QuickLinks 138 - 9 January 2000

Forthcoming events | Background items

Legal and regulatory issues

   Access to public sector information / IT in government

  • Police taking reports online (Mercury News) The San Jose Police Department has begun accepting misdemeanor crime reports by Internet, mail or fax -- following through on its promise to provide victims with alternatives to waiting on jammed phone lines.

  • USA - Finally up to speed: Governor's got e-mail (Silicon Valley News) California Gov. Gray Davis announced he has an e-mail address. Aides aid it took more than a year to develop because the governor was adamant that those who e-mailed him would receive a prompt response.

  • USA - Judicial Committee Prohibits Judges’ Financial Disclosure on Internet (E-Commerce Law Weekly) The Committee on Financial Disclosure of the U.S. Judicial Conference voted to deny the request from a news organization for the 1998 financial disclosure reports of all judges for publication on the Internet.



  • Affaire Micro Leader : Microsoft France défend ses prix (ZDNet France) Microsoft France a tenu à réagir à notre article du 22 décembre impliquant sa politique tarifaire entre le Canada et la France, qui risque d'être à l'origine d'une enquête à son encontre pour procédés anticoncurrentiels.

  • EU Closing NSI Investigation (The Standard) The European Commission will shortly send a letter to the U.S. government withdrawing its concerns that Network Solutions is abusing its dominant position in the market for registration of domain names.

  • EU delays MSFT ruling (Reuters) The European Commission cancelled a deadline to rule on Microsoft's purchase of MediaOne's 29.7 percent stake in British cable group Telewest Communications because of problems with the regulatory filing of the deal.

  • EU - Commission adopts new competition rules for the distribution sector (RAPID) The Commission has adopted a Regulation on the application of Article 81(3) of the Treaty to supply and distribution agreements, that are agreements for the sale or purchase of goods or services between companies operating at different levels of the production or distribution chain. This Regulation will, together with forthcoming Guidelines, reform a key area of competition policy.

  • EU - Commission authorises Mannesmann acquisition of Orange (RAPID) The European Commission has authorised, under the Merger Regulation, the acquisition by the German telecommunications and engineering group Mannesmann of the UK-based telecommunications operator Orange. The approval is subjected to the condition that Mannesmann sells Orange's stake in Connect Austria, a mobile telephon operator in Austria.

  • EU - Commission authorises takeover of CDnow by Time Warner and Sony (RAPID) The European Commission has cleared the takeover of Cdnow by Time Warner and Sony. CDnow's share of the market in which it operates is low, as are those of Time Warner and Sony. At the horizontal level therefore the operation will not lead to the creation or strengthening of a dominant position.

  • EU - Commission clears telecommunications joint venture in Italy (RAPID) The European Commission has authorised the creation of a full-function co-operative joint venture, BLU, between British Telecom and the Italian motorway operator Autostrade for the provision of mobile telecommunications services in Italy.

  • UK - Cable TV: Merger faces extra restriction (FT) The Competition Commission is considering whether to require NTL and Cable & Wireless Communications, the cable operators, to open their networks to competitors in return for being allowed to merge. see also Consumer group supports cable merger (FT).

  • USA - Microsoft loses bid to oust Lessig (PC Week) Microsoft Corp.'s appeal to remove Lawrence Lessig as an advisor to the United States District Court in the software giant's ongoing antitrust case was denied by a federal judge.

   Computer crime

   Consumer protection

  • Consumer complaints made to OFTEL (OFTEL) For the first time, OFTEL is publishing details on the complaints made by the public to OFTEL about individual telecoms companies.

  • Online share-trading case sparks controversy (FT) The case against Tokyo Joe, the New York-based online stock picker who was sued by US regulators, has triggered a legal controversy surrounding one of the murkier areas of internet law. it may help set clear parameters for potentially fraudulent acts by amateur, unlicensed stock advisers on the internet. If taken to the courts, the case may also come down to a clash between First Amendment protections of speech and securities regulations in the new world of online investing and advisement.

  • TMA chief slams Oftel over Web inaccuracies (Silicon) Former TMA chairman, Martyn Hart, has criticised UK telecoms regulator, Oftel, for giving out inaccurate information on its price comparison Web site. Hart concluded that corporates are better off using the more reliable and detailed Web site set up by the EU which can also be tailored specifically for business use.

  • Web Auction Co. Settles Complaint (AP) ReverseAuction.com, an online auction company, agreed to settle charges by the Federal Trade Commission that it sent deceptive e-mail to customers of its Internet auction rival, eBay. see also Online Auction Site Settles FTC Privacy Charges (FTC Press release).

   Content regulation

   Copyright, trademarks and patents

  • USA - DVDs: judge denies temporary restraining order (Law News Network) A motion by a movie-industry group for a temporary restraining order aimed at stopping the distribution of software and information that can be used to sidestep the encryption scheme on DVDs was denied. see also DVD coalition files piracy suits (vnunet.com ), DVDCA and the Big Lie (Linux Weekly News / Eric S. Raymond) and Netizens unite against Big Business over DVDs (Mercury News).

  • DVD Lawsuit Questions Legality of Linking (New York Times (registration required)) Under what circumstances, if any, is hyperlinking to information in cyberspace legally taboo?

  • eBay Sues Auction Comparison Website for Infringement (E-Commerce Law Weekly) Websites that function as auction-comparison sites - consolidating information from multiple auction websites so that auction shoppers can look for bargains in one convenient place - may have to rethink their business models. eBay, which pioneered the burgeoning Internet auction market, filed a lawsuit against the Massachusetts company Bidders Edge, claiming that defendant’s indexing of and links to information on the eBay website infringes on eBay’s copyrights and is trespassory and unfair use of the eBay site.

  • High Tech Sector Sounds Alarm Over Canada CD Levy (Reuters) A new surcharge to be levied on blank recording tapes and CDs is expected to raise C$9 million (US$6.1 million) for performers in 2000. The fees will reimburse Canadian artists who do not receive royalties for music that is privately recorded.

  • Real wins temporary injunction in software lawsuit (CNET News.com) A U.S. District Court judge has granted a temporary injunction against Streambox in a lawsuit filed against the software maker by RealNetworks for copyright infringement and unfair competition. The focus of the suit is a Steambox product called Ripper, software that "rips," or converts, CD and RealAudio files to the popular MP3 format.

  • Swedish Court Clears Teen for Linking to MP3s (Slashdot) A 17 year old was charged with various offences relating to linking pirated MP3s. The court decided that "it is legal to have links to pirated music on a homepage in Sweden if the links are to a server in a country where it isn't illegal to pirate music." (Metro 28. December 1999, p. 16 in Swedish) see also Translation of the Metro article to English.

  • U.S. judge disallows a 'meta-tag' that misrouted dieters (National Law Journal) A U.S. judge has issued an order barring third-party sites from advertising or promoting products by incorporating meta-tags referring to a competing product. The judge also ordered the hosting services to disclose names and addresses of owners of anonymous third-party sites using Stacker meta-tags.

  • USA - Ask Jeeves Patent Infringement (computer currents) A professor and a research scientist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have filed a lawsuit against online search engine Ask Jeeves, saying the service infringes upon patents the two hold in "natural language" question-and-answer technology. See also Ask Jeeves says to defend patent suit by MIT profs (Reuters).

  • USA - Web Copyright Ruling Appeal (Newsbytes) A California photographer plans to appeal a federal court ruling which said that Arriba Soft did not violate copyright law by posting his images on its image search engine.

   Data Protection (privacy)

  • Online Privacy At Risk (computer currents) The privacy of millions of Americans doing their last-minute holiday shopping online is at risk, according to a study, from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). The privacy research group says that only a few of the 100 most popular shopping Websites actually provide adequate privacy protections for consumers.

  • Opinion on "Safe harbour" principles (Art 29 Committee) Opinion 7/99 on the Level of Data Protection provided by the "Safe Harbor" Principles as published together with the Frequently Asked questions (FAQs) and other related documents by the US Department of Commerce.

  • USA - Privacy Complaint Against Amazon (Newsbytes) An Internet security expert has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against Amazon.com, alleging that its Internet software subsidiary Alexa violates existing privacy laws.

   Digital signatures

  • Making E-Contracts Count (wired) With the introduction of the Electronic Information and Documents Act Saskatchewan, became the first Canadian province to try to define the legal ground rules for electronic commerce.

   Domain names

   Electronic commerce

   Electronic democracy

   Employment and social issues

  • Employers Crack Down on Personal Internet Use (New York Law Journal) More and more employers, concerned that uncontrolled Internet usage is reducing employee productivity, clogging up network traffic and creating potential liability for sexual harassment and other suits, are beginning to implement policies to monitor and restrict employees' Web usage at work. see also Cyberveillance at work (CNNfn).

   Information society and Internet policy


  • Police admit to concerns over wire-tapping bill (silicon.com) Police forces in England and Wales have issued their responses to the Home Office's controversial wire-tapping proposals, and while they are broadly in line, the forces acknowledge certain areas need attention.

   Internet access and use

   Liability, jurisdiction and applicable law

  • Workshop on service provider liability (WIPO) Papers on online service provider liability for copyright infringement; a look back at the notice-takedown provisions of the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act one year after enactment; notice and take-down agreements in practice in Europe - views from the internet service provider and telecommunications industries and the recording industry.

   Protection of minors

  • New Website on advertising and children (AEF) The Advertising Education Forum (AEF) is a non-profit organisation for all parties interested in issues relating to advertising and children in Europe. The AEF provides a neutral forum in which the advertising issues may be discussed and in which constructive dialogue is achieved. AEF provides academic and scientific data on advertising and children and serves as a centre for research on the issue.

   Racism and xenophobia

  • Is Hate for Sale? (LA Times) A Wiesenthal Center project contends Internet sales of Nazi paraphernalia perpetuate bigotry. Merchants say if it's not illegal, it's fair game. see also Hate sites on the Web, revisited (Yahoo! Internet Life).

  • Racism: First annual report (European Monitoring Centre on Racism) The report has been published in two parts. Part 1 is entitled "Giving Europe a soul" - setting up the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia. Part 2 is entitled "Looking reality in the face" - the situation regarding racism and xenophobia in the European Community.

   Rating and filtering

   Security and encryption

  • AOL Hacker Gets 5 Years Without PC (Las Vegas Sun) A young man who hacked into America Online's computers and replaced their programs with his own was sentenced to a year in jail - and five years without a home PC.

  • USA - Judge Critical of Army Web Site (AP) A federal judge criticized the U.S. Army's efforts to keep its public World Wide Web site secure after a 20-year-old man said it was easy to hack into it.


   Who' s who

  • Jeff Bezos: Time's 'Person of the Year' (Reuters) Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, the young American entrepreneur whose vision of a giant Internet bookstore helped pioneer the global online shopping revolution, was named as Time magazine's Person of the Year.

Market & Technology

   Convergence of telecommunications, media and information technology

   Electronic commerce


   Millennium bug

  • Nearly all companies escape Y2K unharmed (NUA Internet Surveys) Three out of four IT professionals say their companies had no Y2K related problems, according to the results of a new survey from TechWeb. Of the companies that did have problems, 80 percent reported that only insignificant glitches were experienced. Four percent of respondents said that the Y2K changeover caused significant severe interruption to their company's business.

   Multilingual content and software

  • Local Web Sites Most Popular in Europe (Reuters) Four U.S. Web brands continue to dominate the European Internet landscape but Germany's T-Online and France's Wanadoo were the most visited sites in their home markets. Freeserve was Britain's favorite.

   Portals, browsers and search engines

  • Portal wars are over - guess who won (ZDNN) Lycos and the GO Network, put down your weapons and surrender. The portal wars are over, and you lost. So says a new study from Forrester Research. AltaVista and Excite also need to pull down their flags. The winners: America Online, Yahoo! and, perhaps surprisingly, the Microsoft Network.

  • Web search results still have human touch (CNET News.com)

   Security and encryption


  • Belgian survey (ISPA Belgium) The recent update of the Internet market survey is available.

  • CNET: Net Phone Calls Increasingly Popular (NUA Internet Surveys) Internet telephony soared in popularity during 1999, with more than 12 times the number of calls made over the Internet last year than in 1998. Two and a half billion telephone calls were made using voice-over-Internet-protocol (VoIP)in 1999. This amounts to an increase of 2.3 billion calls over the last 12 months.

  • E-tailing sites up; content sites down (Reuters) Shopping Web sites showed big gains in visitors during November, according to the monthly study by market research group Media Metrix, while content-supported networks held steady or slipped.

  • Freeserve surpasses expectations (FT) Freeserve yesterday surprised analysts and investors with better than expected quarterly figures and consolidated its position as the UK's largest internet access provider with 1.7m active users.

  • Frustrations of online shopping (FT) Internet-based holiday shopping reached record levels this year, but it also left many frustrated users who abandoned potential purchases, according to two market research reports.

  • ISPs just want to be free (Volta NetGains) New trends and new entrants among the sector of Internet service providers (ISPs) in Ireland during the past year.

  • Mobile eCommerce Boom Expected in Europe (NUA Internet Surveys) More than 219 million people, or one-third of the European population, will access Internet services using mobile phones by 2003, according to Forrester Research. Nearly 120 million Europeans already use mobile phones and they exchange more than 2 billion short message service (SMS) text messages each month.

  • Surfers Warm Up to Personalized Content (The Industry Standard) Despite privacy worries, the number of surfers who submit information in order to receive personalized content online has doubled in the past year.

  • Web success to be measured in new ways (CNET News.com) Forget about hits and page views. Determining online success involves tracking what consumers do when they visit Web sites rather than how many eyeballs hit the screen, a new study says.


  • Intel chooses Linux for new Web device range (vnunet.com) Linux has stolen a march over Windows after Intel opted this week to use the free operating system for a range of new Web appliances, pushing aside Microsoft, its long-term OS partner.

  • Intel to launch 'web appliances' (FT) Intel, the world's largest semiconductor maker, plans to launch a range of consumer "web appliances" - computer-like devices giving high-speed internet access.

  • Singing the praises of a compression system (FT) The head of Bath University's Video Coding Laboratory has devised a new video compression technology which involves breaking down the data into "wavelets", highly efficient packets of information, and can carry more than twice the amount of information in the same amount of bandwidth as any rival technology.


  • Sunrise wages price war against Swisscom (FT) Sunrise, a new Swiss telecommunications company with powerful international backing, has started a price war in the lucrative Swiss market by undercutting Swisscom, the former monopoly carrier, by up to 74 per cent.

   Who' s who


Links to news items about legal and regulatory aspects of Internet and the information society, particularly those relating to information content, and market and technology.

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QuickLinks is edited by Richard Swetenham richard.swetenham@cec.eu.int - Contributors: NewsNow UK, MediaGrok, David Goldstein, Gerhard Heine, Patrizio Menchetti, Rupert Selzer