QuickLinks 188 - 24 February 2001

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Legal and regulatory issues

   Cable and satellite

  • USA - High Court Refuses Case on Cable Limits (Reuters) In a blow to U.S. cable companies, the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge of a law that allows a limit on the number of cable subscribers one operator can serve, a case brought by Time Warner Entertainment.

   Computer crime

  • EU - Computer-related Crime hearing (European Commission) 7 March 2001, Brussels. Public hearing of interested parties on the issues addressed in the Communication "Creating a Safer Information Society by Improving the Security of Information Infrastructures and Combating Computer-related Crime" COM(2000) 890.

  • Swiss Forum Computer Hacker Arrested (Reuters) One of a group of hackers who broke into the computer system of the World Economic Forum in January was arrested in Berne, the Swiss news agency ATS reported.

  • EU - Plans to tackle card fraud (Press Release) The European Commission has launched a three-year Action Plan designed to crack down on the growing problem of fraud and counterfeiting on cards and other non-cash means of payment widely used for cross-border transactions.

  • UK - Government to ban 'hate emails' (ZDnet UK) The government will table an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Police Bill that will ban hate emails and hate text messages.

  • UK - Hackers become terrorists under new law (ZDNet UK) Computer hackers could be classed as terrorists under a new UK law. The Terrorism Act 2000 is designed to prevent dissident political groups from using the UK as a base for terrorism and recognises a new threat from cyberterrorists for the first time. The Act significantly widens the definition of terrorism to include actions that "seriously interfere with or seriously disrupt an electronic system". The Act gives police the power to detain suspects for 48-hours without a warrant.

  • UK - Thus says: 'We'll block child porn' (Silicon) Thus, the owner of Demon Internet, has broken ranks with the rest of the UK ISP industry by stating it will remove all paedophilic material from its servers, taking responsibilty itself for tracking down the illegal content.

  • UK - Youth worker used web to befriend sex victim (Guardian) An evangelical Christian lecturer who helped run his local church youth club was convicted yesterday of sexually assaulting a schoolboy he befriended through an internet gay chatroom.

  • USA - Police crack down on Net fraud ring (MSNBC) Federal and New Jersey investigators are in the process of rounding up a ring of Internet fraudsters, MSNBC.com has learned. The suspects were involved in a variety of schemes using stolen credit cards, PayPal.com and eBay.com. As many as 175 people may have fallen for the scam, with one victim losing $5,000 in a single incident.

   Consumer protection

  • Browser hijackings upset security pundits (CNET News.com) Web surfers are in a tug-of-war for control of their home page settings, fighting off increasingly aggressive tactics by Net businesses and online marketers aimed at commandeering first rights to consumers' browsers

   Content regulation

  • France - Le «cybermachin», pas encore né, déjà décrié (Libération) L'organisme français de régulation du Net sera créé en juin.

  • UK - Film censor to stop playing nanny (Observer) Britain's most influential arbiter of public taste, the film censor, is predicting the end of legally enforced cinema ratings in the UK. Duval does not expect all forms of film classification to disappear. He envisages a grading scheme in which parents would be able to take children to see films they deem suitable. Existing legislation covering obscenity and child abuse would then become the only statutory public protection.

  • USA - $10,000 in Damages for High School Student (ACLU) A former high school student who was suspended for posting an Internet parody lampooning the school's assistant principal. on the Internet is getting $10,000 damages from the school district that violated his free speech rights.

  • Cuba Not So Libre With the Net (Wired)

   Copyright, trademarks and patents

   Data Protection (privacy)

  • USA - Network Solutions Offers Its Database Of Domain-Names to Marketing Firms (Wall Street Journal) The Internet's phone book is up for sale - and though the listings may represent a treasure trove for marketers, the move also risks a serious privacy backlash. At issue are millions of entries in the domain-name database operated by the Network Solutions unit of VeriSign. Now Network Solutions is selling that information. see also The secret selling of 'Whois' (MSNBC).

  • Internet Co. Drops Data-Selling Plan (AP) A major Internet filtering company will stop collecting and selling the Web habits of millions of schoolchildren who use its product after privacy groups howled and the Defense Department had second thoughts. N2H2, which makes the "Bess" Internet filtering software, said it has stopped selling its "Class Clicks" lists that report the Web sites students visit on the Internet and how much time they spend at each one. see also Group Want Feds To Disclose Plans For Kids' Net Data

  • USA - Scrambling for privacy (CNET News.com) Congress is growing more responsive to calls for online privacy legislation, but a major conflict looms that could hurt efforts this year to enact consumer safeguards against prying Web sites. One wedge in the debate is whether Web sites should have the onus of securing "opt in" permission before using any data gathered about an individual, or whether consumers should be required to take steps to "opt out."

  • Bundeswirtschaftsministerium fördert Anonymisierungsdienst (Telepolis)

   Digital divide

  • Bridges.org Launches Southern Africa Office (Press Release) Bridges.org, an international non-profit organization dedicated to bridging the digital divide in developing nations, has expanded its mission in southern Africa by opening an office in Cape Town.

   Domain names

  • Action urged on cybersquatting (FT) The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) is urging countries to step up the fight against cybersquatting of internet addresses by adopting online dispute procedures similar to those used for "generic" top level domain names such as ".com", ".net" and ".org". see conference and Dot.com conflicts scrutinised (BBC).

  • Markle Foundation Backs ICANN Governance Study (Newsbytes) An international cadre of advocacy groups formed to study the governance of the powerful Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) got a boost when the Markle Foundation announced it would donate $432,000 to the study effort.

  • Tongue-Tied on The Net (Far Eastern Economic Review) The race to grab a piece of the potentially lucrative market in Asian-language domain names threatens the future of a multilingual Web that works.

   e-Government

  • USA - Michigan Considers a Cybercourt (New York Times) In an effort to lure technology companies to Michigan, Gov. John Englerwants to establish a separate "cybercourt" for cases involving technology and high-tech businesses, where virtually everything would be done via computer rather than in a courtroom.

  • USA - New AAAS Project Links Judges To Experts In Science And Engineering (ScienceDaily Magazine) The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is offering to help federal judges find well-respected, impartial scientists and engineers to serve as expert witnesses, without having to depend on experts whose fees are being paid by the parties.

   Electronic commerce

   Health

  • Beijing closes online clinics in Web clampdown (ZDNet) China is closing online clinics as it moves to tighten controls over medical information and products on the Internet. New rules barred unauthorized medical units from providing diagnoses and treatment over the Internet.

   Interception

   Internet access and use

  • Denmark promises net access (FT) Denmark has announced plans to bring high-speed internet connectivity to almost every household in the country.

  • ISP trade body to hold meeting with Oftel (Total Telecom) ISPA, the trade association that represents U.K.-based ISPs, is to hold a meeting with Oftel after accusing the telecom watchdog of failing to ensure that the industry had access to wholesale unmetered products.

  • France - Accès illimité à internet : AOL condamné pour non-respect de ses engagements (AFP) Le juge des référés du tribunal de grande instance de Nanterre a rendu une ordonnance constatant "le caractère illicite" de la publicité d'AOL relative à son forfait d'accès illimité à internet et ordonné au fournisseur de "procéder à la suppression des «timers» et des modulateurs de session» mis en place" pour limiter le temps de connexion de certains internautes ayant souscrit à ce forfait.

  • UK - The slow progress of fast wires (Economist) By 2005, Britain will have become "the most extensive and competitive broadband market in the G7 group of rich industrial countries" (government target). The reality is that broadband deployment in Britain is actually going rather badly. see also BT is holding back Broadband Britain (ZDNet UK) . Broadband in the UK is being held back by BT, according to a report from the Institute of Economic Affairs. A working paper from the political thinktank urges government to seize the initiative and ensure that the breakup of BT leaves the UK with a network to which everyone has fair and equal access.

   Liability, jurisdiction and applicable law

  • Des liens plus profonds que d'autres (Libération) La justice discrimine ces clics qui contournent la page d'accueil d'un site.

  • Global E-Commerce treaty hits snag (Reuters) The Hague Convention on Jurisdiction, which aims to make civil judgements enforceable across borders, has been hung up since 1999 over a disagreement over how business-consumer disputes should be settled. And the head U.S. negotiator says the treaty won't be finished until business and consumer groups can come to an agreement.

   Market

  • Vivendi and Sony tighten the screws on Napster (FT) Jean-Marie Messier, head of French media group Vivendi Universal, increased the pressure on Napster, the free-music file sharing service, by releasing details of a rival online music alliance - Duet - with Sony of Japan.

   Racism and xenophobia

  • Switzerland - Schweizer Provider sperren Zugang zu amerikanischer Website (Telepolis) Die Schweizer Aktion Kinder des Holocaust (AKDH) suchte bislang nach Homepages mit rassistischen, antisemitischen oder rechtsradikalen Inhalten und meldete die Adressen dann an Polizei und Provider weiter. Über 100 wurden bereits vom Netz genommen. Jetzt ist die Gruppe noch weiter gegangen und hat erreicht, dass Schweizer Provider für ihre Kunden den Zugang auch zu einer Website gesperrt haben, die durch einen US-amerikanischen Provider ins Netz gestellt wurde.

   Rating and filtering

  • USA - Advocates take both sides of Net filtering law (CNET News.com) Regulators accepted final public comments on a new law requiring libraries and schools that accept federal funds to install computer filters aimed at blocking access to adult material online. Librarians and educators criticized the law, saying it may be impossible to enforce. But conservative groups praised the plan, saying it will save children from finding pornography on the Internet. Both sides argued their case to the Federal Communications Commission, which is preparing to clarify how the Children's Internet Protection Act (CHIPA) should be implemented.

   Safer Internet awareness

   Security and encryption

  • The State of Music Security (Wired) Recently, the digital rights management crowd got a sharp lesson from the entertainment industry. No more proprietary systems and hard-to-use digital rights management systems that consumers can't understand. Instead, they want clearinghouses where their content can be safely stored and streamed to end users who don't have to decipher which media player will work.

Market & Technology

   Cable and satellite

  • D.Telekom Agrees to Cable Sale to LibertyMedia (Reuters) German telecoms group Deutsche Telekom has agreed to sell majority stakes in six regional cable TV companies to a partnership based around U.S. media investment vehicle Liberty Media.

   Convergence of telecommunications, media and information technology

  • ZapMedia, Samsung Team On Entertainment Convergence (Newsbytes) ZapMedia and Samsung will produce an entertainment convergence product. The "Samsung ZapStation" will allow consumers to access digital audio and video entertainment and surf the Internet without a computer.

   Employment and social issues

   Internet access and use

  • Top-Dollar DSL (Interactive Week) Price increases on the way for DSL subscrioptions in USA.

   Market

  • BBC Moves Into Web Hosting, Streaming Media (uk.internet.com) The BBC is to set up a new independent commercial subsidiary, BBC Technology Limited, which will provide a number of Internet, broadcast and media services.

  • Fox Kids enters markets (FT) Fox Kids Europe, the children's broadcaster backed by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, has expanded into three more countries. New channels aimed at children aged between four and 12 were launched this week in Israel, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Fox Kids, which owns the rights to characters including Spiderman and Power Rangers, will be accessible to 24m households in 53 countries after the latest expansion.

  • Is online journalism on the way out? (Washington Post) Web sites struggle financially despite millions of visitors. Critics are pronouncing last rites for content sites. But millions of people still click on these news-related sites, major media companies are still pouring big bucks into them, and their sheer speed has changed the journalistic culture.

  • Monetise this (Economist) At current online-ad rates, it is almost impossible for web publishers that create their own content to make money - just ask any of the two dozen, from Z.com to eCountries, that have gone bust in the past month alone.

  • Music Meets Technology (European Multimedia Forum - EMF) Brussels 8 & 9 March 2001. The Europe in Music programme brings together all actors of the online music value chain. Conference topics include: - Legal update; - Watermarking & encryption systems, digital rights management systems; - Payment systems and customer care tools; marketing & sales; - New distribution business models; - the PACT project.

  • Portals urged to rethink ads (FT) Internet portals such as Yahoo! or Microsoft's MSN must overhaul their revenue models, which depend heavily on banner advertising, according to a study by consultants Booz Allen & Hamilton.

  • Yahoo confirms drop in number of auctions (Bloomberg) Yahoo said the number of items for sale on its online auctions has fallen "considerably" since it began charging fees for listings last month. The number of bids per item listed has risen fourfold, and the likelihood that an item will be sold on Yahoo Auctions has risen more than fivefold.

  • Sony ties up with Sega and Namco for Web-based video games (Reuters)

   Mobile and wireless

  • Killer application saves lives (Industry Standard) There's no denying that, for Europeans anyway, SMS is to mobile telephony as email is to the Net: the stripped-down, starkly simple medium that has outperformed the wildest expectations.

  • Next generation of cellphones raises doubt among telecoms (Wall Street Journal) Phone companies thought they had seen the future in a cellular technology dubbed - 3G,- but now the picture has blurred. For more than a year, telecom carriers, particularly in Europe, have extolled a promised new system known as third-generation cellular, or 3G. Now, the cost and complexity of bringing about 3G service, along with advances in the current second-generation, or 2G, systems, have raised doubts.

  • Qualcomm warns of delay in 3G roll-out timetable (FT) Qualcomm, the US electronics group behind third generation mobile phone technology, is warning of a two year delay in the roll-out timetable promised by European operators. Irwin Jacobs, founder and chief executive, predicted in an interview with the Financial Times that 3G services currently in development were not likely to be commercially viable until late 2004 or early 2005. see also Qualcomm targets GSM operators with cdma2000 solutions (Total).

  • Total Telecom - 3G video: operators must get the picture (Total Telecom) Motorola and Nokia may be rivals in the mobile handset market, but when it comes to 3G applications, they're in agreement about video and multimedia messaging (MMS) being the biggest money-spinner for operators.

  • Vendors herald GPRS arrival as others sound warning bells (Total Telecom) Mobile equipment vendors are proclaiming the imminent arrival of general packet radio systems at the 3GSM Congress in Cannes this year, saying that commercial service rollout should start en masse from the second quarter. But some industry experts, while conceding that GPRS networks are more-or-less in place, warn that there is still a great deal of work to be done, and that vendors should refrain from popping the champagne corks just yet.

  • Web Phones: For the Elite Few? (New York Times) Web-enabled mobile phones are nothing more than a "rich man's toy," according to Internet World Wireless conference chairman Jack Powers. And it's painfully obvious from this week's conference that the devices are not going to be geared toward the everyday consumer anytime soon. see also Most Can Live Without Wireless Web, Survey Shows (Reuters) and The Web, Without Wires, Wherever (New York Times).

   Portals, browsers and search engines

  • Google Extends Search Engine's Reach to a Popular File Format (New York Times) In a move that may prove particularly popular among academics and researchers, Google, an Internet search engine, has started indexing millions of Portable Document Format files. see also Deja 'Revolt' Against Google (Wired). When Google purchased an archive that contains millions of Usenet posts from the now defunct-Deja search service earlier this month, it promptly took a large part of the archive offline until Google could design a new search interface for the collection.

   Security and encryption

  • IBM pulls digital tagging plan (CNET News.com) IBM has withdrawn a proposed method of digitally tagging content, known as Content Protection for Removable Media (CPRM), leading an industry coalition to adopt an alternative way to prevent piracy of copyrighted material.

  • Lookout for major Outlook bug (The Register) Microsoft has warned of a potentially devastating security vulnerability involving its popular Outlook and Outlook Express email clients. It could allow attackers to trick users into running malicious code so giving them control of a victim's machine. The security bug concerns the vCard, or virtual business cards, component of Outlook.

  • The Key Vanishes: Scientist Outlines Unbreakable Code (New York Times) A computer science professor at Harvard says he has found a way to send coded messages that cannot be deciphered, even by an all-powerful adversary with unlimited computing power. And, he says, he can prove it.

   Statistics

  • "Sex" Popular on the Web (Alexa Research) Based on their searching habits, an alarming number of Web users are not particularly efficient at reaching their online destinations. Rather than entering a uniform resource locator ("URL") into the address field of their Web browsers, millions of Internet users enter the name of the site they want into the search box of their homepage or other search engine. The study also found that the most popular term people search for online is "sex."

  • Internet Users Want Free Content, No Taxes - Survey (Newsbytes) People have grown accustomed to getting online content free of charge, and they would resent the imposition of any fees or restrictions. That is the message from a recent survey of 1,812 adults in the United States who use the Internet performed by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).

  • USA - Internet population hits 56 percent ((AP) The Internet was used by more than half of the U.S. adult population last year as some 16 million new users ventured online in the last six months. In addition, nearly three-quarters of children ages 12 to 17 had Internet access, said the Pew Internet & American Life Project. see also Internet Use Slipped Late Last Year (Washington Post).

   Technology

  • Power to the people (Guardian) The technology that lets users chat, swap files and share storage space returns the net to its founding principles. Karlin Lillington reports from a peer-to-peer conference in San Francisco


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