QuickLinks 183 - 14 January 2001

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Legal and regulatory issues


  • USA - AOL and Time Warner gain final merger approval (Reuters) Internet giant America Online has acquired cable and media conglomerate Time Warner, becoming the world's largest media company after winning conditional approval from the Federal Communications Commission. The commissioners voted to place restrictions on the new company's advanced instant messaging system when it runs over Time Warner's cable lines. They also voted to force further access to the cable pipeline by competing Internet services

  • Italy examines Infostrada sale (FT) Italy's competition authority has formally asked the European Commission to transfer its investigation of Enel's recent E11bn ($10.5bn) purchase of Infostrada, the fixed line communications group, to Rome so that the acquisition can be examined on a national level.

  • Microsoft’s cunning plan (Economist) The firm’s blueprint for the future of software is technically ambitious - and, in the light of its battle with antitrust regulators, rather clever

  • EU - Commission releases Unisource from its reporting obligations (RAPID) The European Commission has released Unisource, the telecommunications alliance between KPN of The Netherlands, Telia of Sweden and Swisscom of Switzerland, from its reporting obligations following the Commission's exemption of the operation in 1997.

  • EU - Commission clears creation of Studio Channel joint venture (RAPID)

   Computer crime

  • Commission proposes action to combat sexual exploitation of children (RAPID) The Commission proposed a package of measures to combat trafficking in human beings and the sexual exploitation of children, including two proposals for framework decisions on approximation of national criminal law and addressing criminal procedures with common definitions of three criminal offences : child prostitution, sexual exploitation of children and child pornography (including child pornography on the Internet). COM(2000) 854 final.

  • Seven Britons guilty over child porn ring (Yahoo UK) Seven British men have pleaded guilty for their participation in the world's biggest Internet pornography ring. The seven were among 180 arrested on 2 September 1998 after a massive international police operation involving 12 countries to break what was dubbed the Wonderland Club. see also Internet's largest child porn gang is smashed (LineOne), Police crack global child porn ring (CNN) and Wonderland Case Developments (IWF).

  • China strengthens laws against Internet crime (Reuters) China has made it a crime to use the Internet to promote Taiwan's independence, organize "cults" and spread rumors to manipulate stock prices. A resolution by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, also lists slander of individuals and corporations over the Internet, creating and disseminating computer viruses, breaking into national defense networks or tampering with personal email accounts as criminal activities.

  • EU - Canada Summit (RAPID) Ottawa 19 December 2000. Joint statement on co-operation in justice and home affairs (including Racism and xenophobia, Transnational organised crime, Cybercrime).

  • EU eröffnet Diskussion über Cybercrime-Bekämpfung (Heise Online) In einem Rahmenpapier der Europäischen Kommission werden die EU-Pläne zur Bekämpfung der Cyberkriminalität dargelegt. Als Grundlage soll es zu einer europaweiten Angleichung der Gesetzgebung kommen. Dazu gehört auch eine gemeinsame Definition von Cyberkriminalität, mögliche Formen von Anklagen und Strafausmaße.

  • German police suspect child porn on Napster, Gnutella (IDG) State police in Munich are investigating whether file-swapping platforms like Napster, Gnutella, and MyNapster are being used to trade child pornography, and whether users have stored illegal material on their PCs.

  • Microsoft Closes Swedish Child Pornography Site (Reuters) Microsoft has closed a private Swedish Web site it hosted after being alerted by police that it contained child pornography.

  • Russian Police Crack U.S., Europe Child Porn Ring (Reuters) Russian police, working with British and American colleagues, arrested two suspects accused of selling child pornography over the Internet in Europe and the United States,

  • Study: Japan Cybercrime Tripled (AP) Reports of computer viruses tripled last year in Japan as the increasingly networked nation felt the effects of the Love Bug and other potent strains, a government study said.

  • The European Commission supports fight against violence to women and children (RAPID) The European Commission has granted aid worth 5 million euros under the DAPHNE programme to help finance 47 projects aimed at combatting violence against women and children. One project is the Child Pornography on the Internet - Victim Identification Project. This pilot study will offer preliminary advice and guidance to professionals concerned about how to identify and support children who are abused and pictured online.

  • US Computer crime procedure manual (DoJ) This manual is designed to combine an updated version of the Guidelines’ advice on searching and seizing computers with guidance on the statutes that govern obtaining electronic evidence in cases involving computer networks and the Internet.

  • USA - FBI Plan: Cybercrime Info Sharing (Wired) The FBI announced the completion of a program that seeks to combat cybercrime by encouraging companies to share information about Internet attacks they have experienced. Participating companies and the FBI would use encrypted e-mail and a secure website to warn each other about new hacking attempts, computer viruses and other Internet-based criminal activity.

  • Nur kosmetische Korrekturen beim Cybercrime-Abkommen (Heise)

   Consumer protection

   Content regulation

  • Beijing opens its airwaves to the BBC (FT) When BBC executives checked into their Beijing hotel this week on a trip to thank China for licensing their global news channel, they could have turned on their televisions to watch the BBC World broadcasts that have continued illegally throughout the years-long ban.

  • Stop signs on the web (Economist) The Internet was supposed to be all about freedom. That is why governments want to regulate it. It is far from certain whether freedom, or government control, will win the day

  • The twenty enemies of the Internet (RSF) Forty-five countries restrict their citizens' access to the internet - usually by forcing them to subscribe to a state-run Internet Service Provider (ISP). Twenty of these countries may be described as real enemies of this new means of communication.

  • USA - High Court Upholds Speech Limits (Reuters) The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a free-speech challenge by six university professors to a Virginia law that bars public employees from using state computers to access sexually explicit material on the Internet.

   Copyright, trademarks and patents

  • ACCC threatens to attack DVD zoning (The Age) Australia's consumer watchdog is considering an attack on the worldwide zoning system which prevents most DVD owners from buying cheap discs from overseas.

  • Cable Crypto Coming (SecurityFocus News) The cable television industry is moving ahead with a controversial plan to implement a copy protection scheme that will allow movie studios and cable providers to control what viewers are able to record off of future digital cable TV networks.

  • Debate Over German PC Fees Could Go to Court (Industry Standard) Authors and visual artists want a fee attached to every PC sold in the country, to compensate them for works that can be duplicated. People on both sides of the issue say they will go to the country's highest civil court.

  • Empörung über juristische "Sicherung" von Prepaid-Handys Das Landgericht München hat eine einstweilige Verfügung gegen die Betreiber des Newsdienstes ausgesprochen, die über den Erfolg von Hackern berichtet hatten, die unter www.gsmunlock.com beziehungsweise www.gsmania.com Hilfen zum Entsperren gängiger Handymodelle angeboten hatten.

  • Napster: Update on US Digital Copyright Infringement Case (elexica) Continuing developments in Internet music downloads and copyright infringement.

  • New technology could help squelch digital music piracy (CNET News.com) A group of technology companies is creating a set of industry standards that could help put digital piracy protections directly into disk drives as soon as this summer.

  • Year-End Worldwide Round-up on Intellectual Property and the Internet (American Reporter - Andy Oram) the very phrase "intellectual property" offends many people heavily involved in Internet policy, so I will look a bit later at the philosophy behind the term. First let’s tour the menagerie of laws, court cases, and regulations concerning copyright and related issues to find some common trends.

   Data Protection (privacy)

  • Canada Strengthens Internet Privacy (New York Times) A new law to protect personal information disclosed through electronic transactions will take effect in Canada on Jan. 1, and it will eventually affect all domestic companies and those in the United States that have Canadian subsidiaries.

  • Privacy advocates shine light on "Web bugs" (CNET News.com) The Privacy Foundation, a nonprofit privacy group based in Denver, is testing a beta version of a browser plug-in dubbed a Web bug detector, which gives people a tool to identify surveillance tags too small to see.

  • Privacy snafu enrages eBay customers (ZDNet News) Online auction giant changes the settings for some 6 million accounts, and the unsolicited telemarketing calls begin pouring in. The company has changed the personalized settings for roughly 6 million customers who signed up for eBay between April and November of last year after a bug in its registration system was discovered.

  • Safe Harbor Is a Lonely Harbor (Wired) It took three years of brow-furrowing negotiations, but last summer the European Union and the U.S. government agreed on a way to head off a trade war: a "safe harbor" plan that American companies would adopt to protect information about their customers. At least that was the idea. Yet only about a dozen firms so far have signed up to be certified by the Commerce Department.

  • USA - Clinton Issues New Medical Privacy Rules (Reuters) President Clinton announced sweeping new rules to protect the privacy of patients, requiring doctors and hospitals to keep sensitive medical records private and punishing firms that improperly sell them for profit. see also New Privacy Rules Are Challenged (New York Times).

  • USA - Tech Lobbyists Prepare To Wade Into Privacy Debate (Newsbytes) Technology industry lobbyists are gearing up this year for what may become an even more heated congressional battle - the fight over electronic privacy.

   Digital divide

  • Brazil May Slash Computer Taxes (Wired) In an attempt to bridge the country's digital divide, the Brazilian Congress last week approved a bill that would ease the tax burden of technology companies so they could sell their products at a lower cost.

   Domain names


  • Pakistan Govt bans use of Internet (Hindustan Times) Pakistan's military government has banned the use of Internet in government offices fearing an 'unauthorised' outflow of information.

  • USA - Disabled gain access to government sites (Wall Street Journal) Most government Web sites must be accessible to the disabled under new federal rules, forcing many agencies to launch redesigns of their Web pages.

   Electronic commerce

   Employment and social issues

  • UK - 50 suspended for e-mail abuse (out-law) Following the media hype that followed a lewd e-mail forwarded this month by a junior lawyer to his six friends that eventually reached an estimated one million people, several employees at other organisations have this week been suspended for breaching e-mail policies.


  • Net pharmacy crackdown targets doctors (AP) The New Jersey Attorney General's office accused two online pharmacies of illegally selling prescription drugs on the Internet and, for the first time, named a network of doctors and pharmacists from across the country who authorized the transactions.

   Information society and Internet policy

  • OECD Forum 2001: Sustainable Development and the New Economy Paris, 14-16 May 2001. Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie, la Villette. Held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the OECD Council at Ministerial Level, Forum 2001 will consist of: A major international public conference, open to representatives from government, business, labour and civil society. Through interactive sessions with high level speakers, participants will discuss: Sustainable Development; The New Economy; Information Technology and the Digital Divide; Trade & Investment. Knowledge Fair featuring up to 60 organisations.


   Internet access and use

  • French Netizens May Get Cheap, Unmetered Access (Industry Standard) French Internet users will have a choice of unlimited, unmetered access plans by this summer, should France Telecom implement a new connection pricing plan for ISPs that would allow them to competitively offer such services.

  • Le haut débit passe lentement (Libération) Cinquièmes rencontres d'Autrans (du 11 au 13 janvier 2001. Alors que moins de 300.000 foyers français bénéficient d'une connexion à haut débit, les experts et professionnels se penchent sur les enjeux et les limites de l'accès rapide. retransmission vidéo.

  • Germany - Telekom klagt gegen Flatrate-Entscheidung (ZDNet Deutschland) Die Deutsche Telekom versucht, die Entscheidung der Regulierungsbehörde für Telekommunikation und Post (Regtp) über eine Großhandelsflatrate gerichtlich außer Kraft zu setzen. Der Ex-Monopolist hat einen Eilantrag gegen die Wirkung den Regtp-Spruch beantragt.

  • UK - Angry unmetered customers accused of inciting abuse (Yahoo UK) A disgruntled ex-customer of disbanded ISP IGClick has been accused of breaching the Human Rights Act for publishing the private telephone number of one of the directors.

  • USA - Court Invalidates Part of SBC-Ameritech Pact (New York Times) In a decision that could allow more companies to deliver high-speed Internet service over ordinary phone lines, a Federal appeals court invalidated an important part of the deal that SBC Communications Inc. made with regulators when it won approval for its 1999 acquisition of the Ameritech Corporation.

   IT in education

  • 90 Prozent aller deutschen Schulen am Netz (Heise Online) Rund 90 Prozent aller Schulen in Deutschland verfügen mittlerweile über einen Internetanschluss. Etwa 31.000 Schulen waren Ende vergangenen Jahres an das weltweite Netz angeschlossen.

   Junk mail (spam)

   Liability, jurisdiction and applicable law

   Mobile and wireless

  • MobilCom verzichtet auf Klage gegen UMTS-Lizenzvergabe (Heise Online) Die Telefongesellschaft MobilCom zieht die vor dem Verwaltungsgericht Köln eingereichte Klage gegen die Vergabe der UMTS-Lizenzen in Deutschland zurück.

  • Telia to ask court to freeze Swedish UMTS decision (Total Telecom) Telia confirmed that it plans to formally lodge an appeal over the results of Sweden's UMTS contest with the Swedish County Court. The incumbent said it will ask the court to freeze the award of UMTS licenses to four rival firms until the appeal has been processed.

  • UK - BT, One-2-One lose battle (FT) British Telecommunications and One-2-One lost a High Court battle with the Department of Trade and Industry over arrangements for paying for third-generation mobile phone licences

  • USA - FCC seeks airwaves for new wireless generations (Reuters) U.S. regulators have proposed the government give up certain airwaves to make way for new generations of wireless devices that could some day lead to video on a wristwatch.

   Multimedia content and tools

  • Los Quince aprueban un fondo para potenciar los contenidos 'online' europeos (Europa Press) El Consejo de Ministros de Telecomunicaciones de la UE alcanzó un acuerdo político para dar luz verde al programa 'eContenidos', que destinará 100 millones de euros (16.386 millones de pesetas) para fomentar el desarrollo de contenidos digitales europeos en Internet en el periodo 2000-2004.

   Protection of minors

  • Groups Ask FCC For Child-Friendly Digital TV Rules (Computer User) A coalition of child advocacy and media-watchdog groups has urged federal regulators to pass rules requiring digital television broadcasters to promote educational programming and stem "unfair" advertising practices. see also Press Release (CME).

  • Internet search for missing children (Press Release) Beginning in January, 2001 Cobion and the Swiss missing children organization FREDI (Fondation pour la Recherche d'Enfants Disparus par Internet) will jointly begin searching for missing children over the Internet using Cobion's visual search technology. siehe auch Suche nach vermissten Kindern im Internet (Heise).

  • Spieleprüfer fordern Reform des Jugendschutzes (Heise) Die Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle (USK), das 1994 gegründete Selbstkontrollorgan der Spieleindustrie in Deutschland, hat ihre Jahresbilanz für 2000 vorgelegt. Von den 930 geprüften PC- und Konsolen-Games erteilten die Tester fast der Hälfte das Etikett "Ohne Altersbeschränkung". Klaus-Peter Gerstenberger, Leiter der in Berlin ansässigen USK, sieht den staatlichen Zensuransatz im Netzzeitalter als überholt an. siehe auch USK will auch ein Rating für Onlinespiele (Heise Online).

  • Türkische Kinder im Internetcafe verhaftet (ZDNet Deutschland) Um die 130 türkischen Kinder wurden von der Polizei in der zentralanatolischen Stadt Kirikkale vorübergehend in Untersuchungshaft genommen, weil sie in den Internet-Cafés des Ortes herumhingen. Die Behörde befürchtete, das könne ihren Charakter verderben.

  • UK - Children's Charities Demand Internet Safety For Children (NCH) Seven leading children's charities - NCH, Barnardo's, ChildLine, NSPCC, NCVCCO, NCB and The Children's Society - have joined forces to launch a campaign to call on both the internet and computer industries to make children's safety their top priority. see also Keeping children safe online (Internet Watch Foundation) .

   Racism and xenophobia

   Rating and filtering

   Security and encryption


  • A LAN line (Economist) Almost unnoticed, a new wireless data networking standard, unmemorably called 802.11b, has been gaining ground on more widely touted ways of gaining wireless access to the Internet.


  • Stockholm may cut Telia stake (FT) The Swedish government may cut its stake to less than 50 per cent in Telia, the telecommunications operator unsuccessful in its bid for one of Sweden's third-generation mobile phone licences, so that it can take part in the European industry consolidation.

  • Verkehrsminister uneinig über europäisches GPS-System (Heise) Bei der EU-Ratstagung der europäischen Verkehrsminister in Brüssel am 20. und 21. Dezember ist noch kein Beschluss über den Aufbau eines unabhängigen europäischen Satellitennavigationssystems gefasst worden.

   Voice over IP

Market & Technology

   Electronic commerce

  • Authors criticize Amazon's used book sales (CNET News.com) When Amazon.com added a feature that allows people to shop for used books, the online retail giant thought it was giving its millions of customers a chance to save money. But the feature has come under fire from writers and publishers groups, which say it is an "aggressive" tactic that threatens to eat into sales of new books and take royalty money out of the pockets of their members.

  • Free Links, Only $50 Apiece (Wired) News sites are turning to a novel way to make some extra cash: requiring fees for links. The Albuquerque Journal charges $50 for the right to link to each of its articles.

  • The Net's big porn secret (ZDNN) It's the industry's dirty little secret, but online porn has turned out to be a blessing for many of the biggest brands on the Internet.

   Employment and social issues

  • News Corp shuts web division (FT) News Corp is closing its Fox internet division, a move that will result in more than 200 job losses, as the company tries to cut costs to weather a weakening advertising market.

  • NY Times online arm cuts staff (FT) The New York Times Internet division will lay off about 17 per cent of its workforce as part of an attempt to become cash flow profitable for the year 2002.

  • Online News Frenzy Is Fizzling (Wired) It's raining pink slips in the online media world, creating new doubts as to whether content is really king on the Internet.

   Mobile and wireless

  • Is the wireless Web ready for handhelds? (CNET News.com) Handheld-computer owners may crave wireless access to the Web, but analysts say at least one significant issue is holding them back: price.

  • SMS traffic prompts charging rethink (BBC) The popularity of mobile text messaging is forcing Britain's network operators to change the way they charge each other to pass the data around. To cope with the boom in text (SMS) messaging, mobile phone firms will soon start charging each other for each message they pass to a rival network.

   Quality of service

  • Weihnachtlicher SMS-Ansturm überlastet Handynetze (Heise) Peinliche Panne für die Mobilfunkbetreiber: Weil viele Handybesitzer pünktlich zum Fest ihre Weihnachtsgrüße per SMS loswerden wollten, waren die Mobilfunknetze streckenweise vollkommen überlastet.



  • Peer-to-peer monsters are on the way (ZDNet News) Napster on steroids? Microsoft is working on a mega-P2P project code-named 'Farsite.' Others are exploring this territory as well.

Useful addresses

  • Advanced Search (Economist) Economist.com has teamed up with Northern Light to bring you the ability to search the Economist.com archives from 1997 to 2000, Northern Light's Special Collection and the Internet.

  • EU events page (Europemedia) Comprehensive listings of all events and meetings related to the Technology, New Media and Telecoms industries, that are taking place in the EU, be they hosted by the Commission, the Parliament, the Council of the European Union, the European Council or other bodies.

  • The Year in Technology Law (New York Times) Cyber Law Journal asked a variety of Internet legal mavens to weigh in with their nominations for the most significant or interesting cyberlaw developments in the year almost past


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: Benton Foundation, UNDP, NewsNow UK, Internet Law News, David Goldstein, Gerhard Heine, Alan Reekie