QuickLinks 144 - 19 February 2000

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Legal and regulatory issues

   Access to public sector information / IT in government

   Audiovisual

  • UK - Channel 5 raises regulation issue (FT) CLT-Ufa, United News & Media and Pearson moves to increase their stakes in Channel 5, the terrestrial UK television broadcaster could have regulatory repercussions.

   Competition

  • Mergers Threaten Data Exchange System (New York Times) Upon completion of the Worldcom-Sprint merger, a single company would control nearly half of the Internet's backbone. The Internet relies on networks' passing data to one another. What happens if one of them refuses?

  • Microsoft Denies Offer To Open Windows Code (Reuters) Microsoft strongly denied that Chairman Bill Gates had said he would be willing to open the Windows operating system source code to competitors to settle an antitrust suit with the U.S. Justice Department.

  • EU - F1 racing 'may quit Europe' over broadcasting row (FT) The European Commission's move to force renegotiation of the broadcasting rights for Formula One auto racing risks driving the business out of Europe, the chief executive of Silverstone, home of the British Grand Prix, warned.

  • Switzerland - Les prix des Microsoft dans le collimateur en Suisse (AP) Les prix des produits Microsoft en Suisse sont dans le collimateur du Surveillant des prix qui a ouvert une enquête. L'an dernier, il a été rendu attentif au fait que les produits Microsoft sont nettement plus chers en Suisse qu'aux Etats-Unis.

  • USA - Airline Site Angers Travel Agents (Reuters) U.S. travel agents formally requested a Justice Department review of plans by a consortium of major airlines to set up an Internet travel service, saying it would violate antitrust laws.

  • USA - Online Auction Legal Wars Heat Up (E-Commerce Law Weekly) The online auction-comparison company Bidder's Edge responded to eBay's lawsuit against the company by asserting counterclaims that accuse eBay of "monopolization and attempted monopolization under the Sherman Act, unfair competition and interference with contractual relations".

   Computer crime

   Consumer protection

  • UK - Ensuring telephone bills are accurate (OFTEL) The document 'Ensuring Telephone Bills Are Accurate - A Statement on the Review of The OFTEL Meter Approvals Scheme for Public Telecommunications Operators' is available from OFTEL's website.

  • USA - FTC tackles online auction fraud (AP) Online auctions are one of the fastest growing areas of the Internet for both consumers and the con artists who prey on them. Federal and state law enforcement agencies announced a crackdown against Web scammers who offer goods they don't have or accept payments and don't deliver.

   Content regulation

  • Australia Using Law to Go After Objectionable Sites (New York Times) Australian legislation intended to restrict access to online pornography took effect on Jan. 1, and, slowly but surely, Web pages that officials deem objectionable are disappearing from their Australian Internet hosts.

   Convergence of telecommunications, media and information technology

  • German and French groups to form net alliance (FT) Deutsche Telekom, the leading German telecoms group, and Lagardère of France, the world's biggest magazine publisher, are to form a powerful cross-border internet alliance in a move that highlights further the importance of content on the web.

  • ISP's end run to high-speed service smothered (CNET News.com) Federal regulators put an end to at least one potential avenue for Internet service providers hoping to deliver high-speed Internet access by means of cable TV wires. see Internet Ventures Inc (FCC 00-37).

  • USA - Lawmakers wary of Internet TV broadcasting (Reuters) Internet companies are eager to carry broadcast TV programming over the Net, but lawmakers appear unwilling to quickly grant online firms a license to do so for fear of harming local television stations.

   Copyright, trademarks and patents

  • Cyberspace Prosecutor (Lawrence Lessig) There is a balance to be struck between the increasing technologies of control and a tradition of copyright law informed by limited terms, fair use and the values of the First Amendment.

  • Software Patents Tangle the Web (Technology Review) A profusion of new software patents on Internet business methods puts our notions of intellectual property to the biggest test yet.

  • USA - Internet side of Viacom’s MTV is in dispute over licensing fees (Wall Street Journal) The Internet side of Viacom's MTV Networks is feuding with two major record companies about licensing fees for its Internet radio business, just as Viacom prepares to take the unit public.

  • USA - Naked Ambition No Excuse for Internet Piracy (The Recorder/Cal Law) The 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles held that federal copyright law does not prevent someone - a photographer and nude models in this case - from seeking damages in state court if their likenesses are appropriated without their permission.

   Data Protection (privacy)

   Digital divide

  • Banks Urge Internet in Poor Nations (AP) Japan's Softbank and a unit of the World Bank will invest $500 million in Internet startups in developing nations. The International Finance Corp. and Softbank will set up Softbank Emerging Markets to provide technological, legal and management support to Internet business entrepreneurs in the developing world.

   Domain names

  • Bertelsmann Stiftung fördert europäische Beteiligung an ICANN-Wahlen (Pressemitteilung) [Bertelsmann Foundation funds project on voting for ICANN Board] Während die ICANN-Wahlen in den USA breit diskutiert werden, findet die fundamentale Weichenstellung, die mit der Wahlentscheidung einhergeht, bisher in Deutschland und Europa kaum Beachtung. Dieses Defizit zu beseitigen ist Ziel des Projektes "Demokratisches Internet" der Bertelsmann Stiftung.

  • Pacific Islands Seek Domain Control (New York Times) Pitcairn Island is leading an Internet mutiny of sorts that is expected to grow among tiny nations and territories. They are discovering that Internet addresses set aside for them have in many cases been lost to faraway companies.

  • Warning as web domain names double in year (Independent) The number of "domain names" being registered on the internet has more than doubled in the past year - but Net users are being warned to watch out for sharp practice and ripoffs against which they may have no comeback.

  • U.S. Teen Magazine Ousts Porn Cybersquatters (Reuters)

   Electronic commerce

  • Online gambling provokes internet test case (FT) The ability of national governments to regulate borderless activities on the internet will face an important legal test in the first federal prosecution of a sports gambling operation on the internet. Jay Cohen, a former stockbroker who runs World Sports Exchange, an online betting operation in Antigua, is charged with violating a 40-year-old law against using the telephone to gamble across state or federal borders.

  • USA - Va. Assembly Approves Internet Rules Over Consumers' Protest (Washington Post) Lawmakers made Virginia the first state to approve a uniform commercial code for Internet contracts.

   Electronic democracy

   Internet access and use

  • USA - AOL Ends Lobbying for Open Access (washingtonpost.com) For more than a year, America Online led a pitched battle to force cable television companies to share their links into homes with rivals. Then AOL essentially became a cable company: It agreed to buy Time Warner, securing a route into 20 million homes via the company's cable links. Now, AOL has pulled back from its "open access" crusade. see also AOL Halts Open Access Lobbying but States Follow Previous Lead (E-Commerce Law Weekly).

  • UK Chancellor stirs up local loop controversy (Silicon) Gordon Brown, the UK's Chancellor of the Exchequer, wants urgent progress to be made over the unbundling of the local loop. He is concerned the high cost of accessing the Internet is putting UK businesses at a competitive disadvantage and called for the July 2001 deadline given to BT by Oftel to open the loop to other operators to be brought forward. see also BT rebukes Brown on Internet access policy (Times).

  • USA - Florida Judge Rejects Most of Cable Lawsuit (Reuters) A federal judge has dismissed most of a cable company lawsuit challenging Broward County, Florida's requirement that they share their cable TV lines with competitors offering high-speed Internet access.

   Junk mail (spam)

  • USA - Lawmakers OK Internet Ad Bill (AP) Internet spammers would have to slap a crystal-clear "advertisement" label on all electronic junk mail and provide an easy way for consumers to scratch their names from mailing lists under a bill passed by a Colorado State House committee.

   Protection of minors

  • Weblife: children and the net (Guardian) Worried about what your children will see on the internet? You have every right to be.

  • EU - Safer Internet Awareness report (Childnet International / Fleishman Hillard) This report outlines the findings of a year long research study on safer Internet awareness commissioned by the European Commission. Click on "Results and Recommendations" and then "Summary Findings" or "Full Report".

   Racism and xenophobia

   Security and encryption

   Self-regulation / codes of conduct

   Telecommunications

Market & Technology

   Convergence of telecommunications, media and information technology

  • Digital TV with an English accent (Forbes) Video Networks delivers video-on-demand films, music videos, sports, news and classic television programming to homes in the U.K. over either a cable or ADSL (asynchronous digital subscriber line) connection to customers using dedicated set-top boxes. What makes Video Network's strategy particularly interesting is its ability to deliver digital television via telephone wires.

  • Study: TV and Web Get Simultaneous Play (The Industry Standard) Cyber Dialogue finds more than 10.2 million adults, or 14 percent of the online population, have their TV sets on while they're surfing the Web. The figure represents an increase of almost 2 million adults compared to 18 months ago.

  • UK - Live Premiership football on the Web (zdnet UK) Premiership football matches will be broadcast live on the Internet if Britain's leading Internet service provider, Freeserve, gets its way.

  • UK - BSkyB To Offer Satellite Boxes With Hard Discs (Newsbytes)

   Electronic commerce

  • Commerzbanz, T-Online net venture (FT) Commerzbank, Germany's third largest bank, and T-Online, Germany's largest internet service provider, have joined forces to provide online financial services across Europe.

  • EMI heads toward full digital distribution (CNET News.com) EMI Recorded Music has teamed with Supertracks to create a system to digitally distribute music--a major sign that the "Big Five" record labels are starting to get over their long-running love affair with CDs.

  • European airlines may fly internet travel agency (FT) Ten of Europe's largest airlines - including Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa, KLM and Swissair - are in advanced negotiations on the launch of a joint internet travel agency.

  • Porn's Parallel Web Universe (Upside) Porn often does it first. The issues and innovations of the adult-oriented Internet appear in the mainstream world 18 months later. Banners, selling clicks, hot-link referred revenue sharing - all originated in the adult entertainment industry on the Internet. The current adult Internet industry's techniques: outsourcing, recurring billing, streaming video, and cross-links to competitors.

  • U.S. Big In European E-retail (Newsbytes) US companies generated 20 percent of the revenue in the western European online retail market last year and local firms will lose out unless they get with it. Even though the European e-commerce market is experiencing strong growth - 200 percent in 1999 - market penetration lags behind the US by perhaps two years.

  • UK bookies in £100m online venture (Yahoo UK) UK bookmaker Ladbrokes has moved into the online betting arena with the launch of two Gibraltar-based tax-free gambling sites. bet.co.uk is aimed at the UK market, while ladbrokes.com is a multilingual, multicurrency site.

  • UK - 'E-fail' for the online retailers (Evening Standard) Online retailers are failing to reply to shoppers' e-mail queries, a new report claims. Almost a third of 26 websites failed to respond to a simple e-mail enquiry or took up to three days to reply - or supplied poor, computer-generated answers.

   Employment and social issues

   Internet access and use

  • AOL France teste l'internet à 300 F par mois, tout compris (Yahoo FR) AOL France teste en ce moment auprès de quelques abonnés un tarif forfaitaire inédit : "internet téléphone" de manière illimitée, et ce pour 300 F par mois.

  • Faster Web Connections Prompt More Surfing at Work (Reuters) Much to the chagrin of many managers and supervisors, people are spending more time surfing the Internet at work than they are at home, mainly because home Web connection speeds pale in comparison to the faster connections that companies give their employees.

  • Killer apps of the wireless web (FT) The wireless internet is taking shape at break-neck speed - and it is already clear that it will not look like its fixed-line predecessor.

  • Telewest to offer flat rate net (FT) Telewest, the UK's largest cable company, has announced plans to introduce unlimited internet access and usage for a flat monthly £10 fee.

  • Telia & Oracle To Form Mobile Internet Services Firm (Reuters) Swedish state telecom operator Telia and Oracle, the world's second largest independent software group, are forming a joint company to develop mobile Internet services.

   IT in education

   Market

   Portals, browsers and search engines

  • Portals Draw Lion's Share of Audiences (NUA) The top portals continue to dominate the traffic rankings in the world's major Internet markets. Yahoo is one of the top 5 most visited sites in all of the countries monitored while MSN, AOL, Geocities are all hugely popular. Microsoft, Hotmail and ICQ applications also featured highly.

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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, Alan Reekie, Rupert Selzer