QuickLinks 194 - 23 April 2001

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Legal and regulatory issues

   Competition

  • Leading European ISPs Complain Against Belgacom (Reuters) Two big European Internet service providers (ISPs) filed a legal complaint against Belgium's national telecommunications operator for allegedly abusing its former monopoly status to poach customers.

  • EU - Commission clears UEFA's new Broadcasting Regulations (RAPID) The Commission has decided that UEFA's new rules on the broadcasting of football matches fall outside the scope of European competition rules. The rules allow national football associations to block the broadcasting on television of football during 2½ hours either on Saturday or Sunday to protect stadium attendance and amateur participation in the sport and are a good example of how to reconcile competition rules and the special characteristics of sport.

  • EU - Microsoft bows to Brussels (FT) Microsoft has bowed to European competition authorities pressure with a pledge not to try to influence cable operators in which it holds a stake to buy its products. Brussels had been concerned that Microsoft might exercise undue influence over the purchases of software for set-top boxes. see also Press Release (RAPID).

   Computer crime

  • UK - New force to tackle cybercrime (BBC) A specialist police unit designed to tackle computer-based crime is being launched by the Home Secretary Jack Straw. The National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHCTU) will be responsible for tracking down the growing range of criminals who operate in cyberspace. They include organised criminal gangs who use computers to commit fraud, paedophiles who exchange obscene images on the net, and hackers who wreak havoc by writing computer viruses which can disable systems worldwide. See also Launch of the United Kingdom's first National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NCIS : National Criminal Intelligence Service Press Release)

  • Judge calls for Internet controls on Net paedophilia (ZDNet UK) A British judge has called for greater checks on unlawful Internet content after sentencing an Oxford University scholar to five years for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy that he met in a gay Internet chatroom. The judge expressed his concern over the lack of controls in place to monitor Internet content, and to protect children from paedophiles operating in chatrooms.

  • Police Say 80 People in Global Child Porn Ring (Reuters) Police in Spain working with Interpol broke up the 21-country child pornography network, arresting 7 people in Spain and with one more detention due. Spanish police believe around 80 people were involved in an international child pornography ring.

   Content regulation

  • USA - Is the FCC Quelling Free Speech? (Wired) The Internet was supposed to democratize speech, giving anyone with online access a chance to spout off about anything. And, of course, it has in a very real way. But ironically, the Internet's everyone-in-the-pool qualities are being used to squeeze many voices out of traditional media. Claiming Americans get their fix of diverse viewpoints on the Internet, media conglomerates are using the Web as an excuse to consolidate their power in the offline worlds of television, radio and print media.

   Copyright, trademarks and patents

  • China cracks down on file-swapping sites (Bloomberg News) Chinese officials told Netease.com and other Web sites that let people download copyrighted music to start paying royalties or end such services. The crackdown coincides with renewed Chinese efforts to stamp out counterfeiting and echoes the experience of Napster in the United States, which was forced to install filtering software to remove copyrighted songs from its free song-swapping service.

  • Napster to take fingerprints (ZDNet) Napster has licensed acoustic fingerprinting technology from Alexandria, Va.-based Relatable that identifies songs using the wavelength patterns produced by their sounds.

  • Patent Application on Web Sends Inventor to the Drawing Board (New York Times) It might seem only a modest modification to a Web site. But it represents one of the most radical changes in United States patent law in a century. A few weeks ago, the Patent and Trademark Office altered its Web page devoted to searching the patent database to make way for new links that permit searches of patent applications that are published 18 months after filing. So far, only 84 applications have been published, but the significance is much greater.

   Data Protection (privacy)

  • EBay Alters Privacy Policy (Wired) EBay has changed its privacy policy. The new version will allow the online auction company to share its database of user information with a new owner if the company is bought. Privacy advocates say the change is part of an industry-wide shift in privacy policy in the wake of last year's controversial Toysmart case. They also say it's another example of why self-regulation doesn't protect consumer privacy very well. Online Privacy Policies and Practices Under Fire (GigaLaw.com ).

  • EU reservations on Australian Privacy Law (Europa) The EU Working Party on the Data Privacy directive has issued its opinion on Australia's new privacy legislation. The working party considers that data transfers to Australia could be regarded as adequate only if appropriate safeguards were introduced to meet the concerns set out in the report. The Attorny-General of Australia has replied.

  • USA - 3 Web Firms to Pay Fines for Collecting Data on Children (Washington Post) As part of a crackdown on Internet sites that collect personal information from children without their parents' permission, the Federal Trade Commission announced that three online companies have agreed to pay $100,000 in fines to settle charges that they violated federal law.

  • USA - Children's Protection Act Falling Short (Newsbytes) A report by the Center for Media Education (CME), a non-profit organization monitoring online content aimed at children, said that in its first year of application, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) wrought positive changes but the industry is falling short of complying with privacy provisions.

  • USA - Industry Wants to Opt Out of "Opt-In" (Internet Law Journal) A review of arguments made by the Direct Marketing Association for an "opt-out" rule for collection of personal data.

  • USA - Lawmakers Divided Over How To Legislate Online Privacy (Newsbytes) The fate of some two dozen or so privacy bills before Congress this session could hinge on whether lawmakers choose to adopt broad, sweeping legislation or continue to pursue industry-specific information privacy measures. If a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Commerce Trade and Consumer Protection was any indication, lawmakers appear to be leaning in the latter direction.

   Domain names

   Information society and Internet policy

   Interception

   Junk mail (spam)

   Liability, jurisdiction and applicable law

  • Continents Clash on Content (New York Times) Courts in France, Germany and Italy rocked the cyberspace world in recent months with rulings banning content from their borders that does not meet their national laws. This highlighted differences between Europe and the United States (and even differences within Europe) on the best ways to regulate the Internet. Interviews with Erkki Liikanen and Senator Patrick J. Leahy.

  • New technologies, laws raise barriers online (CNET News.com) A combination of new technologies, recent laws and international restrictions are making possible a kind of online regulation once thought impossible. Proponents of Internet restrictions are turning increasingly to effective software filters and tracking programs that can create barriers on the Web and help find those who breach them. see also Nations head for global clash Foreign governments are moving to regulate the Internet with growing frequency, raising the potential for the kind of conflict with U.S. law not seen in years.

  • Austria - Haftbar für Inhalte auf einer verlinkten fremden Website (Heise) Der Oberste Gerichtshof in Österreich hat sich erstmals mit der Frage beschäftigt, ob der Betreiber einer Website für einen Link auf eine andere Website haftet. Unter Anlehnung auf die deutsche Rechtsprechung hat das OGH im Hinblick auf einen Antrag auf einstweilige Verfügung entschieden, dass sich derjenige, der ein Angebot auf einer anderen Webseite verlinkt, sich diesen Inhalt zu Eigen macht und daher auch wettbewerbsrechtlich dafür verantwortlich ist.

   Mobile and wireless

  • USA - Mobile-phone makers face lawsuits (Washington Post) G. Angelos, the pugnacious Baltimore lawyer who made his fortune suing asbestos and tobacco manufacturers, opened another front in his personal-injury litigation offensive — the wireless telephone industry.

   Protection of minors

  • Yahoo! UK recruits paedophile 'inspector' (Yahoo UK) Internet portal Yahoo! UK has recruited an "inspector" charged with responsibility for dealing with paedophile content polluting its chatrooms. As the first content inspector ever to be recruited by the portal, her job will be to deal with the unacceptable use of chatrooms by paedophiles to lure children into offline sexual meetings.

   Racism and xenophobia

   Rating and filtering

  • EFF Plans Internet Filtering Protest (Newsbytes) Civil libertarians on both coasts will gather to protest the official implementation of the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which requires schools and libraries to install Internet blocking software in order to continue receiving federal funding. see also Filters face free-speech test (ZDNet).

   Self-regulation / codes of conduct

  • Global E-Commerce Conduct Code Discussed (Reuters) The U.S. Better Business Bureau and two European business groups, Eurochambres, an association of European chambers of commerce, and FEDMA, which represents European direct-marketing businesses are developing a set of standards for Web sites to ease consumer concerns about doing business over the Internet. The three groups said they would merge their codes of conduct to provide a voluntary, international standard for online commerce, as well as a framework to resolve disputes.

   Telecommunications

  • UK - Government set to bail out telecoms industry (Guardian) The government is set to bail out debt-laden telecoms companies by giving back the £22bn spent on 3G mobile phone licences. Senior Whitehall sources and telecoms industry insiders confirmed that discussions have taken place over a rebate.

  • EU - Ministers deal telecoms blow to Commission (Reuters) European Union ministers thwarted plans by the European Commission to become the ultimate supervisor of telecommunications regulations in the 15-nation bloc in a move that may upset the industry. The ministers reached an agreement on an ambitious telecoms package to harmonise regulations across the bloc for this key European industrial sector. However, the deal was reached only after they had killed a controversial Commission proposal to have the last say in telecoms regulation. The decision leaves regulatory power in the hands of national telecoms authorities. After a marathon ten hours of talks in Luxembourg, ministers also agreed on how to define significant market power in the sector, a prerequisite for imposing obligations on operators.

Market & Technology

   Convergence of telecommunications, media and information technology

  • What's holding up media convergence? (Knowledge@Wharton) Convergence is a lot like the weather: Everybody's talking about it, no one can control it, and how you prepare for it depends on where you are.

   Junk mail (spam)

  • Internal E-Mail Accounts For A Third Of Office 'Spam' - Study (Newsbytes) When most e-mail users talk about spam, they're usually referring to unsolicited pitches for "money-making" work-at-home schemes or advertising for cheap Viagra substitutes. But a new survey conducted by Gartner Inc. suggests that 34 percent of business e-mail within a company might deserve the spam label.

   Security and encryption

  • Clone of 'Melissa' virus infects the Internet (CNN) A new Trojan virus similar to the "Melissa" bug is proliferating quickly across the Internet. The subject line is usually "Matcher" and the misspelled message text is: "Want to find your love mates!!!/ Try this its cool.../ Looks and Attitude maching to opposite sex."

  • New cloaked-code threat to security (ZDNet News) A new technique for disguising programs aimed at cracking corporate networks could raise the stakes in the heated battle between hackers and security experts. The cloaking technique is aimed at foiling the pattern-recognition intelligence used by many intrusion detection systems, or IDSes, known as the burglar alarms of the Internet.

   Standards

  • The Semantic Web (Scientific American) A new form of Web content that is meaningful to computers will unleash a revolution of new possibilities

   Technology

  • Anti-piracy plans for hardware fail (CNET News.com) The National Committee on Information Technology Standards (NCITS) voted against adding copy-protection support directly into computer hardware, a controversial proposal aiming to smooth adoption of strong anti-piracy safeguards. The vote had been closely watched by free-speech advocates, hardware makers, Hollywood studios and record labels as a signal of how much control the content and computer industries would have over consumers' use of home PCs.


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QuickLinks is edited by Richard Swetenham richard.swetenham@cec.eu.int - Contributors: Internet Law News, David Goldstein, Gerhard Heine, Alan Reekie