LABnews July- August 1999

1. Access to public sector information - electronic democracy

1.1. France – Council of State offers on-line access guide to Justice

Besides supplying information on the history, organisation and activities of the High Court, the website of the French Council of State provides citizens with comprehensive guidance for access to administrative courts and justice in the country. Using a simplified glossary it explains basic concepts of administrative law and practice such as the competence of administrative courts, administrative control, terms and conditions for filing a petition, time limits and legal costs involved, the possibilities for implementation of administrative judgements, the existing redress mechanisms and so on. The site also distributes press releases and abstracts of the Court’s recent decisions as well as information on recent publications and links with international administrative bodies.

The French Council of State site can be accessed at

1.2. Finland - Citizen ID card and electronic identification project

The Finnish Government recently issued a bill on electronic personal identification cards. The bill amends article 23 of the Population Registration File Act by allowing the use of "smart cards" by citizens for electronic transactions with public and private bodies. Various state sector services will be performed electronically via this card such as change of address notifications; tax returns; applications for changes to tax cards; registration as a job-seeker with the labour exchange; municipality, citizen and banking applications. Service outlets will be made available at public libraries and municipal service centres as well as at special info kiosks. These services will be accessed directly from a computer at home or work via data networks such as the Internet. The use of mobile phones and digital TV as end user terminals is also being developed. The Finnish Population Register Centre will be the certifying authority for the secure electronic exchange of official information. It will provide the government certificate services and the infrastructure required for the system, which is to be launched on 1 December 1999 as a voluntary one for the citizens.

More details on the Finnish Population Register Centre website at

1.3. Hungary - Electronic gateway to patent and trademark information

The Hungarian Patent Office, which is an administrative authority with country-wide powers in the field of industrial property, has set up an Internet service providing users, free of charge and on subscription, with patent and trademark information. The HPO’s industrial property databases contain updates of searchable patents, utility models, industrial designs and trademark publications. The site also provides downloadable forms of Hungarian Patent Documents with the patent documents displayed on the screen as available in the original printed version.

The HPO web site is accessible at

2. Competition

2.1. EU – Anti-trust inquiry on Internet agreements and generic top-level domain name management

The EU Directorate-General for Competition (DG IV) is pursuing its investigation of licensing agreements concluded between Network Solutions Inc. (NSI), the dominant registrar of Internet addresses, and test bed registrars of second-level Internet domain names in the .com, .org and .net domains. These licensing agreements are planned to be temporary and to be amended and approved by the United States Department of Commerce before the end of the test bed period which ended on 16 July 1999. European Union regulators want to ascertain whether the licensing agreements fall within the scope of Article 81 (1) EC Treaty and of Article 53 of the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement, which prohibit agreements restrictive of competition. Certain provisions in the agreements or related actions taken by NSI might also constitute an abuse of NSI's dominant position under Article 82 EC Treaty and Article 54 of the EEA Agreement.

In particular, DG IV expressed concerns related to the lack of safeguards to prevent NSI registry from discriminating against competing registrars, as well as to the fact that NSI has not been accredited by ICANN as a registrar. In addition to this, the domain names portability rules and NSI's related policy, could act as strong deterrents against second-level domain holders transferring their domains to another competing registrar.

More details available at|0|RAPID&lg=EN

2.2. Italy - Competition Authority ascertains compliance with statutory rules on the acquisition of pay TV rights

On 28 July 1999, the Italian Competition Authority, with consenting opinion from the Communications Regulator, refused to grant Telepiù the required statutory exemption from the 60% ceiling on the acquisition of exclusive encrypted broadcasting rights for Series A football championship matches. Telepiù asked for this waiver after concluding a contract with a football club assigning it exclusive broadcasting rights over home matches. This contract led to the acquisition of exclusive rights over 187 out of the total number of 306 matches to be played in the forthcoming championship. The Authority refused to grant the waiver in order to avoid creating distortions in the pay TV market.

In the same directive, on 1 July 1999, the Authority also closed the investigation opened last February on the centralised negotiation of football television broadcasting rights by Lega Nazionale Professionisti. It concluded that by selling broadcasting rights on behalf of the series A and series B clubs, this Association had distorted competition by creating a cartel of 38 professional football clubs.

Press releases on the above two rulings are available on the Competition Authority web site at and

3. Computer crime

3.1. USA – Security hole allows unauthorised access to millions of Hotmail accounts

On 30 August 1999, a security hole in Hotmail servers, the Microsoft-owned free web-based e-mail provider, enabled unauthorized access to approximately 50 million private Hotmail users’ accounts. A bug in the start script that processed a login session between a Web browser and a server might have enabled hackers to log into any Hotmail account without typing a password. As a result of this, any user with a web browser capable of viewing a short, simple code that was widely spread over the Net during the week end, could access third party accounts and read, send or delete third party e-mail messages.

The news was reported by a Swedish newspaper called "Expressen". After being informed on the incident, Microsoft engineers temporarily took Hotmail servers offline and announced that they fixed the issue. Outside security experts suggested that the problem might have been a back door inadvertently left open on Hotmail servers by Microsoft engineers. Microsoft denied this possibility and instead described the problem as an unknown security issue. A group known as Hackers Unite has claimed responsibility for publicizing Hotmail's security breach, claiming this hack was not to destroy but to show how vulnerable Microsoft’s security is.

More details available at

Hotmail press release available at

4. Consumer protection

4.1. France – ART recommends reductions in retail prices charged for calls to mobiles

On 29 June 1999, ART recommended the three mobile telephone operators of the country to effect a reduction of approximately 20 % the retail price charged for calls from fixed to mobile phones. The operators were encouraged to decide the precise timescale for the reductions to be applied up until next October and to conclude arrangements for further reductions during the summer of 2000. Regarding call termination rates, which account for almost one third of the total revenue of the mobile operators, ART recommended a set of immediate measures such as: a considerable increase in the rates charged for delivering international calls to mobiles, in order to combat international rerouting; a cut in the payments made respectively by France Télécom and mobile operators for national call termination, in proportion with retail price reductions.

The regulator also proposed a progressive realignment of international call termination rates with national call termination rates. Those rates are to be set according to the general legal regime which applies on fixed networks, taking into account the prospects for fixed-mobile convergence. However, to ensure effective competition, carrier selection to mobiles will need to be introduced, before the mobile operators' licences are modified.

The guidelines, which will be published in the French Official Journal, can be consulted on and downloaded from ART's web site at

4.2. USA – Consumer's Guide to travel in cyberspace set up by FTC

The US Federal Trade Commission has set up an electronic consumer's guide to travel in cyberspace. The guide is intended to help surfers prepare a secure voyage and avoid on line fraud. Apart from providing a simplified cyberspace glossary, the guide gives consumers practical tips on safe and anonymous surfing, use of pseudonyms in chat lists, personal data and virus protection, limitation of junk mail, "cookies", and protection against other direct or indirect on-line identification methods used by marketers. Moreover, it raises consumer awareness about revealing personal data when shopping on line, such as social security or credit card numbers. Parents are encouraged to accustom children adopt safe net surfing rules embodied in ‘‘cyberspace passports’’. Consumers are also advised to contact law enforcement agencies to seek redress by consumer protection laws which equally apply on the Internet.

The Guide is available on the FTC website at

5. Content of Internet and audio-visual and information services

5.1. France – Court considers Internet guide as press review

On 3 August 1999, a Paris court of first instance ruled on an alleged defamation by the publisher of an electronic guide on computer magazines against the editor of one of the magazines in question. In effect, the group "Test" sued the group "Worldnet", which distributes an electronic guide to the French-language computer press, for criticising one of the plaintiffs’ publications. The court denied its competence to decide on such a case, judging that it fell under the jurisdiction of the Tribunal de Grande Instance, which is mandated by law to decide on press issues. The grounds of this decision were that contentious Internet guide can be considered as a specialised press review since it fulfils all the criteria set in the 1986 press law: it is distributed in writing at given periods and is accessible to the public. Accordingly, the defendant may not ask for exoneration from liability rules applying to the press by claiming that he is not as journalist. However, whether the expression of any negative comments through the Internet constitutes a defamation remains still to be decided.

The decision is available at

5.2. USA - Michigan court blocks unconstitutional Internet censorship law

On 29 July 1999, a Michigan Federal District judge halted enforcement of a state law which was due to take effect on 1 August 1999 incriminating the dissemination or the display of "sexually explicit matter" to minors. Violations were punishable by up to two years in jail, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. The above ruling prevented implementation of the law on grounds of unconstitutionality until a full trial is held later this year. According to the court, Internet speakers faced an unconstitutional choice between free speech and criminal prosecution. The court accepted the arguments exposed in a challenge filed last month on behalf of 10 Internet firms by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan. ACLU alleged the law was impossible to comply with because virtually every communication on the Internet entails a 'substantial risk' that a minor may receive it; the complainant also argued that the state of Michigan cannot act as speech police for world-wide communications on the Internet. Parents may apply children protective measures from inappropriate material on the Internet without the state banning constitutionally protected speech.

Press release available on the ACLU website at

6. Convergence of audio-visual, publishing and telecommunications

6.1. USA – Trade Representative Office highlights progress on current telecommunications interconnection arrangements in Germany

On 11 August 1999, the US Trade Representative announced the extension of an out-of-cycle review of Germany’s compliance with telecommunications trade agreements under section 1377 of the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988. As part of the WTO Basic Telecom Agreement Germany pledged tto prevent such anti-competitive behaviour. According to the review, initiated on 30 March, 1999, recent German regulatory decisions rejected most of the unreasonable rates, terms and conditions that Deutsche Telekom has sought to impose immediately on new entrants. Accordingly, they have prevented anti-competitive conduct and have facilitated secure access for the US industry in the newly-liberalized German telecommunications market. Nevertheless, according to the review, the favourable effects of those decisions could be limited, as new interconnection arrangements are to be applied from 1 January, 2000 between Deutsche Telekom and new entrants. Consequently, further concrete steps have to be taken by German regulatory authorities to ensure that DT provides timely interconnection for new market players in fair technical and economic conditions.

Press release available on the US Trade Representative web site at

6.2. USA – FCC Court brief reasserts authority over Internet broadband cable access

On 16 August 1999, the FCC filed an amicus brief with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in the AT&T v. City of Portland case. Claiming the FCC alone has authority to regulate high-speed Internet access, the brief suggested, among other things, that both sides to the City of Portland case may have relied on a faulty premise by assuming that Internet access via cable is a "cable service". Earlier this year Portland area cable officials required AT&T to open its network to rival Internet competitors. A federal judge upheld the decision, with the case currently pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

According to the Commission, the local and municipal regulation of these services could create regulatory disparity and undermine competition between cable operators, wireline telephone companies, providers of wireless telecommunications services and satellite communications firms. Expressing the concerns of Internet providers and consumer groups fearing a monopoly of cable companies on high-speed Internet services, the FCC outlined that the proper characterization of Internet access via cable as "cable", "telecommunications" or "information" services in the converged environment was still an open issue.

Press release available on the FCC website at

7. Data protection

7.1. EU - Reasoned opinions addressed by Commission to nine Member States for failure to implement data protection Directive

In July 1999, the European Commission has decided to send reasoned opinions to France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, Spain and Austria for failure to notify all the measures necessary to implement the Directive on the protection of personal data (95/46/EC), which came into effect on 23 October 1998. Under European law, the reasoned opinions represent the second stage of formal infringement proceedings under Article 226 of the EC Treaty. Within two months of receipt Member States must provide the Commission with a satisfactory response, otherwise the cases may be referred to the European Court of Justice.

Greece, Portugal, Sweden, Italy, Belgium and Finland have announced measures which implement the Directive in full. Denmark and the United Kingdom have announced measures partially implementing the Directive, but still need to adopt some additional national measures to complete their implementation. However, full conformity of national implementation measures with the Directive has still to be confirmed. In any case, individuals are entitled to invoke some of the Directive's provisions before national courts and seek compensation if they suffered damage as a result of a Member State's failure to implement the Directive.

Press release available at|0|RAPID&lg=EN

7.2. UK – Data Protection Registrar announces tighter control on employee data usage

On 14 July 1999, the UK Data Protection Registrar announced that a draft Code of Practice governing the uses of personal data by employers is to be circulated for consultation with representatives of employers and employees. The Code of Practice will be published under the Data Protection Act 1998 and will serve as guidance to good practice for employers. Based on a recent study on the uses and misuses of personal data in employer/employee relationships (available at, the Code of Practice will introduce tighter control over the use of employee records in three key areas: employee surveillance involving collection of data to monitor performance or detect problems e.g. interception of e-mail and use of CCTV; automated processing e.g. CV scanning, aptitude and psychometric testing and the extent to which employment decisions might be taken by automatic means; collection of new and sensitive information e.g. genetic tests or results of alcohol or drug testing. Once it is in place, failure to comply could lead to enforcement action by the Registrar, or a claim for compensation by any individual who has suffered as a result.

Press release available on the UK Data Protection Registrar website at

7.3. USA – Court rules that marketing of consumer proprietary network information is protected commercial speech

On 18 August 1999, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that phone companies can sell or give consumer proprietary network information (CPNI) - which includes the location, duration, and frequency of phone calls - to telemarketers without the explicit permission of customers. The court accepted US West’s petition for review of an FCC order restricting the use and disclosure of and access to customer proprietary network information. The petitioner challenged the FCC's chosen approval process, claiming it violates the First Amendment by restricting its ability to engage in commercial speech with customers.

According to the ruling, the FCC failed to prove that privacy would be threatened if consumers needed to explicitly request that their information not be distributed. Consequently, the information was protected as commercial speech under the First Amendment. By virtue of the decision, phone companies will be able freely to use or sell call records for marketing purposes, unless the clients explicitely declare their opposition. The Federal Communications Commission has announced that it will appeal the decision. Privacy advocates claim that this decision erodes consumer control over telephone usage information. see

8. Digital signatures

8.1. Australia – Electronic transactions bill allows use of digital signatures

On 30 June 1999, the Australian Electronic Transactions Bill 1999 was introduced into the Commonwealth Parliament. Based on the revised UNCITRAL Model Law, the bill provides for the acceptability of electronic signatures for the validity of transactions. This final version includes comments from business, government and professional organisations during the public exposure period.

For the purposes of the bill, electronic communication includes communication of information in the form of speech, data, text or images by means of guided or unguided electromagnetic energy. To be legally valid, an electronic communication must make possible a unique identification of the originator in an electronic form and must indicate the originator’s approval of the information communicated. The integrity of information contained in a document is maintained if the information has remained complete and unaltered, apart from the addition of any endorsement or any immaterial change which arises in the normal course of communication, storage or display. Debate on the Bill will take place during Parliament’s Spring session starting in August.

The Bill is available from the Australian Parliament House website at and its Explanatory Memorandum at

9. Electronic commerce

9.1. EU – Amended proposal for a coherent legal framework for electronic commerce within the Single Market

The European Commission has put forward an amended proposal for a Directive to establish a coherent legal framework for electronic commerce and information society services within the Single Market. With a view to fostering the principles of free movement of services and freedom of establishment, the amended proposal introduces a simpler and clearer set of criteria for establishing the point at which on-line contracts are concluded. It also provides clarification on definitions of "information society services" and "consumers" in relation to the operation of the directive. Moreover, it highlights the liability of intermediaries and establishes relations with existing consumer protection and data protection directives. Finally, it provides clear rules for the treatment of unsolicited commercial communications via electronic mail. To this effect, Member States would be obliged to ensure that opt-out registers were made available to consumers and consulted regularly by service providers undertaking such unsolicited commercial communications. The amended proposal for a Directive will be forwarded to the European Parliament and the EU's Council of Ministers for adoption under the co-decision procedure.

Press relase available at|0|RAPID&lg=EN

9.2. UK – Public consultation on e-commerce legislation launched

In July 1999 the UK government launched a consultation on the draft Electronic Communications Bill, together with explanatory notes on the Bill and the Government's response to the Trade and Industry Select Committee Report on the previous consultation. The UK draft Electronic Communications Bill is part of a broader package of measures being scheduled to foster the development of electronic commerce high-speed access infrastructures through the introduction of UMTS and broadband wireless services.

Among other measures, the draft bill introduces the admissibility of electronic signatures in court together with amendments of existing provisions to allow e-mail and electronic communication capabilities as an alternative to paper. To this end, the Companies Act 1985 will be amended to enable companies use electronic means to deliver company communications and receive shareholder votes and proxy instructions. Further measures will be applied to create trust in providers offering electronic signature and other cryptography services under minimum standards of quality and service. Law enforcement agencies will be empowered to require the surrender of decryption keys or plain text of lawfully obtained material in response to a properly authorised written notice. The Consultation period on the draft Bill ends on 8 October.

The Consultation document can be accessed on the DTI website at

10. Intellectual property

10.1. EU – Commission refers Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg and Portugal to Court for failure to implement EU copyright directives

On 30 July 1999, the European Commission announced that it has decided to refer Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg and Portugal to the European Court of Justice for failure to implement Directive 96/9/EC on the legal protection of databases. The Directive was due to be implemented by all Member States before 1 January 1998. It harmonises copyright protection applicable to databases, both in electronic and paper form, their development being crucial in the information society. Apart from on-line and off line database protection, the Directive introduced a novel ''sui generis'' right protecting non-creative efforts of database manufacturers and publishers for fifteen years. Furthermore, the Commission will refer Ireland and Portugal to the Court for failure to adhere to international conventions concerning copyright and related rights.

Press release available at :|0|RAPID&lg=EN

10.2. France –Court regards domain name grabbing as trade name grabbing

On 30 June 1999, the Tribunal de Grande Instance of Nanterre ruled that the partial reproduction of famous trademarks by the holders of the domain names "loré", "",", "" constituted a trademark infringement. The above domain names had been registered with NSI by two cyber-squatters, domiciled respectively in Canada and Egypt, with a view to gaining profit from selling them to the legitimate trademark owners, all being cosmetics companies with an international reputation. Although the court did not qualify the legal nature of domain names, it has forbidden their use by the cyber-squatters, ordered them to pay FFR 10,000 damages and asked NSI to transfer the domains to the plaintiffs.

The judgment can be accessed upon acceptance of the site’s copyright notice at

11. Legal aspects of security and encryption

11.1. USA – Congress bans planned Federal Intrusion Detection Network

In the end of July 1999, Congressional lawmakers approved the fiscal 2000 budget by explicitly forbidding the Department of Justice to invest in the controversial Federal Intrusion Detection Network (FIDNET) project. This project was part of America’s Computer Security and Critical Infrastructure programme, announced by the Clinton Administration earlier this year (press release available at

FIDNET was designed as an extensive anti-hacking system to protect government and industry computer systems from cyber-attacks. It represented an expression of the Administration’s will to stop short of calling for new laws and instead use new technology tools, capabilities, or legal authorities to fight cyber-crime. The draft proposal immediately raised privacy concerns with civil liberties groups

(a draft of the plan together with comments are available at and

12. Books, Web sites and Events

12.1. Books


This book focuses on the legal issues related to the use of communication networks for electronic trading.

RECHTSFRAGEN DER DIGITALEN SIGNATUR, EINE EINFUEHRUNG IN RECHT UND PRAXIS DER ZERTIFIZIERUNGSSTELLEN, by Thomas Hoeren/ Martin Schüngel, Erich Scmidt Verlag, Münster 1999, 431 pages, ISBN 3 503 04890 1, DM 98.

Written by a University professor and an engineer, this book examines, from the perspective of German and European law, the legal questions related to electronic signatures and the role of certification authorities.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY IN THE INTERNATIONAL MARKETPLACE : VALUATION, PROTECTION, EXPLOITATION AND ELECTRONIC COMMERCE, by Melvin Simensky, Neil J. Wilkof, Lanning G. Bryer, John Wiley & Sons, 1999, Hardcover 2nd edition, Vol 1, ISBN: 0471351083, Price $ 155.00.

This book examines the challenges to copyright posed by the Internet and the emerging Information superhighway.

12.2. Web sites

ICC International Court of Arbitration

The International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce provides access to the ICC arbitration rules and procedures, such as the rules of Arbitration, Maritime Arbitration, Optional Conciliation, Expertise as well as the Pre-Arbitral Referee Procedure Kits.


Digital Signature Law Survey

This Dutch site provides an overview of existing and proposed digital signature legislation world-wide.


Interactive Representative Direct-democracy

Created by a Swedish citizen initiative, this site proposes the use of modern communication technology to expand direct democracy, electronic referenda and citizen participation in decision - making.


12.3. Events

Le commerce électronique : vers un nouveau droit, 8-9 October 1999, Strasbourg, France, Faculté de droit, Place d'Athènes, amphi 2.

Co-organised by the University of Strasbourg and the University of Namur this colloquium will focus on the national and international law applicable to electronic commerce.

Registration : ULP Congrès : Mme GUIBERT, 19 rue du Mal Lefèbvre 67100 Strasbourg ; tel. 03 88 79 15 00 ; fax 03 88 39 53 18 ; email Information :

SaTeLex, Bi-annual Conference on Legal Issues of Satellite Communications and Electronic Commerce, 13 October 1999, Centre de Congrès Pierre Baudis, Toulouse France.

Hosted by the Law Faculty of Toulouse University, the conference will focus on legal issues of satellite communications and electronic commerce.

Conference website :

Internet-Verträge rechtssicher Gestalten, 25-26 October 1999, Dorinth Kongress Hotel, Köln, Germany.

This Conference will highlight, mainly from the perspective of German law, the security aspects bearing on the conclusion of on-line contracts.

Organiser : IIR Deutschland GmbH, Otto-Volger-Straße 17, D-65843 Sulzbach/Ts., Tel.: 06196/585 460, Fax: 06196/585 485, EMail:

Conference on "Tourism in the Information Society", Brussels, 12 November 1999, Charlemagne Building

Organised by the European Commission, this Conference aims at raising awareness of the opportunities offered and challenges posed by the Information Society to the tourism sector.

Further information on the event will soon be available at the following web address:

or by e-mail from:

Names, Numbers and Networks - Metadata, Intellectual Property and E-Commerce – the Way Ahead, 15 November 1999, Washington DC

Organised by <indecs> (interoperability of data in e-commerce systems) is an Info2000 project, supported by the European Commission DGXIII., an international initiative of rights owners creating metadata standards for e-commerce. The conference is formally co-sponsored by the US Copyright Office and the US Patent and Trademark Office and is financially supported by Muze Inc. There is no charge to attend this conference. However, places are limited to 120 and will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.

further information:

IT For The Next Generation, Legal Forum 1999, 30 November - 2nd December 1999, Radissom SAS Portman Hotel, London.

This event will encompass the latest legal developments in the electronic marketplace.

Organiser : IBC UK Conferences Ltd, Gilmoora House, 57-61 Mortimer Street, London W1N 8JX, Tel. + 44 171 637 4383 , Fax. + 44 171 631 3214.

Conference website :

Alliance against commercial cybercrime, Conference and simulation workshop, London, UK, 7-8 December 1999.

Organised by the International Chamber of Commerce in collaboration with law enforcement, the conference aims at assessing the extent of fraud and other crimes affecting commerce over the Internet and suggesting how business and regulators can combat commercial cybercrime.

Information: Stefan Draszczyk, Director, ICC Conferences, fax + 33 1 49 53 29 42, tel +33 1 49 53 28 70, e-mail:, Conference website:

13. Publisher, Editor and Contributors

Published by the European Commission


Richard Swetenham,


European Commission DG XIII-E-2,


EUFO 1166, rue Alcide de Gasperi, L-2920 LUXEMBOURG


tel: +352 4301 32400 fax: +352 4301 33190




Leonidas Kanellos, e-mail:


Stéphan Le Goueff, e-mail:


European Commission.


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