According to the Computer History Museum, in just under 30 years, the concept of the Internet as we know it was not only created, but put into action and reconstructed several times over. The “Internet Timeline” actually predates the word “Internet”, and starts in 1962where computers are expensive, simple, and rather difficult to work with. It ends in 1992, with the Internet not only existing, but having one million hosts, and a bandwidth that is twenty million times greater. That is an incredible jump to make in thirty years. Granted, it took a lot of work, an the cooperation of a lot of people. People like J.C.R. Licklider, Larry Roberts and Thomas Marill, Bob Taylor, and countless others, all had to work together in some form or another, and perhaps not always directly in order to make this happen.
So, the Internet was built on teamwork. And now, over the past twenty years, it has become a place of not only teamwork, but also co-authorship, networking, and occasionally even theft. When Licklider first imagined his “Intergalactic Network concept, where everyone on the globe is interconnected and can access programs and data at any site from anywhere,” it is unlikely that he realized exactly what sort of repercussions such a creation could have. Not only can we now access data, but we can share virtually every aspect of each of our lives with countless other people across the globe. While this is incredibly fascinating, and clearly a huge development in terms of networking and how we communicate, it also has possibly unforeseen consequences. With so much sharing of data and work, the concept of ownership and authorship can get blurry. Works are built upon and referenced throughout others in a web of interconnected ideas, and it becomes difficult to say who is responsible for what.
Even within the creation of the Internet, it cannot be said that any one man or even company is responsible for it. They all may have made separate contributions, but without the input of the others, it likely would not have all come together in the end. So, within this new world of sharing, it is imperative that we find a way to understand ownership (or lack thereof) in terms of ideas.