection Extension Act of 1991 is enacted.

1991PGP (Pretty Good Privacy), the popular encryption program, is released by Philip Zimmerman in response to the threat by the FBI to demand access to the cleartext of all electronic communications.

1991 — Mark Weiser's article "The Computer for the 21st Century" is published in Scientific American:

The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.

March 27, 1991U.S. Supreme Court decides Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service Co., 499 U.S. 340 (1991), where the Court rejects the "sweat of the brow" doctrine under U.S. copyright law.

August 6, 1991 — The World Wide Web (WWW) is launched to the public. The first Web page is published.

September 17, 1991Linux is introduced by Linus Torvald. Based on Minix, an open source Unix clone, Linux is released with full source code under the terms of the GNU Public License, guaranteeing that future developments would be accessible to all Linux users.

September 1991XEROX PARC's Mark Weiser publishes The Computer in the 21st Century in Scientific American, which uses the terms "ubiquitous computing" and "embodied virtuality" to describe his vision of how in the near future "specialized elements of hardware and software, connected by wires, radio waves and infrared, will be so ubiquitous that no one will notice their presence."

December 9, 1991 — The High-Performance Computing and Communications Program Act of 1991 (commonly called "the Gore Bill") is enacted, creating the National Research and Education Network.

1992 Edit

1992 — The Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992 is enacted.

January 1, 1992 — The Internet Society is officially formed.

October 28, 1992 — The Audio Home Recording Act (AHRA) becomes effective. The Act requires serial copy management systems in digital audio recorders and imposes royalties on the sale of digital audio recording devices and media. The royalties are collected, invested, and distributed among the owners of sound recordings and musical compositions, certain performing artists, and/or their representatives. The Act clarified legality of home taping of analog and digital sound recordings for private noncommercial use.

November 23, 1992 — President George H.W Bush signs an amendment to the Scientific and Technology Act, which allows the National Science Foundation to permit access to the Internet by organizations that want to use it for purposes "in addition" to research and education in the sciences and engineering. This language allowed the Internet to be used for commercial purposes for the first time.[1]

1993 Edit

1883 — id Software releases the immersive, first-person shooter-style game Doom.

1993 — The North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act, Pub. L. No. 103-182, 107 Stat. 2057, 2114 and 2115 is enacted.

1993 — The first SMS text message is sent by Riku Pihkonen, an engineer at Nokia.

1993 — The U.S. government announces to introduce the Clipper Chip.

1993 — The first DEFCON hacking conference takes place in Las Vegas.

Jan. 1993Network Solutions, Inc., signs a 5-year cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation to manage public registration of new, nonmilitary domain names, including those ending in .com, .net, or .org.

April 22, 1993 — The graphics-friendly Mosaic browser is developed by Marc Andreeson at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) and released to the public.

April 30, 1993CERN published the world's first webpage.

May 1993 — The NSF awards Network Solutions the InterNIC contract worth $5.9 million a year until March 31, 1998.

1994 Edit

1994 — First Virtual, the first cyberbank, is opened.

1994 — The White House launches its first website,

1994Congress passes the Driver's Privacy Protection Act of 1994, which prohibits the disclosure or use of personal records from any State DMV office.

1994 — Netscape invents the browser "cookie."

1994 — John Perry Barlow proclaims the death of copyright.

1994 — A National Research Council report entitled "Realizing the Information Future: The Internet and Beyond" is released. Commissioned by NSF, the report provides a blueprint for the evolution of the information superhighway. It anticipates a number of critical issues including intellectual property rights and regulation of the Internet.

1994 — Bill Joy at Sun Microsystems develops the Java computer language.

1994Congress enacts the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (CALEA), which requires telecommunications carriers and equipment manufacturers to design their equipment to facilitate eavesdropping by law enforcement.

1994 — The World Wide Web Consortium is founded by Tim Berners-Lee to help with the development of common protocols for the evolution of the World Wide Web.

1994 — Netscape develops Secure Sockets Layer encryption to secure online transactions.

February 1994Yahoo! is launched.

March 1994 — Vice President Al Gore makes a speech in Argentina in which he coins the term "Information Superhighway."

April 12, 1994 — The Arizona law firm of Canter & Siegel "spams" the Internet with an email advertising green card lottery services.

October 1994 — The first banner ads appear on

October 1994 — The World Wide Web Consortium is founded by Tim Bernes-Lee.

December 1994 — Netscape releases the Secure Sockets Layer Protocol (SSL) to provide security for web browser and server communications.

December 8, 1994 — President Clinton signs the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA), which implements the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) including Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs).

December 8, 1994Congress repeals the sunset provisions of the Computer Software Rental Amendments Act of 1990; and creates legal measures to prohibit the unauthorized fixation and trafficking in sound recordings of live musical performances and music videos.

December 15, 1994 — The Netscape Navigator browser Ver. 1.0 is released.

1995 Edit

1995Internet Explorer 1.0 is distributed.

1995NSFNET shuts down completely and the U.S. Internet backbone is totally privatized.

1995 — Utah passes the Utah Digital Signature Act of 1995, and becomes the first state to promote the use of public-key infrastructure technology for digitally signing documents.

1995 — The U.S Supreme Court decides Lotus Development v. Borland International

1995 — The term "spyware" is first used.

1995 — The full "constellation" of 27 fully operational GPS satellites finally is put in place.

1995Geocities and Tripod launch web hosting services, allowing users to create and share their own home pages.

1995 — The Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) comes into effect.

1995 — The U.S. approves the Final Act of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs & Trade (GATT)

February 1995 — An Israeli company called VocalTec releases the "Internet Phone" — the first commercial VoIP application for a desktop computer.[1]

February 1995 — The first Internet radio station (Radio HK) is launched with a trial license from ASCAP.

March 1995Yahoo! is launched.

March 24, 1995 — The Well is launched. It starts life as a BBS, but later migrates to the Web.

April 1995 — The Apache open-source HTTP server software is released.

April 1995 — RealAudio 1.0 is released.

July 16, launches.

September 5, 1995eBay launches as AuctionWeb.

November 1, 1995 — The Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act of 1995 is enacted.

November 1, 1995 — The European Union enacts the Data Protection Directive (Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data).

November 22, 1995 — ToyStory, the first totally computer-generated movie, is released.

December 1995 — President Clinton announces creation of the Electronic Commerce Working Group.

December 1995 — An article titled Wearable Computing is published in Wired magazine by MIT's Nicholas Negroponte and Neil Gershenfeld:

For hardware and software to comfortably follow you around, they must merge into softwear. . . . The difference in time between loony ideas and shipped products is shrinking so fast that it's now, oh, about a week.

1996 Edit

1996 — The first mobile phone with Internet connectivity is released.

1996Internet phones catch the attention of U.S. telecommunication companies, which ask Congress to ban the technology.

1996 — the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) adopts a protocol that allows transmission of voice communication over a variety of networks.

1996 — The Telecommunications Act of 1996 is enacted.

1996 — The OECD issues Cryptography Policy Guidelines — a paper calling for encryption export-standards and unrestricted access to encryption products.

1996 — The Anti-Counterfeiting Consumer Protection Act is enacted.

January 1996Google launches as "BackRub".

January 16, 1996 — The Federal Trademark Dilution Act of 1995 goes into effect.

February 8, 1996 — The Communications Decency Act (CDA) goes into effect. The law is intended to protect children from obscenity on the Internet, but many critics argued that its language was too vague and that it violated the rights of free speech. A few months later a three-judge panel enjoins its enforcement.

March 1996 — The "Palm Pilot" PDA is introduced.

April 1996 — The Internet Archive is established to archive the entire content of the Internet, and to make it freely available.

June 1996ICQ, the first global, GUI-based instant messaging client, is launched.[2]

July 1996 — President Clinton establishes the President's Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection, charged with coordinating and protecting critical infrastructure systems (gas, oil, telecom, water, transportation, etc.) against physical and electronic attack.

July 29, 1996 — A significant portion of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) is declared unconstitutional.

August 1996 — The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is signed into law.

October 1996 — The National Information Infrastructure Protection Act of 1996 is enacted.

October 1, 1996 — The Internet2 is formed.

1997 Edit

1997 — Slashdot, a tech news aggregation service, is founded.

1997 — Paul Saffo publishes an article titled Sensors: The Next Wave of Infotech Innovation (full-text).

1997 — The term "cloud computing" is coined by University of Texas professor Ramnath Chellappa in a talk on a "new computing paradigm."

April 12, 1997 — The WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) is enacted. The treaty extends traditional copyright protection to computer programs and "compilations of data or other material (databases) in any form, which by reason of the selection or arrangement of their contents constitute intellectual creations."

April 12, 1997 — The WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) is enacted. The treaty deals with intellectual property rights of performers (e.g., actors, singers and instrumentalists) and producers of phonograms ("the persons or legal entities who or which take the initiative and have the responsibility for the fixation of the sounds").

April 18, 1997 — The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) is established to handle administration and registration of IP numbers to the geographical areas currently handled by Network Solutions (InterNIC) starting in March 1998.

June 26, 1997 — The U.S. Supreme Court strikes down as unconstitutional those provisions of the Communications Decency Act that sought to protect minors from harmful material on the Internet in Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union.

July 1997 — President Clinton issues a presidential directive on electronic commerce, making the Department of Commerce the agency responsible for managing the U.S. government’s role in the domain name system.

July 1997 — President Clinton issues A Framework for Global Electronic Commerce.

July 1997 — The Information Networks Ministerial Conference in Bonn issues the Declaration on Electronic Commerce.

October 7, 1997 — Sun sues Microsoft for breaching its contractual obligation to maintain Java compatibility with Sun's version.

October 21, 1997 — The U.S. and the Netherlands sign a Joint Statement on the Development of the Internet and the Promotion of Global Electronic Commerce.

November 1997 — The TABD issues a Communique at Rome Meeting regarding electronic commerce.

November 1997 — The APEC Economic Leaders issue a Declaration on electronic commerce.

November 1997 — the Ninth APEC Ministerial Meeting issues a Joint Statement on Electronic Commerce.

December 16, 1997 — The No Electronic Theft Act of 1997 (“NET”), Pub. L. 105-147, 111 Stat. 2678 (Dec. 16, 1997) (amending 17 U.S.C. §506(a)) becomes effective. The Act defines “financial gain” in relation to copyright infringement and sets penalties for willfully infringing a copyright either for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain or by reproduction or distribution, including by electronic means, of phonorecords of a certain value.

December 1997 — The U.S. and EU issue a Statement on Electronic Commerce.

December 22, 1997 — The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) begins operation.

1998 Edit

1998HDTV is launched.

1998 — The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act is passed.

1998 — The Child Online Protection Act is passed.

1998 — The Intellectual Infrastructure Fund, collected by NSI, is declared to be an unconstitutional tax.

January 1998 — Netscape announces plans to give its browser away for free.

January 30, 1998 — The U.S. Department of Commerce releases the Green Paper (full-text), which is a proposal to improve technical management of Internet names and addresses through privatization. Specifically, the Green Paper proposes a variety of issues for discussion, including the creation of a new nonprofit corporation to manage the domain name system.

February 4, 1998 — President Clinton signs Executive Order 13073, creating the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion. The council centralizes executive branch efforts to prepare government agencies for the date rollover.

March 1998 — The FTAA issues a Ministerial Declaration on Electronic Commerce.

May 1998 — The WTO issues a Declaration on Global Electronic Commerce.

May 1998 — The U.S. and Japan sign a Joint Statement of Electronic Commerce.

May 18, 1998 — The U.S. Department of Justice files an antitrust suit against Microsoft. The claim was that since Internet Explorer was included in every copy of Windows, that distribution was anticompetitive.

June 1998 — The U.S. and France collaborate to issue a French-American Background Paper on the Challenges of the Information Society and the Digital Economy.

June 5, 1998 — The U.S. Department of Commerce releases its White Paper (full-text), which states that the U.S. government is prepared to transition domain name system management to a private, nonprofit corporation. The paper includes the four guiding principles of privatization: stability; competition; representation; and private, bottom-up coordination.

June 26, 1998 — The United Nations passes a resolution on Y2K calling on all nations to prepare critical information systems for the century date change.

July 23, 1998 — The Federal Circuit decides State Street Bank v. Signature Financial Group, holding that business processes, including those implemented by software, are patentable.

September 1998 — The U.S. and Ireland sign a Joint Communique on Electronic Commerce using digital signatures.

September 7, 1998Google is founded.

October 1998 — The OECD issues the Ministerial declaration on authentication for electronic commerce and on taxation.

October 18, 1998 — President Clinton signs the Year 2000 Information and Readiness Disclosure Act.

October 21, 1998 — A new version of the Communication Decency Act (CDA II) and a ban on Internet taxes are signed into law.

October 27, 1998 — The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act becomes effective. The Act extends the term of copyright protection for most works to the life of the author plus 70 years after the author's death.

October 27, 1998 — The Fairness in Music Licensing Act of 1998 is enacted.

October 28, 1998 — The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA) becomes effective. The Act provides for the implementation of the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty; limits certain online infringement liability for Internet service providers; creates an exemption permitting a temporary reproduction of a computer program made by activating a computer in the course of maintenance or repair; clarifies the policy role of the U.S. Copyright Office; and creates a form of protection for vessel hulls.

November 1998 — The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) incorporates in California. ICANN's by-laws call for a 19-member Board with 9 members elected "at-large."

November 1998 — The U.S. and South Korea sign a Joint Statement on Electronic Commerce.

November 25, 1998Department of Commerce enters into an agreement with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to establish a process for transitioning the Domain Name System from U.S. Government to industry management.

1999 Edit

1999 — The wireless standard 802.11b, more commonly referred to as Wi-Fi, is issued.

1999 — The Child Online Protection Act is declared unconstitutional.

1999 — The European Parliament proposes banning the caching of Web pages by ISPs.

1999 — Kevin Ashton of the MIT Auto-ID Center coins the term Internet of Things.

If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things — using data they gathered without any help from us — we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost.

1999 — A U.S. state court rules that domain names are property that may be garnished.

February 5, 1999 — The International Y2K Cooperation Center (IY2KCC) is established under the auspices of the United Nations and the World Bank to coordinate regional and sectoral efforts to address the Y2K problem.

March 26, 1999 — The Melissa virus quickly spreads across the Internet by infecting Microsoft Word documents.

June 1999ICANN issues its first status report, which lists ICANN’s progress to date and states that there are important issues that still must be addressed.

June 1999ICANN and the Department of Commerce enter into a cooperative research and development agreement to study root server stability and security. The study is intended to result in a final report by September 2000.

June 1, 1999Napster, a music File-sharing service, begins operations.

June 14, 1999 — President Clinton signs an amendment to Executive Order 13073, creating the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion's Information Coordination Center (ICC).

July 1999 — President Clinton signs the Year 2000 Readiness and Responsibility Act, which limits the legal liability of companies that suffer problems, despite making good-faith efforts to fix their systems in advance of the date rollover.

Nov. 1999ICANN and the Department of Commerce approve MOU amendment 1 to reflect the roles of ICANN and Network Solutions, Inc.

November 17, 1999 — The U.S. Commerce Department's report on $100 billion in U.S. spending for Y2K is released.

November 29, 1999 — The Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) is enacted.

December 7, 1999 — The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sues Napster for copyright infringement.

References Edit

  1. 42 U.S.C. §1862(g).

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