QuickLinks 139 - 16 January 2000

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Legal and regulatory issues

   Access to public sector information / IT in government

  • UK - Government high-tech plans to shake up Whitehall (zdnet UK) Is Knowledge Network Project a way to streamline the civil service, or a tool to enforce party loyalty? The government is to launch an electronic information systemaimed at streamlining the civil service and eliminating bureaucracy..


  • UK - Hague launches attack on digital TV fee (FT) William Hague launches an aggressive Conservative campaign against a proposed digital licence fee, with a passionate attack on mis-spending and waste at the BBC. As the government moves close to a decision on whether to levy a £24 annual supplement on digital subscribers, the opposition leader described the plan as "obnoxious".


   Computer crime

  • Net blamed for new Columbine High School threats (The Register) A Florida teenager was suffering from 'Internet intoxication' when he allegedly threatened a high school student online, his lawyer claimed. The teenager is accused of sending a message via AOL threatening to 'finish what begun' at the Colorado high school last April, when a dozen students and a teacher were gunned down.

  • Germany - Prozess wegen Kindesmissbrauchs eröffnet (Spiegel Online) Weil er ein Mädchen sexuell missbraucht und anschließend Bilder der Gewalttat im Internet verbreitet haben soll, muss sich ein 46-jähriger Mann aus Delmenhorst seit heute vor dem Landgericht Konstanz verantworten.

   Content regulation

  • Australia - Government slams Net censorship criticism (Newswire) The Federal Government has dismissed criticism by the Eros Foundation, an adult industry association, that of its controversial Net censorship legislation are unconstitutional, saying the establishment of the new scheme "is clearly within Commonwealth constitutional power".

  • GOP On Net Taxes And Porn (Newsbytes) Electronic commerce taxes must be eliminated, and Internet porn should be also, and if it isn't, it should be taken out of the reach of children, according to Republican residential hopefuls at the latest GOP debate.

  • The Net is a deadly poison say rabbis (The Register) Leading Israeli rabbis have banned the Internet from Jewish homes after dubbing it a thousand times more dangerous than TV. The ultra-orthodox Council of Torah Sages signed the ruling, which also slammed computers, CD players and films, calling the Web the "world's leading cause of temptation."

  • France - Rencontres d'Autrans : comment réguler Internet? (Le Monde) Internet pose de manière récurrente la même question aux juristes et aux pouvoirs publics. Faut-il adapter les règles existantes ou en promouvoir de nouvelles, totalement inédites?

  • Ireland - Board to monitor illegal use of the Internet (Irish Times) The former Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Eamonn Barnes, has agreed to act as chairman of a new board which will consider ways to control the illegal and harmful use of the Internet. This arises from concerns about the proliferation of sites offering services such as child pornography on the Internet.

  • France - L'Internet français réclame un arbitre à son image (Libération)

   Convergence of telecommunications, media and information technology

  • BSkyB: Regulator may ease restrictions (FT) The UK competition regulator is to review the position of the BSkyB satellite network in light of the growth of digital television and the rapid consolidation in the pay-TV sector.The Office of Fair Trading will re-examine how BSkyB, controlled by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, supplied its channels to cable operators. The move means some restrictions imposed on BSkyB in 1996 may be removed.

  • NBC, CBS in 'Virtual' War Over Digital Logo (Reuters) 'Virtual' war erupted between two TV networks as NBC demanded CBS stop using digitally-created images like the logo that blocked out NBC's huge video advertising screen in Times Square during New Year's Eve broadcasts.

  • Telecoms and cable groups face a changing landscape (FT) Cable television companies on both sides of the Atlantic have been the big winners so far from America Online's planned all-stock acquisition of Time Warner. This week's deal also looks set to shift the balance of power in the developing US broadband communications industry, altering the landscape for a wide range of telecoms and cable groups.

   Copyright, trademarks and patents

   Data Protection (privacy)

  • FTC's eBay Move Gets Mixed Reactions (Law News Network) The Federal Trade Commission's move to help the Internet auction site eBay enforce its user agreement and privacy policy is generating mixed reactions from Internet lawyers and consumer rights advocates. see also Web Auction Co. Settles Complaint

  • USA - Online Chat Case Raises Questions About Privacy Law (New York Times) In 12 states, it is illegal to record your own telephone conversations without the consent of the person at the other end of the line. Now a judge in Washington, one of those privacy-conscious states, has ruled that the state's law does not apply to the new world of e-mail and online chats.

  • USA - Supreme Court Upholds Drivers' Privacy Law (EPIC) In Condon v. Reno, the Supreme Court has unanimously held that Congress did not exceed its constitutional authority when it enacted legislation establishing privacy safeguards for motor vehicle records held by state agencies. Central to the Court's decision was the fact that information obtained by state motor vehicle agencies is now routinely sold in interstate commerce.

   Domain names

  • Hyphen Domain Names Rejected (Newsbytes) The body charged with managing the Internet's critical domain name system (DNS) this week revoked more than 800 newly registered domain names. But contrary to widespread reports, the revocations were made on the basis of a technical problem, not to quell the specter of "cybersquatting".

  • Porn Site Must Give Up Name (Newsbytes) A federal judge ordered the operator of a hardcore pornography Website to stop using the "teenmagazine.com" domain name, arguing that failing to do so could irreparably harm the image and reputation of Teen Magazine, a monthly glossy aimed at girls aged 12-17.

   Electronic commerce

  • Online Sales Spur Illegal Importing of Medicine (New York Times) The federal government's seizures of imported drugs soared last year to thousands of parcels containing millions of pills as consumers turned to online drugstores based overseas for bargains, illicit substances and prescriptions they are embarrassed to seek from their physicians.

  • Web prescriptions get all clear from UK authorities (Silicon) The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has succumbed to pressure from Pharmacy 2U, an Internet start-up, to alter guidelines endorsing the sale of pharmaceuticals online. Anyone in the UK can submit requests, and pay for prescription drugs online. Once the company has received the required prescription note in the post, they will send the drugs to the customer.

   Electronic democracy

   Information society and Internet policy

  • European Parliament Internet Group launch (E-PING!) A new discussion forum for Internet issues will be launched at the January plenary session of the European Parliament, on 19 January 2000 - Strasbourg, France. The aim of the forum is to enhance understanding of online technology issues in the Parliament, with as much cross-party input as possible. A CD showing how the Internet works will be launched at the first meeting. A discussion on the cost of Internet access in Europe will also be held.

  • Anschluss verzweifelt gesucht (Spiegel online) Das Thema war vorgegeben. Beim ersten europäischen Gipfeltreffen über die Nutzung des Internets beherrschte eine Frage die Diskussion: Wie kann Europa - angesichts der Mega-Fusion von AOL und Time Warner - Anschluss an die Entwicklung in den USA finden?

  • Europe's competitive position in the Internet-based economy (RAPID) Address by Mrs Viviane Reding, Member of the European Commission responsible for Education and Culture at the Internet european Summit, Madrid.

  • KnowRight 2000 - InfoEthics Europe Conference (Austrian Computer Society, UNESCO) 26 - 29 September 2000 - Vienna, Austria. Major conference topics are Net-Law and Intellectual Property, Net Commerce, Net Security, Net Crime, Information Ethics. Workshops will be organised on Standardisation, Patents, NetLaw/WebLaw, New Media and Multimedia, Cryptography, Copyright Management.

  • EU - Prodi launches "eEurope" (RAPID) The European Commission has launched an initiative entitled "eEurope An Information Society for All", which proposes ambitious targets to bring the benefits of the Information Society within reach of all Europeans. The initiative focuses on ten priority areas, from education to transport and from healthcare to the disabled. The initiative is a key element in the President's strategy to modernise the European economy. [New URL for eEurope home page]

  • Virtuelle Sit-ins und digitaler Devotionalienhandel (Spiegel Online)

   IT in education

   Junk mail (spam)

  • Opt-Out Site for Spam Draws Criticism (New York Times) The Direct Marketing Association launched a Web site where consumers can request that their e-mail addresses be removed from lists used to send unsolicitedcommercial e-mail. But the service came under immediate attack from groups pushing for stronger regulation of such messages, often known as spam.

  • Spammer Apologizes (Newsbytes) Individual Investor Group Inc., has won a public apology as part of a settlement in a lawsuit against a man who sent unsolicited e-mail - or "spam" - over the Internet under the firm's trademark.

   Liability, jurisdiction and applicable law

  • EU assembly urges rewrite of draft Internet law (Reuters) A European Parliament report calls on the European Commission to rework a proposal which as it stands would allow Internet shoppers to sue online firms in the shopper's own country rather than the country where the online firm is based.

   Millennium bug

  • Y2K: The Fix Is In, but Who's to Pay? (Law News Network) Bug's effects will be unknown for months, lawyers warn - The lights are still on, and canned goods are on grocery shelves--but Y2K lawyers aren't willing to declare the crisis over.

   Multilingual content and software

  • Accord sur le programme "Culture 2000" (RAPID) A la suite de l'accord intervenu au sein du comité de conciliation, le Conseil et le Parlement européen peuvent maintenant procéder à l'adoption du programme "Culture 2000", nouvel instrument unique de financement et de programmation en faveur de la coopération culturelle.

   Protection of minors

  • Council Conclusions (Official Journal) Council Conclusions of 17 December 1999 on the protection of minors in the light of the development of digital audiovisual services OJ 12.01.2000 C8/8.

   Rating and filtering

   Security and encryption

  • Crack Exposes Holes in the Web (wired.com) There are Web site cracks, there are break-ins, and there are thefts. But now and then one rises above the fray toteach a sudden lesson about all things Internet. That was the case with the news that a major Web database had possibly been cracked, exposing up to 300,000 credit card numbers. See also Biggest hacking fraud ever (zdnet UK)

  • U.S. Removes More Limits on Encryption Technology (New York Times) The Clinton administration lifted more of the licensing requirements on software products that are used to keep computer data and communications secure after industry complaints last fall that its efforts to rewrite the rules still placed American companies at a disadvantage. See also Revised U.S. Encryption Export Control Regulations and Crypto compromise a lawyers' delight (zdnet).

  • White House Cyberterrorism Plan (Newsbytes) President Clinton today unveiled his long awaited counter-cyberterrorism plan, which asks Congress for more than $2 billion to beef up computer security at federal agencies as well as in private sector institutions that play key roles in the nation's critical infrastructure.

  • UK - Hacker scare hits Virgin Net (BBC) Thousands of Virgin e-mail users are being issued with new passwords after the company found a hacker had been attempting to tap into its mailing system.

  • USA - Hackers penetrate nuclear weapons labs (BBC) Teenage hackers stole thousands of internet accounts and used them to scan the networks of two national laboratories involved in the nuclear weapons programme, authorities in the US state of California have said. The five hackers, aged 15-17, hacked 26 internet service providers in theUS and overseas.


  • L'opérateur historique prêt à libéraliser l'Internet rapide (Le Monde) France Télécom se dit dorénavant prêt à jouer le jeu de la concurrence sur l'une de ses dernières chasses gardées, la « boucle locale », c'est-à-dire la dernière partie du réseau qui arrive jusqu'à la prise téléphonique de l'abonné. C'est sur cette ligne de cuivre que la technologie de l'ADSL permet de centupler la vitesse de transmission des données sur le réseau mondial.

  • UK launches $2.5bn mobile auction (FT) A government auction of licences for the UK's next-generation mobile telephone services has attracted potential bidders from around the world, including the US, Japan and Australia.The government hopes the auction will keep Britain at the forefront of the electronic revolution.

   Who' s who

Market & Technology

   Convergence of telecommunications, media and information technology

   Electronic commerce


  • Vodafone loads big guns for Net war (zdnet) Vodafone AirTouch Plc signed up top Internet technology and content providers for a global platform and branded portal for mobile data and Internet.

   Portals, browsers and search engines

  • This Search Engine Sees What You Mean (PC World) Researchers at NEC's C&C Media Laboratories say they have developed the first prototype of a search engine capable of locating digital images, photographs, and video scenes regardless of data format.


  • IDC Research: One Quarter of Europeans Now Online (NUA) One quarter of Western Europeans now have access to the Internet and 5 percent have made online purchases. The survey showed that Internet penetration and the popularity of online shopping continues to vary wildly around Europe. Almost 60 percent of Swedish people are online, while only 16 percent of the French use the Internet. More than one quarter of British Internet users have purchased online but only 1 or 2 percent of Spanish users have done likewise.


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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