The growth of the Internet

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The growth of the Internet, and especially circulated search engines like Kazaa and Gnutella, represented a challenge for policy. The Recording business affiliation of America, in specific, was on the front lines of the fight against infringement, which the business calls "piracy". The business has had victories against some services, as well as a greatly publicized case against the file sharing company Napster, and some people have been prosecuted for sharing files in infraction of . The electronic age has seen a raise in the try to use software based digital rights management tools to restrict the copying and use of digitally established works. Laws like the Digital Millennium Act have been enacted that use criminal law to prevent any circumvention of software used to enforce digital rights management systems. Equivalent provisions, to prevent circumvention of protection existed in EU for some time, and are extended in, as an example, Article six and seven the Directive. Other examples are Article seven of the Software Directive of 1991 91/250/EEC, and the conditional Access Directive of 1998 98/84/EEC , and this can hinder legal uses, influencing public domain works, restrictions and exemptions to , or uses allowed by the holder. Some copyleft licenses, like GNU GPL 3, are intended to counter that. Laws may permit circumvention under particular conditions like when it's needed to accomplish interoperability with the circumventor's program, or for accessibility reasons, but, distribution of circumvention tools or information can be illegal.

In the perspective of trademarks, this expansion was driven by international efforts to harmonise the meaning of "trademark", as exemplified by the Agreement on Trade Related parts of Intellectual Property Rights ratified in 1994, which formalized rules for IP rights that had been handled by common law, or not at all, in member states. Pursuant to TRIPs, any sign which is "capable of distinguishing" the merchandise or services of one business from the merchandise or services of another business is able of constituting a trademark.