QuickLinks 151 - 8 April 2000

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Legal and regulatory issues

   Access to public sector information / IT in government


   Computer crime

  • Teen reportedly Hong Kong's first convicted Internet hacker (Agence France Press) A Hong Kong teenager has been sentenced to six months in jail for hacking into the Internet in the first case of its kind in the territory.

  • Aided by Internet, Identity Theft Soars (New York Times) Law enforcement authorities are becoming increasingly worried about a sudden, sharp rise in the incidence of identity theft, the outright pilfering of people's personal information for use in obtaining credit cards, loans and other goods.

   Content regulation

  • Computer programming languages protected by First Amendment (New York Times) Computer programs used to scramble electronic messages are protected by the First Amendment because those codes are a means of communication among programmers, the Federal 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled. see Junger v. Daley.

  • Chinese not fooled by April 1 e-mail ruse (FT) Chinese police have shut down a website that tried to boost the numbers visiting it with an April Fool's ruse. Cyberspace, they said, was no place for pranks. Police said the e-mail violated rules against publishing material that "twists or distorts facts, spreads rumours and disturbs social order".

   Copyright, trademarks and patents

  • ACLU lawyers appeal Cyber Patrol copyright ruling (CNET News.com) Lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Boston appealed a judge's order that barred three Web site operators from posting code online that cracked into Cyber Patrol's software that filters online pornography.

  • Movie group renews accusations in DVD cracking case (CNET News.com) The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), having obtained a court order prohibiting a man from posting instructions for cracking DVD security on their Web sites, is seeking another ruling to prevent him from directing his visitors to other Web sites that unlawfully publish the program. see also Group Appeals DVD Crypto Injunction (Newsbytes) and Now Showing on DVD: 'Loopholes' (Washington Post ).

  • Real Screaming over Streaming (Wired) When Streambox developed an application that hacks through RealNetworks' security layer and allows users to save RealAudio and G2 streams into formats such as MP3, RealNetworks filed a lawsuit accusing Streambox of unfair competition and violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

  • USA - Battling Censorware (Lawrence Lessig - The Industry Standard) Copyright law is limited by the Constitution. But when there are conflicts with the First Amendment, some courts lean the other way. Code that cracks a protection device is criminal under the DMCA even if the use of the copyrighted material that the code enables would be fair use.

  • Disney chief says Net must protect rights (Bloomberg News)

   Data Protection (privacy)

  • Digital signatures a threat to privacy? (ZDNN) Your ability to surf the Internet anonymously could be lost in the near future, if current plans to roll out digital signatures stay on track, warned a panel of experts at the Computers, Freedom and Privacy Conference.

  • You've Got Inappropriate Mail (New York Times) Hundreds of companies are looking at their employee's e-mail on a routine basis. And their numbers are soaring. Whatever the reason, the snooping raises a number of questions about ethics and privacy.

   Digital divide

  • Clinton Aims to Alleviate Digital Divide (AP) President Clinton called for bridging the gap between computer haves and have-nots, saying it is time to harness the Internet's "truly explosive" potential for helping those in poverty.

   Electronic commerce

  • Internet Gambling Prohibition Bill Passed (Newsbytes) The House Judiciary Committee approved legislation to outlaw most forms of Internet gambling, including in the bill an amendment that would prohibit states from conducting lotteries online. The bill also contains liability provisions for ISPs. The Senate passed a somewhat different Internet gambling ban at the end of 1999, which must now be reconciled with the House version in conference committee.

  • USA - N.J. Sues to Stop Online Pharmacy Sales (Newsbytes) The State of New Jersey has filed a civil suit against eight out-of-state "cyber drugstores," accused of selling popular prescriptions drugs - such as Viagra and the hair growth drug Propecia - without disclosing to buyers that they did not have a license to practice in the state.

   Information society and Internet policy

   Internet access and use

  • NZ Telecom ordered to restore rivals' free Internet service (Total Telecom) New Zealand's largest phone company has been blocked in its attempt to cut off free internet services provided by competitors. A High Court judge ordered Telecom to reconnect three internet numbers which it disconnected last weekend.

   IT in education

  • Technology Critic Takes On Computers in Schools (New York Times) Clifford Stoll, an astronomer, computer expert and gadfly who punctured hyperbolic claims about the societal benefits of technology in his last book, "Silicon Snake Oil", rejects the idea that students need to use computers intensively and at an early age to become computer literate. In fact, he says, the computer skills needed by adults in the modern world are relatively few and easily learned.

  • USA - Proposal to Build a School Web Site With Ads Aimed at Students (New York Times) The chancellor of the Board of Regents said that a proposal by the New York City Board of Education to build an Internet site that accepts corporate advertising, in exchange for computer equipment and services, deserves serious consideration as a means of introducing students from low-income families to the new technologies sweeping the country.

   Liability, jurisdiction and applicable law

   Protection of minors

  • USA - Bill Introduced to Punish Net Molesters (Newsbytes) Children's online safety advocate and pro-mandatory Internet filterer Rep. Bob Franks, R-N.J., introduced a bill that calls for mandatory prison sentences for people who use the Internet to find children for sexual encounters.

   Rating and filtering

  • European Office Extends Internet Content Rating Association's Worldwide Reach (Press release) The Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA), a non-profit organization committed to developing an internationally acceptable online content labeling system that protects children from harmful Internet content, has established a presence in Europe, opening a new European headquarters in Brighton, England. ICRA has appointed Ola-Kristian Hoff as director of ICRA Europe and Ken Handley as ICRA's technical director. see also Nordmann til topps i europeisk Internett-organisasjon (digi.no).

  • Internet Content Rating Association Establishes Worldwide Advisory Board (ICRA Press release) The Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA) has appointed a new advisory board that will assist the organization in revising its international filtering and labeling system that allows adults to restrict children's access to harmful Internet content. The board includes educators, policy experts and media professionals from eight different countries.

   Security and encryption

  • Infowar in Deutschland (Spiegel) "Der Schutz gegen Angriffe in elektronischen Informationssystemen ist lückenhaft", warnt das Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik in einem bislang unveröffentlichten Bericht.

  • Some Countries Seek Keys to Digital Code-Scramblers (New York Times) Governments around the world are relaxing their controls on the technology used to scramble computer communications and keep them secure. But according to the third international review of encryption policies that has been conducted by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), that trend is coupled with attempts by law enforcement authorities to gain new surveillance powers.

   Self-regulation / codes of conduct

  • Minister warns Internet firms on child porn (Irish Times) Ireland's Internet providers have been told by the Minister of State for Children that they must do more to combat child pornography. Ms Mary Hanafin was commenting on the failure by Internet providers to promote their own self-regulation initiative on child pornography on the home pages of their Websites.

  • Web Privacy Group to Offer a Seal of Approval (New York Times) An assortment of 26 Internet companies involved in advertising, the Personalization Consortium, will soon announce yet another organization to tackle the prickly issue of consumer privacy on the Web. The new group, is devising a set of guidelines for Web sites that collect data about users and their Net-surfing activities. The group's founders insist that the consortium will differ from other Web privacy groups because member sites will display a special seal indicating they adhere to its guidelines.

Market & Technology

   Data Protection (privacy)

  • Microsoft Announces Internet Tools to Control Web Privacy (AP) Microsoft promised free Internet tools based on emerging privacy standards for controlling how much information Web users reveal. The World Wide Web Consortium, an Internet standards group, may finalize the Platform for Privacy Practices, or P3P this summer.

   Electronic commerce

  • Visa et MasterCard ramènent les sites pornos sur Terre (Multimédium) Les ennemis de la porno en ligne ont deux nouveaux alliés: Visa et MasterCard. Beaucoup d'entreprises de pornographie sur Internet risquent de ne pas survivre à de nouvelles conditions plus strictes imposées par les deux géants des cartes de crédit.

   Internet access and use

  • A high-speed world (FT) Broadband - the term applied loosely to any high-speed interactive communications service, whether it arrives through a cable TV connection, a wireless link or a traditional telephone line - has become one of the great promises of the information revolution. It has also become the focus of massive investment, drawing billions of dollars into companies that are building networks, and creating services.


  • Big Publishers Looking Into Digital Books (New York Times) Traditional publishers are quickening their entrance into the emerging market of digital books with a mix of anxiety about security issues and optimism about nurturing new forms of literature.

  • Hold-up sur club.voilà.fr (Le Soleil se lève à l'Est) Après la rupture entre voila.fr et eGroups.com, des milliers d'adresses emails et de profils individuels quittent France Telecom (voila.fr) pour les amériques. voir aussi Voila pleure sur son fichier de 250 000 noms confisqué

  • Pearson, CLT-Ufa merge TV arms (CNNfn) British media company Pearson will merge its television business with that of pan-European broadcaster CLT-Ufa to create a company valued at 20 billion ($19 billion), which is jointly controlled by Germany's Bertelsmann and Audiofina, a holding company controlled by the Belgian financier Albert Frère.

  • Pepsi Takes the Plunge With an Online Campaign (New York Times) PepsiCo's recent announcement that it would conduct a joint promotion of its products with Yahoo, one of the most popular sites on the Internet, is promising news for Web site operators that have struggled to persuade the richest advertisers to spend their money online.


  • Cisco and Nokia in Wireless Deal (THESTREET.COM) Networking giant Cisco Systems and Finnish telecom company Nokia have inked an agreement to work together to improve compatibility between mobile and Internet protocol backbone networks.

  • Two more quit UK 3G auction (FT) SpectrumCo, the consortium led by Sonera, the Finnish telecoms operatore, became the highest profile casualty of the UK next generation mobile phone auction. Epsilon, a subsidiary of Nomura Securities, the Japanese investment bank, also withdrew. see also Irish telco withdraws from 3G race (vnunet.com).


  • Nortel leads Internet standards body (Reuters) Nortel Networks and more than 30 Internet infrastructure, content and service providers are banding together to find ways to improve delivery of content over the Web.


  • The new world of Gnutella (Sacramento Bee) A so-far unheralded program called Gnutella can make every connected computer on the Internet an independent, distributed node of information - essentially making the system invulnerable to censorship or accountability. Gnutella and programs like it operate not from central servers, but peer to peer. See also Napster Copies Move Forward (Wired) and Scour.net to Debut 'Son of Napster' (The Industry Standard).


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