QuickLinks 173 - 15 October 2000

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Legal and regulatory issues



  • EU gives OK to Vivendi-Seagram union (AP) European Union regulators cleared the $30 billion media deal between France's Vivendi and Canada's Seagram after the companies agreed to address antitrust concerns about Europe's pay-TV market. The deal brings together Vivendi's European cable TV, satellite and Internet distribution systems and Seagram's interests in Hollywood and music, Universal Studios and Universal Music Group, to create a global media conglomerate: Vivendi Universal. The European Commission said Vivendi had agreed to sell its 20 percent stake in British pay-TV group British Sky Broadcasting.

  • EU - Commission gives conditional approval to AOL/Time Warner merger (RAPID) The European Commission has approved the proposed merger between America Online Inc (AOL) and Time Warner Inc after AOL offered to sever all structural links with German media group Bertelsmann AG. The proposed undertakings will prevent AOL from having access to Europe's leading source of music publishing rights thereby eliminating the risk of dominance in the emerging markets for on-line delivery of music over the Internet and software-based music players.

  • Microsoft judge defends post-trial conduct (FT) The judge in the landmark Microsoft antitrust case has defended himself against accusations of judicial misconduct, saying comments he made to the press after the trial's conclusion fell within the boundaries set by federal codes of conduct.

  • USA - FCC puts brakes on AOL-Time Warner review (CNET) The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) suspended its review of America Online's purchase of Time Warner until the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) makes a decision on the transaction, possibly delaying final U.S. action.

   Computer crime

  • Cybercrime Treaty: Take Two (SecurityFocus) Following months of criticism from industry, security and privacy experts, the Council of Europe released a new draft of its international treaty on Cybercrime. David Banisar says it's bigger and badder than ever.

  • Interpol 'overwhelmed' by cybercrime (Silicon) Law enforcers are incapable of fighting the growing problem of cyber-crime, according to the outgoing head of international crime agency Interpol.

  • Canada - RCMP urges special squad on Web crime (Ottawa Citizen) The RCMP wants to create a special agency to police the growing number of outlaws on the electronic frontier. The proposed Internet crimes reporting centre would be a national hub for all matters pertaining to illegal activity on the rapidly expanding web of global computer networks.

  • Germany - BKA: Markt für Kinderpornografie wächst (Heise Online) Der Markt für Kinderpornografie im Internet wächst nach Einschätzung des Bundeskriminalamtes (BKA) beständig. Die Ermittler machen dies vor allem an der Größe von sichergestellten Datensammlungen fest.

   Content regulation

   Copyright, trademarks and patents

  • OpenTV Claims It Invented 'One-Click Shopping' In 1994 (Newsbytes) In the same week that retailers Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com were back in court arguing over a "one- click" approach to checking out of online stores, a third technology company announced it has claimed the right to what could be the same invention.

  • USA - Fear of a Pay-Per-Use World (Wired) Critics of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act are asking the librarian of Congress to preserve traditional fair-use and free-speech rights by carving out exceptions to the law.

   Data Protection (privacy)

   Digital divide

   Domain names

  • BBC Wins Bbcnews.com Domain Name (Washington Post) The British Broadcasting Corp. has won the right to the domain name www.bbcnews.com in an international ruling.

  • Canada torches all .ca domain names - owners must reapply (The Register) The new non-profit organisation set up to deal with .ca domains, the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, has decided to make everyone reapply for their URLs.

  • Domain Names Hoarded, Suit Says (Washington Post) An Alabama businessman has filed a class-action lawsuit accusing Network Solutions of hoarding Internet domain names that had legally expired.

  • ICANN Elects Iconoclasts (Wired) The election of new officers for the Internet's governing body this week was not merely a trial run of an oft-buggy online voting system. It also became a repudiation of the controversial process through which ICANN was formed. See also New York Times and results.

   Electronic commerce

  • Australian Net Gambling Ban Defeated In Senate (Newsbytes) A planned one-year ban on the issue of new Internet gambling licenses in Australia has been defeated in the Senate by a vote of 33 for and 33 against. While welcoming the failure of the bill, the industry remains fearful that the Coalition Federal Government may now try to impose a total ban on Internet companies operating in this area. see also Fresh bid on gaming moratorium (Australian IT).

  • German Court Bans Online 'Power Shopping' (IDG News Service) A Cologne court says a site that encourages shoppers to band together violates fair-competition laws.

  • USA - Nevada to permit sports gambling on the Web (CNET News.com) Nevada residents will be able to gamble from their home computers under a deal that won approval from the state's Gaming Control Board. Virtgame.com, a company that offers an online gambling system, was given the official go-ahead to allow residents to wager online on football games, horse races and other sporting events.

   Information society and Internet policy

   Internet access and use

   Junk mail (spam)

  • Judge allows case against spam blacklist to proceed (Mercury News) A judge ruled that Black Ice could pursue its claims against Mail Abuse Prevention System, an anti-spam organization, saying the company's allegation that it was damaged by being listed as a spammer has some merit. Under attack from firms that have wound up on its so-called "Blackhole List" of junk e-mailers, MAPS filed suit this spring seeking a definitive ruling from a California court that its practices did not violate any laws. see also MAPS Legal Defense Fund.


  • USA - Clinton Orders a New Auction of the Airwaves (New York Times) With growing congestion of the airwaves threatening the development of a new generation of hand-held wireless devices, President Clinton ordered the federal government to review and then auction wide swaths of the spectrum now controlled by government agencies, as well as by private companies.

  • Italy's UMTS auction to start (Total Telecom) An Italian committee decided that the auction for five third generation UMTS phone licences would begin on October 19.

   Protection of minors

  • FBI urges teaching cyber ethics (Associated Press) The Justice Department and the Information Technology Association of America, a trade group, has launched the Cybercitizen Partnership to encourage educators and parents to talk to children in ways that equate computer crimes with old-fashioned wrongdoing.

  • Porn Panel: Nix 'Mouse-Trapping' (Wired) The Commission on Child Online Protection (COPA) unanimously endorsed a largely hands-off approach to the Internet, while saying that practices such as mislabeling adult sites as innocuous should be against the law. The report says that federal agencies should "consider greater enforcement and possibly rulemaking to discourage deceptive or unfair practices to entice children to view obscene materials, including the practices of 'mouse trapping' and deceptive meta-tagging." see alsoCommission urges more cops in cyperspace (AP).

  • USA - Judge Rules on Video Game Ordinance (AP) A federal judge has ruled that an Indianopolis city ordinance banning minors from playing violent and sexually explicit video games without parental permission can take effect immediately.

  • Zwei neue Kinder-Portale gehen an den Start (Golem Network News)

   Racism and xenophobia

  • Site told to remove racial content (ZDNet) In an Australian first, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission has ordered a South Australian publication to remove racially offensive material from its Web site.

   Rating and filtering

   Security and encryption

  • SDMI hacked (Salon) All of the Secure Digital Music Initiative's watermarks - its much ballyhooed music protection scheme - have been broken. A spokesperson for SDMI has denied the reports, but according to three off-the-record sources, the results of the Hack SDMI contest are in and not one single watermark resisted attack.

   Self-regulation / codes of conduct

  • Autorégulation d'Internet au Luxembourg (Luxemburger Wort) Le Service des Médias et des Communications du Ministère d'Etat, en partenariat avec le New Media Group organise une table ronde sur les possibilités d'une autorégulation d'Internet au Luxembourg Cette rencontre aura lieu le lundi 23 octobre 2000 de 14 h à 17h 30 à l'Hôtel Le Royal à Luxembourg.


  • Dutch court orders government to review UMTS auction after Versatel complaints (AFX News) A Rotterdam court ordered the Dutch government transport ministry to review the auction of Universal Mobile Telecommunication System (UMTS) frequencies last summer following complaints on the auction's procedure from Versatel Telecom International NV.

  • European Parliament backs LLU (Total Telecom) New telecom market entrants should be entitled to compensation if local loop unbundling does not take place by 31 December, the Industry Committee of the European Parliament has agreed.

  • Global Net Charging Decision Welcomed Outside The US (Newsbytes) The Australian Communications Authority (ACA), an Australian government agency, has welcomed a decision by members of an international telecommunications body to share the costs of Internet data traffic transmitted around the globe. The agreement was reached - in spite of American objections - at a recent meeting in Montreal of the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA).

  • Telmex forced to cut rates by 63% (FT) Telmex, Mexico's dominant telecommunications company, has been forced to slash its interconnection rates by nearly two-thirds as the country seeks to avoid a telecoms trade dispute with the US.

  • Operators' body threatens to sever ITU links (Total Telecom)

Market & Technology

   Convergence of telecommunications, media and information technology

  • High hopes for set-top boxes prompt speculation on acceptance (Wall Street Journal on MSNBC) The next generation of set-top boxes, set to make their global debut in Europe, will closely resemble PCs and will be far more than dumb conduits for digital television. Cable company United Pan-Europe Communications NV will launch its provocatively named Set-Top Computer in the Netherlands.

  • UK Set-top rivals to battle it out over net TV (BBC) Two companies, Powerchannel and Freebox, will soon be giving away set-top boxes that let consumers surf the net via their TV for only a nominal fee. One claims its gadgets will even play DVD movies and support high-speed net access once it becomes widely available.

   Electronic commerce

  • BMG to sell music over web (FT) BMG Entertainment will begin selling music for download over the internet, starting with 100 albums and singles and expanding to over 2,500 titles by the holiday season. The downloads will cost between $1.98 and $3.49 for singles and up to $20.98 for double editions. The prices are roughly in line with those charged for actual CDs, a strategy that drew criticism from analysts and internet music aficionados.

  • Britain takes online business lead (BBC) Britain has been holding its own in the world of e-commerce, according to a new government report. A study of the nation's online activity showed that 27% of the UK's businesses were now using the internet. Also see DTI claims top spot in Euro ebusiness charts (Silicon).

  • Survey: e-Entertainment (The Economist) The digital revolution in entertainment was expected to sweep all before it. But so far it has proved somewhere between a disappointment and a disaster.

   Employment and social issues

  • Cubicle Blues Blamed on IT (Wired) Feeling depressed? Perhaps a little stressed? You're not the only one in your cube farm that feels that way. One in ten office workers in Britain, the United States, Germany, Finland and Poland suffers from depression, anxiety, stress or burnout, according to a study by the International Labor Organization (ILO) the United Nation's labor and human rights agency.

   Internet access and use

  • European firm deals blow to Internet-by-satellite (Reuters) A leading provider of high-speed Internet services via satellite is relaunching as an interactive broadcaster after concluding the technology cannot be used for Web surfing. The decision by Luxembourg-based Europe Online is a blow to hopes that satellites could bring fast Internet connections to rural communities shunned by fixed-line operators.

  • Why the Internet won't be metered (IBM developerWorks) Point-to-point and flat rates are king. John Levine weighs in with his analysis of Internet pricing. He rebuts the pay-as-we-go meterists with support from a paper on the history of communications pricing by AT&T researcher Andrew Odlyzko.


  • India: the new IT superpower (Guardian) With India's software exports set to reach US$50 billion by 2008, western companies are queueing up to be part of the 'growing' Silicon Valley.

  • Meet the future of radio (Guardian) Continental Europe and the US may have been enjoying a flourishing net radio industry for nearly two years but in the UK - where licences have been almost impossible to obtain -the scene has been barren. But things are changing and a plucky little pirate station called Interface Radio is leading the way by attracting hundreds of thousands of hits each month from its small studio in London's East End.

  • The Mojo solution (Salon) Forget Napster and Gnutella. Jim McCoy's Mojo Nation is the coolest file-trading service on the Net.


  • Mobile phone sales slowdown seen in 2001 (Reuters) The global mobile phone market is starting to slow down after several quarters of phenomenal growth, according to analysts and comments this week from U.S. technology group Motorola.

  • The wireless gamble (The Economist) Snazzier cellular phones, and the dream of the mobile Internet, are exciting entrepreneurs everywhere. But European telecoms firms are reacting by making what could prove the biggest gamble in business history.

  • The Wireless Web (Scientific American) Special industry report.

   Security and encryption

  • Studie bringt Top-Five-Passwörter ans Licht (tecChannel.de) Schlichtes Raten führt Computer-Hacker immer noch am schnellsten ans Ziel: Trotz zunehmender Sicherheitsrisiken wird die Hitliste der Computer-Passwörter weiterhin vom Namen des Anwenders angeführt, gefolgt von einem Namen aus dem Umfeld wie dem des Kindes, des Partners oder des Haustieres.

  • The art of passwords in an era of machines (Fairfax IT) Researchers at University of California at Berkeley have developed an authentication system, called Deja Vu, based on abstract art in order to help solve the problem of remembering passwords.

  • Warner attempts to out-hack DVD hackers (The Register) Time Warner's home video division has changed DVD's region coding scheme to make it even harder to play movies sold in one territory in another, according to a leaked internal Warner Home Video document posted on Web site DVD Debate.


  • Vietnam Internet Subscriptions Double, But Usage Low (Newsbytes) Vietnam's Internet population has doubled over the past year, but penetration is not even close to reaching 1 percent yet. According to figures released recently by Vietnam's Department General of Posts and Telecommunications, there are around 85,000 Internet service provider subscribers in Vietnam. This is a boost on last October's figures of around 40,000.

  • E-Mail und SMS-Boom unter der Jugend (internet.com)


Thought for the day

  • One Judge's Opinion: Delete Should Mean Delete (New York Times) The geniuses who designed the modern world's computers probably thought they were doing mankind a favor when they decided that nothing, in fact, would ever be deleted when a computer user presses the Delete button. At least one prominent jurist, however, thinks Delete should mean just that. In Defense of the Delete Key (The Green Bag - Judge James M. Rosenbaum).


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