The following is a chronological listing of significant events in the development of the field of Information Technology law between 1980 and 1989. For other time periods see:

1980[edit | edit source]

1980 — Sony and Philips introduce the compact disc.

1980 — Tim Berners-Lee writes a program called "Enquire Within," the predecessor to the World Wide Web.

May 22, 1980Pac-Man is introduced by Namco.

June 17, 1980 — Atari's "Asteroids" and "Lunar Lander" are the first video games to be registered by the U.S. Copyright Office.

November 1980IBM hires Paul Allen and Bill Gates to create an operating system for its new PC. The pair buy the rights to a simple operating system manufactured by Seattle Computer Products and use it as a template. IBM allows the two to keep the marketing rights to the operating system, called DOS.

December 12, 1980Congress enacts the Computer Software Copyright Act of 1980.

1981[edit | edit source]

1981 — Apple Computer signs a secret agreement with Apple Records (the record company started by the Beatles), allowing Apple Computer to use the "Apple" name for its business. Apple Computer agrees not to market audio/video products with recording or playback capabilities.

1981 — The first computer viruses, the Apple Viruses 1, 2, and 3, some of the first viruses “in the wild,” or in the public domain are launched. The viruses are found on the Apple II operating system and spread through Texas A&M via pirated computer games.

1981 — The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) issues RFC 799, "Internet Name Domains."

1981 — Ted Nelson conceptualizes Xanadu, a central, pay-per-document hypertext database encompassing all written information.

1981 — The National Science Foundation (NSF) provided a grant to establish the Computer Science Network (CSNET) to provide networking services to university computer scientists.

March 3, 1981Diamond v. Diehr, 450 U.S. 175 (1981) is decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court holds that while a mathematical formula per se is not patentable, when a claim containing such formula implements or applies it in a structure or process which considered as a whole is performing a function designed to be protected by the patent laws the claim constitutes patentable subject matter.

April 1981 — Adam Osborne launches the first "portable" computer (the "Osborne 1"), which weighs 24 lbs. and has a 5-inch screen.

July 27, 1981Microsoft buys all rights to 86-DOS from Seattle Computer Products for US$50,000 and renames it MS-DOS.

August 12, 1981IBM introduces the IBM PC, which runs Microsoft's MS-DOS operating system. The IBM Model 5150 uses an open hardware architecture, which allows third-party add-ons, and its design is easy for rivals to clone.

1982[edit | edit source]

1982 — The term "Internet" is coined.

1982 — The first Ethernet adapter card for the IBM PC is released, permitting fast, inexpensive connections from Personal computers.

1982 — The first Internet-connected machine is a Coke vending machine rigged by computer science graduate students at Carnegie Mellon University to tell them whether or not the machine was stocked with cold soda.

1982 — Groupe Speciale Mobile (now Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) is formed by the Conference of European Posts and Telecommunications (CEPT) to design a pan-European mobile technology.

January 8, 1982 — The U.S. Justice Department drops its antitrust suit against IBM, which was launched 13 years earlier. One of its aims had been to break IBM up into several companies.

January 9, 1982 AT&T agrees to settle the antitrust case brought by the U.S. Justice Department.[1] Judge Green approves the Modified Final Judgment.

May 24, 1982 Section 506(a) of the U.S. copyright law is amended to provide that persons who infringe copyright willfully and for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain shall be punished as provided in 18 U.S.C. §2319.

July 1982 — William Gibson coins the term "cyberspace."

1983[edit | edit source]

1983 — AT&T is dismantled in divestiture.

1983 — The GNU (GNUs Not Unix) project is started by Richard Stallman at MIT. It promotes open source, freely shared software.

1983 — The Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) is introduced at the first North American Music Manufacturers show in Los Angeles. MIDI is an industry-standard electronic interface that links electronic music synthesizers. The MIDI information tells a synthesizer when to start and stop playing a specific note, what sound that note should have, how loud it should be, and other information.

1983 — The movie WarGames is released. It introduces the public to the phenomenon of hacking and creates concerns about hackers and their supposed abilities to launch nuclear ICBMs.

January 1, 1983 — The Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) becomes the standard for communicating between computers over the Internet. It was on this date that all host computers on the ARPANET were required to shift from the NCP protocol to the TCP/IP protocol.

August 30, 1983 — The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rules that Franklin Computer violated Apple Computer's copyrights on certain computer programs, including the Apple operating system on ROM chips.[2] The decision reverses a lower court's ruling that programs on chips are indistinguishable from the hardware itself, which is not subject to copyrights, but only patent protection.

November 10, 1983Microsoft formally announces Microsoft Windows for the IBM PC.

November 1983 — In Australia, a federal court rules that computer programs stored in ROM are not literary works, and as such are not protected by Australian copyright law. Apple Computer had sued an Australian computer dealer for copyright infringement of the Taiwan-made Wombat computer.

November 1983 — Working under funding provided by the Department of Defense, a group led by Paul Mockapetris and Jon Postel creates the domain name system for locating networked computers by name instead of by number.

December 1983 — The International Trade Commission issues an exclusion order to prevent Apple lookalike computers made in Taiwan from entering the United States.

1984[edit | edit source]

1984 — Richard Stallman founds the Free Software Foundation.

1984 — The CD-ROM is developed by Sony and Phillips.

1984 — The Department of Defense splits the ARPANET into two specialized networks: ARPANET would continue its advanced research activities, and MILNET (for MILitary NETwork) would be reserved for military uses that required greater security.

1984 — The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 grants the Secret Service jurisdiction over computer fraud.

1984 — The Cable Act of 1984 is enacted.

January 1, 1984 — A court orders that AT&T divest its 22 local Bell companies, establishing seven Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOC). AT&T is no longer able to provide local telephone service.

January 4, 1984 — Franklin Computer agrees to pay US$2.5 million in damages to Apple Computer for copyright infringement of the operating system used in the Apple II computer. Franklin Computer agrees to cease selling their cloned operating system by April 1.

January 17, 1984 — The U.S. Supreme Court determines that home videotaping is legal in the United States, and that home videotape cassette recorders were legal since they had substantial non-infringing uses.[3]

January 26, 1984Mac (Macintosh) computer launched by Apple Computer, Inc.

July 1, 1984 — The novel Neuromancer by William Gibson is published. It contains one of the first instances of the term cyberspace.

October 1984 — The top-level domains .com, .org, .gov, .edu and .mil are introduced in RFC 920. This established the Domain Name System (DNS).

October 12, 1984Congress passes the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 giving U.S. Secret Service jurisdiction over credit card fraud and computer fraud.

November 8, 1984 — The Semiconductor Chip Protection Act of 1984, Pub. L. No. 98-620, 98 Stat. 3347 (Nov. 8, 1984) (codified at 17 U.S.C. §901) is enacted. The Copyright Office assumes administrative responsibility.

November 16, 1984 — The Trademark Law Revision Act of 1988, Pub. L. No. 100-667, 102 Stat. 3935 (Nov. 16, 1988) (amending 15 U.S.C. §1051 et seq.) becomes effective.

December 5, 1984 — The first edition of Scott on Computer Law, by Michael D. Scott, is published by Wiley Law Publishers.

1985[edit | edit source]

1985 — The Computer Inquiry III decision is released.

1985MIT's Media Lab is established by Jerome Weisner and Nicholas Negroponte.

1985 — The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) debuts.

1985 — The Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link computer conference (WELL) goes online.

1985 — Richard Stallman publishes the GNU Manifesto, which establishes the idea of open source computing.

1985 — The Information Sciences Institute (ISI) at the University of Southern California (USC) is given responsibility for DNS root management by DCA, and SRI for DNS NIC registrations.

1985 — The National Science Foundation begins funding university supercomputer centers.

1985 — Quantum Computer Services, which later changes its name to America Online, debuts. It offers email, electronic bulletin boards, news, and other information.

January 7, 1985 — The Copyright Office begins registration of claims to mask works.

March 15, 1985 — The first .com ( is registered.

July 1985 — The generic top-level domain .net is added.

1986[edit | edit source]

1986 — Al Gore introduces the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2002, which supports computer network research.

1986NSF organizes the NSFNET backbone to connect five supercomputing centers and interconnect all other Internet sites at 56 KB.

1986 — The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is formed.

1986 — The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is enacted.

1986 — The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 is enacted.

June 21, 1986 — S. 2594, the Supercomputer Network Study Act of 1986, is introduced by then-Senator Albert Gore was enacted.

1987[edit | edit source]

1987 — The Computer Security Act of 1987 is passed and signed into law. It assigned to the National Bureau of Standards responsibility for computer security for unclassified federal systems.

1987SEMATECH, a joint partnership between the U.S. government and private industry, is formed to ensure continued U.S. leadership in the semiconductor chip market.

1987 — The digital audio tape (DAT) format is introduced.

June 1987CompuServe developers release the GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) image format.

September 10, 1987 — In United States v. Western Elec. Co., 673 F. Supp. 525 (D.D.C. 1987), the Modified Final Judgment is further modified to permit the BOCs to transmit information services.

1988[edit | edit source]

1988Congress enacts the Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988, which prohibits the disclosure of video rental records without a court order.

1988 — The first ISDN is offered in United States.

1988 — The first private Internet service providers start offering access to NSFNet to a general public.

1988 — The first transatlantic fiber optic cable is completed.

1988 — The Open Software Foundation is founded.

1988Internet Relay Chat (IRC), a multi-user, communications program is released.

1988 — The Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1988, Pub. L. 100-568, 102 Stat. 2853 is enacted.

1988 — A National Research Council committee produces a report commissioned by NSF titled "Towards a National Research Network," which is very influential on then-Senator Al Gore.

March 1988 — Apple sues Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard for copyright infringement of the Apple computer's graphic user interface.

March 7, 1988 — In United States v. Western Elec. Co., 714 F. Supp. 1 (D.D.C. 1998), the court modifies the Modified Final Judgment to allow BOCs to engage in the transmission of information, but not in the creation of content).

November 2, 1988 — The first Internet worm is launched by Robert Morris, affecting approximately 6,000 of the 60,000 hosts on the Internet.

December 1988 — The Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) is formed by DARPA in response to the the Morris worm incident.

1989[edit | edit source]

1989 — The League for Programming Freedom is established.

1989 — CompuServe becomes one of the first major online services to provide an email gateway that allows its subscribers to communicate via the Internet.

1989 — The ARPANET officially becomes the Internet and moves from a government research project to an operational network.

1989 — The International Maritime Satellite Organization (INMARSAT) is established to provide marine vessels with reliable ship-to-shoree communications.

1989 — The Air Force launches the first fully operational GPS satellite.

1989 — The first handheld GPS device is released to the public.

1989 — The Internet Architecture Board is split into (1) the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), (2) the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF), and (3) the Internet Society (ISOC).

1989 — The first commercial, dial-up Internet service provider (The World) is established.

1989 — The Internet opens to commercial e-mail through MCI Mail.

1989 — The book Cuckoo's Egg, by Clifford Stoll is published. It tells the real-life tale of a German cracker group who infiltrated numerous U.S. facilities.

February 1989 — Apple Corps files a lawsuit against Apple Computer, charging Apple Computer with violating its 1981 agreement not to market audio/video products. Apple Computer eventually pays US$26 million to settle the dispute.

March 1, 1989 — The United States adheres to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, as revised in Paris, France in 1971.

March 12, 1989 — Tim Berners-Lee of CERN (European Laboratory for Particle Physics) writes a paper proposing an "information management" system that becomes the conceptual and architectural structure for the World Wide Web.

March 21, 1989 — A federal court rules that Microsoft Windows 2.03 is not covered in the Apple Computer/Microsoft 1985 technology licensing agreement. The judge rules that only Windows 1.0 as it appeared in November 1985 is covered, and that Windows 2.03 is fundamentally different. This allows the issue to proceed to trial.

April 1989 — The MP3 compression technology is patented in Germany (full-text).

July 18, 1989 — The U.S. Department of Commerce announces plans to allow the sale of a greater range of computers to the Soviet Union and Eastern-bloc nations. The limit on data processing rate is raised from 6.5 million bits per second to 68 million bits per second, allowing the low-end Apple Computer Macintosh and the most basic IBM PS/2 to be exported.

July 21, 1989 — A federal court tentatively rules that most visual features of Windows 2.03 are covered by the 1985 license agreement between Microsoft and Apple. Of the 260 similarities claimed by Apple, only ten remain to be decided.

July 25, 1989 — A federal judge confirms his earlier decision removing all but ten of Apple Computer's claims against Microsoft.

December 1989 — Xerox files a $150 million lawsuit challenging the validity of Apple Computer's copyrights covering the Lisa and Macintosh computers' graphical user interface. Xerox claims Apple Computer copied the Xerox Star system interface.

December 1989 — The PCMCIA standard is introduced.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. United States v. AT&T, 552 F.Supp. 131, 189 (D.D.C. 1982), aff'd sub nom. Maryland v. United States, 460 U.S. 1001 (1983), vacated sub nom. United States v. Western Elec. Co., slip op. CA 82-0192 (D.D.C. Apr. 11, 1996) (Modified Final Judgement prohibiting the Bell Operating Companies from providing information services).
  2. Apple Computer, Inc. v. Franklin Computer Corp., 545 F. Supp. 812 (E.D. Pa. 1982) (full-text), rev’d and remanded, 714 F.2d 1240 (4th Cir. 1983) (full-text).
  3. Sony Corp. of America v Universal City Studios, 464 U.S. 417 (1984).
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