QuickLinks 184 - 20 January 2001

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Legal and regulatory issues



  • EU - Acquisition of Infostrada by Enel and France Telecom (RAPID) Commission allows Italian competition authority to examine the impact of Enel's acquisition of Infostrada on Italy's electricity market. The Commission's review showed that the deal would pose no competition problems on the telecommunications and Internet markets. The Commission has, therefore, adopted a decision clearing these aspects of the deal.

  • UK - BBC, Granada deal is allowed (FT) The BBC has been given the go-ahead to merge its Manchester production facilities with Granada Media's, paving the way for the first joint venture of its kind between the corporation and an ITV company.

  • USA - AT&T digs in over cable stake (FT) AT&T is set to resist pressure from Washington for a forced sale of its investment in rival AOL Time Warner's cable television systems, despite signs that the pressure will not ease under the new Bush administration.

  • USA - Studios look to sidestep antitrust issues (CNET News.com) Several major Hollywood studios, led by Sony Pictures Entertainment, are shooting for an April target date to debut a new service that would allow consumers to buy movies over the Web. But as Hollywood develops video-on-demand Internet services, its plans must be carefully drawn to avoid antitrust scrutiny, according to legal experts.

   Computer crime

  • Swedish police break up child pornography ring (Reuters) Sweden's largest child pornography ring involving more than 50 suspects has been broken. Police carried out raids at seven different locations, confiscated computers and brought in 10 people for questioning. (ed: The Swedish Save the Children hotline, co-funded by the EU Safer Internet Action Plan, sent the report leading to the arrests).

  • UK - Massive paedophile operation leads to arrests (ZDnet) Thirteen suspected paedophiles were arrested and 27 computers seized in police dawn raids in the UK's largest ever police operation against child pornography on the Internet

  • Internet companies hit at police ignorance of e-mail (FT) The effectiveness of controversial legislation to allow law enforcement agencies to seize e-mails is being undermined by police ignorance and lack of training, Internet companies said that a stream of "stupid questions" from the police was wasting their time and money. See also ISPA labels police 'inept' (Silicon).

   Convergence of telecommunications, media and information technology

  • USA - Cable Companies Win One in the High-Definition TV War (New York Times) In a sharp setback for the nation's broadcasters, the Federal Communications Commission decided to deny television stations the right to force cable companies to transmit both their digital and analog signals as they slowly convert to high-definition television.

   Copyright, trademarks and patents

   Data Protection (privacy)

  • USA - High-Tech Trade Group Unveils Net Privacy Principles (The Industry Standard) The federal government should develop Internet-privacy legislation instead of the state governments to ensure that online businesses don't have to worry about 50 conflicting sets of privacy rules the states would create. The AeA, the former American Electronics Association, the largest high-tech trade association in the U.S. released to Congress its eight "principles" for developing Internet-privacy legislation with that point in mind. This is a shift in perspective by the trade group, which represents the likes of Microsoft and Intel. In the past, the group has proposed voluntary controls by industry on Internet privacy.

  • Norway - Personal Data Act (Data Inspectorate) Act of 14. April 2000 No. 31 relating to the processing of personal data (Personal Data Act) - English translation.

  • Germany - Modernisierung des Datenschutzrechts geplant (Heise) SPD und Grüne halten unverändert an einem "umfassenden Neukonzept und Modernisierung des Datenschutzrechts" noch in dieser Legislaturperiode fest.

   Digital divide

  • Dubai worried about 'digital divide' (BBC) An Organisation for Economic and Co-operation Development electronic commerce conference in the Gulf Emirate of Dubai has been warned not to allow technological gaps between countries to grow out of control.

   Domain names

  • USA - ACLU Fires Shot Across ICANN's Bow (Newsbytes) The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other privacy and free-speech advocates sent a lengthy letter to US Commerce Secretary which blasted the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for using "unconstitutional" criteria in approving the creation of seven new generic top-level Internet domains (gTLDs).


   Electronic commerce

  • Online Dispute Resolution (ABA press release) The American Bar Association Task Force on E-Commerce and ADR will hold open meetings to solicit public comment on issues surrounding resolution of online disputes on Jan. 27 at Fordham University Law School in New York, and Feb. 17 at the Wyndham Emerald Plaza in San Diego. The Task Force is charged with drafting workable guidelines and standards that can be used by parties to online transactions and online dispute resolution providers. see also UW to lead way toward protecting consumers on the Internet (UW Press release).

  • Switzerland - drafts on electronic signature and electronic commerce (Fridolin M.R. Walther) Der schweizerische Bundesrat hat folgende Gesetzvorentwürfe in das öffentliche Konsultationsverfahren (sog. Vernehmlassungsverfahren) geschickt:
    • Bundesgesetz über die elektronische Signatur (BGES) Entwurf | Begleitbericht
    • Bundesgesetz über den elektronischen Geschäftsverkehr (Teilrevisionen des Obligationenrechts und des Bundesgesetzes über den unlauteren Wettbewerb) - Entwurf | Begleitbericht

   Employment and social issues

  • Battle Over Internet-Bought Twins (Reuters) A British couple embroiled in a bitter adoption battle over six-month old twins - who were born in the United States and sold twice over the Internet - vowed to keep the girls.


   Information society and Internet policy

   Liability, jurisdiction and applicable law

  • Everybody wants to rule the Web (Globe and Star - Michael Geist) Few cyberlaw cases have sparked as large an outcry as the recent Yahoo France case, in which a French judge ordered the company to block access to Nazi memorabilia offered in its auctions within France.

  • USA - EBay's Liability Is Cleared in Suit (New York Time) eBay the online auction service, has won dismissal of a class-action lawsuit that asserted that the company had a responsibility to ensure the authenticity of the items sold through its Web site.

   Mobile and wireless

   Protection of minors

   Racism and xenophobia

   Rating and filtering

   Safer Internet awareness

  • EU Internet Action Plan Moving Forward (Newsbytes) No less than 10 European Union (EU)-funded projects, all aiming to make the Internet a safer place to surf and exchange e-mail, are now under way.

   Security and encryption


  • UK - Oftel speeds up urban broadband (BBC) The UK telecoms regulator Oftel has paved the way for an early introduction of high-speed internet in urban areas. Oftel's objective is to ensure that construction of co-location facilities begins in the highest priority exchanges before Easter. Agreement to open up urban exchanges early for competing broadband companies was reached between the UK telecoms incumbent British Telecoms and other firms. see also BT and Oftel baffled as unbundling fails to attract (ZDNet UK).

  • Singapore Mobile Operator Fined Over Call Inserts (Newsbytes) Siingapore mobile network operator M1 has been called into line over 10-second messages it forced on users making international calls that had to be routed through competing carriers.

  • Germany - Telekom stoppt neue Durchleitungstarife (Heise News-Ticker) Die Telekom hat vor dem Verwaltungsgericht Köln in einem Eilverfahren den Stopp der im September 2000 von der Regulierungsbehörde für Telekommunikation und Post (RegTP) festgelegten neuen Durchleitungstarife erreicht. Dies ist ein harter Schlag gegen die Konkurrenten des Ex-Monopolisten, die nun erst einmal nicht auf sinkende Kosten bei der Nutzung des Netzes der Deutschen Telekom ab dem 1. Juni hoffen dürfen.

Market & Technology

   Employment and social issues

  • EMusic cuts 36% of staff (FT) EMusic.com, the troubled downloadable music website, announced its second round of layoffs in the last 12 months, cutting more than a third of its staff.

   Internet access and use

   Junk mail (spam)

  • Infamous Spammer Spammed (Wired) In what some see as a perfect example of the evidence of cosmic retribution, an avalanche of spam has crashed British Internet service provider Pipex's servers, and stopped delivery of e-mail to its million-plus users for a week.


  • Internet pioneer forecasts end to the giveaway era (FT) The swift change in sentiment towards internet stocks could leave Amazon.com, the US online books and CD store, as the only real start-up e-tailer that survives, according to Marc Andreessen, one of the pioneers of the internet.

  • UK - BBC Plans News Web Site Funded by Banner Ads (Industry Standard) BBC has plans to run advertisements on a new international news Web site to be launched in June. BBC News Online will develop the site at its recently acquired address BBCNews.com, according to sources close to the project. It would be hosted from the BBC's servers in New York and targeted mainly at the North American audience.

   Mobile and wireless

   Security and encryption

  • Melissa variant spreads as Mac document (CNET News.com) Computer virus experts say a new variant of the Melissa virus is spreading, this time in the guise of a Macintosh-formatted Microsoft Office document.



  • European Union gives 9.8 million Euros for GRID development (CERN Press Release) A 9.8 million euro funding over three years in support of the DataGrid project was authorized by the EC Information Society Programme (within the Fifth Framework Research Programme for technology development) at the end of December 2000 and a contract has been awarded to CERN as leader of the project.

Useful addresses

  • Australia- Communications Law Centre (CLC) The Communications Law Centre (CLC) is an independent, non-profit, public interest organisation specialising in media and communications law and policy. Research & Policy areas: Broadcasting, Free speech and Defamation, Media Ownership, Content and Audiovisual Production/Screen Industries, Spectrum Management, Information Equity, Privacy, Universal Service and Regional Communications , Internet & Online services, Telecommunications , Print media, Journalism and Media ethics.

  • EPIC Alert (EPIC) New issue Volume 8.01 January 17, 2001. Published by the Electronic Privacy Information Center Washington, D.C.

  • EPIC, Privacy International Join Forces In Privacy.org (Newsbytes) The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has teamed up with Privacy International in relaunching a Web site that aims to become the clearinghouse for all privacy-related news worldwide.

  • Information society and development edition (UNITAR) January 2001 no: 2. This electronic bulletin is a publication of the Information Society and Development Programme of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research. Its objective is to provide information about the various initiatives of international organisations in the field of information and communication technologies.

  • New Commission Press Room on the Internet (RAPID) The Press and Communication Service (PCS) of the European Commission has launched a Virtual Press Room. This new Internet site is an answer to the ever-increasing demand from the media for user friendly access to Commission news around the clock.

  • The Filter (Berkman Center) Issue No. 3.10 01.17.01. Your regular dose of public interest Internet news and commentary from the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School. What do cigarettes, live animals, used underwear and Nazi memorabilia have in common? Find out here.


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