Internet of Infringing Things: The Effect of Computer Interface Copyrights on Technology Standards

40 Pages Posted: 7 Jun 2019 Last revised: 16 Oct 2021

See all articles by Charles Duan

Charles Duan

American University Washington College of Law

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Date Written: May 20, 2019


This article aims to explain how copyright in computer interfaces implicates the operation of common technologies. An interface, as used in industry and in this article, is a means by which a computer system communicates with other entities, either human programmers or other computers, to transmit information and receive instructions. Accordingly, if it is copyright infringement to implement an interface (a technical term referring to using the interface in its expected manner), then common technologies such as Wi-Fi, web pages, email, USB, and digital TV all infringe copyright.

By reviewing the intellectual property practices of the standard-setting organizations that devise and promulgate standards for these and other communications technologies, the article demonstrates that, at least in the eyes of standard-setting organizations and by extension in the eyes of technology industry members, implementation of computer interfaces is not an infringement of copyright. It concludes that courts should act consistent with these industry expectations rather than upending those expectations and leaving the copyright infringement status of all sorts of modern technologies in limbo.

Keywords: copyright, interfaces, software, API, technical standards, SSO, frand

JEL Classification: K22, O31, O33, O34

Suggested Citation

Duan, Charles, Internet of Infringing Things: The Effect of Computer Interface Copyrights on Technology Standards (May 20, 2019). Rutgers University Computer & Technology Law Journal, Vol. 45, No. 1, 2019, Available at SSRN:

Charles Duan (Contact Author)

American University Washington College of Law ( email )

4300 Nebraska Ave NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

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