Who Owns the Internet? Ownership as a Legal Basis for American Control of the Internet

35 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2004

See all articles by Markus Müller

Markus Müller

University of Tuebingen - Law School


The U.S. government's ultimate control of the Domain Name System results in substantial power over the entire Internet. Other countries object to this American dominance and demand that control of the Internet be handed over to the UN or the ITU. The United States could have a legal claim for control based on ownership because the Internet is, or was at least originally, an American thing, invented and funded by the United States. The paper examines such an ownership idea by applying property and intellectual property law on both the American and the international level. An examination of ownership is crucial because other approaches that could provide a legal basis for special power, like sovereignty, face problems because U.S. sovereignty ends at its borders and conflicts with the sovereignty of other states that are affected by U.S. policy decisions about the Internet.

Keywords: Internet, Internet Governance, Intellectual Property, ICANN, ITU, Domain Name System, Root, Ownership, United States, Sovereignty

JEL Classification: F02, K29, K33, K39, L50, O38

Suggested Citation

Müller, Markus, Who Owns the Internet? Ownership as a Legal Basis for American Control of the Internet. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=605104

Markus Müller (Contact Author)

University of Tuebingen - Law School ( email )

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Tuebingen 72074, 72074
+49-7071-2973307 (Phone)
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