In mid-2016, the number of Internet users exceeded the figure of 3,611 million users, which means that almost half of the world's population already has access to the "network of networks". This extraordinary growth of the virtual market of more than 900% between 2000-2016 has been accompanied by a true technological revolution.

The history of the Internet has been marked by detachment. The US Department of Defense, which created it during the 50s, handed over the baton in the 60s to academic institutions and research and development entities, and then, starting in 1992, networks for commercial.

Thanks to the spirit of cooperation between public, academic and commercial entities, the Internet has managed to expand worldwide and has succeeded in universally spreading the fruits of human knowledge. Imagine a modern society that does not enjoy the benefits of cell phones, personal computers, search engines, email systems, satellite locators, online shopping and social networks, among others. developments that are part of our daily lives.

It is probable that if this spirit of cooperation did not exist between the forgers of the Internet, it would never have been possible to create a Network of Networks that would serve as a technological platform for the greatest transformations that have been known in the history of humanity. That is why the rules of Intellectual Property applied to the Internet, being flexible, have not been an obstacle to the spectacular progress of the Internet.

With the rapid development of social networks, the use of the Internet has increased worldwide at a rate of 900,1% in the first fifteen and a half years of this century. Thus, by mid-2016 there would be more than 3,400 billion users, that is, 46,1% of the world's population would have regular access to cyberspace. (1)

This dramatic proliferation of websites scattered all over the planet has brought with it a certain anarchy in terms of Intellectual Property that the authorities of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) are trying to regularize by adapting the universal legislation accepted by the majority of countries. Today it is unusual for a company or economic activity, no matter how small, not to have its own website or not to be participating in the benefits of Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter and other social networks. The NetCraft Survey(2) confirms for March 2016 the receipt of information from more than 1,003,887,790 websites.

In fact, the WIPO “Internet Treaties”, concluded in 1996, have already been accepted by more than 88 countries. With this adaptation of the legal framework on copyright and related rights, a universal system of balance has been established for the protection of content that is published and transmitted digitally through cyberspace. In the US, the incorporation of the new standards took effect in 1998 through the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  

However, this spirit of collaboration typical of Cyberspace does not imply that the millions of actors who today benefit from the Internet are willing to decline to defend their copyrights, trademarks or invention patents. And the thing is that on the Net you can find everything from entities that are ultra-rigorous in the preservation of their content and that even manage through shielded intranets, to generous creators who place their information open for the use and benefit of the general public.

Therefore, in order not to break the rules, website creators and editors must learn to recognize the content they can use on the Internet and manage the protocol for the use of content subject to Intellectual Property registration in its two main branches: Copyright and Trademark and Patent Law.

A creator or publisher of a website has three ways to provide content:

  1. Create your own work with originality and personal ingenuity;
  2. Borrow items that are in the public domain;
  3. Request authorization to use rights of third parties.

To create his own work with originality, the author must pour his emotion into the creative process and use tools such as blogs, surveys, question and answer sections, customer testimonials, videos and photographs of his own initiative or of resources hired for this purpose.

On the other hand, to borrow elements from the public domain, the publisher must verify that the content falls within the following assumptions:

  1. Intellectual property rights have expired; either
  2. The author has dedicated his work to the public domain; either
  3. The content is not subject to registration formalities.

It is good to point out that the protection of a work of ingenuity of one or more authors - written, video, graphic, design, program or recording - does not require the formal requirement of registration to operate. However, in some cases - books, records, songs, movies, etc. - it is advisable to register with the US Copyright Office, attached to the National Library of Congress (, so that the records can be verified by the general public.

The protection of trademark rights, for its part, also begins with the public use of the trademark, trade name, logo, slogan or denomination, as the case may be. Like copyright, trademark rights must be registered in order to have broad effects before third parties, but in this case the formalities are fulfilled before the United States Patent and Trademark Office (

Even when there are doubts about the quality of the registration of a right, it is recommended that the publisher always request permission to use the right owner. On the Internet, the more content is disclosed, the more visits will be directed to the website of the author or owner, so it is to be presumed that he will be pleased to grant authorization.

At this level, it is appropriate to clarify some misconceptions that are usually applied to the use of content subject to copyright or trademark protection:

  1. It is not true that any content can be published “as long as the author is given credit”; your acceptance is required.
  2. The belief that any content posted online that does not have the ©, ® or ™ icon or warning is not valid is free to use.
  3. Thinking that reading the "Terms of Use" of a website is wasting time is an error that can have serious consequences for the user of third-party content.
  4. If you are going to use content from a foreign website, remember that the Internet is global and that there are very advanced methods for detecting encrypted materials or indexed elements.

And, since no one is perfect, if you receive a claim for improper use of any protected material, it is recommended that you remove it immediately while you verify the reasonableness of the complaint. Always act with humility and, if the case gets worse, consult a lawyer specialized in Intellectual Property.

Remember, if your website is successful and shows clear signs of progress, exercise extreme caution and think, with Victor Hugo, that "everyone throws stones at the tree that bears golden fruit..."

Author: Alfredo Gonzalez I

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