QuickLinks 196 - 15 May 2001

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Legal and regulatory issues


  • Statement on Oftel Review of Conditional Access Services (Press Release) Oftel has announced that its forthcoming review of the current arrangements for public service broadcasters’ access to conditional access services will also look at the principles of tariff construction for these services.

  • UK - BBC cleared of commercial bias (Guardian) The BBC was cleared of abusing its role as a public service broadcaster through its growing commercial activities. Chris Smith, the culture secretary, and competition law expert Professor Richard Whish, said the BBC's guidelines on fair trading ensured there was no distortion of competition in the commercial sector. The guidelines are overseen by the board of governors.

   Cable and satellite

  • Senator warns Murdoch over US satellite plans (FT) John McCain, the powerful Republican senator, has fired a warning shot across the bows of Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul who has ambitious expansion plans in the US broadcast and satellite television market.

  • UK cable groups in ad link (FT) NTL and Telewest, the UK's dominant cable operators, signalled increased co-operation when they announced plans to merge their advertising sales operations. The deal will create a one-stop shop for advertisers wanting access to cable customers and allow advertising campaigns to be launched across the entire UK cable industry.


  • EU - EU genehmigt Bertelsmann Mehrheitserwerb an RTL Group (Reuters) Die Europäische Kommission hat der Bertelsmann AG den Erwerb der Mehrheit an dem Medienkonzern RTL Group genehmigt und damit zugleich den Weg für eine Börsennotierung von Bertelsmann- Anteilen frei gemacht. Die Billigung sei ohne Auflagen erfolgt.

  • EU - T-Online travel plan probed (FT) The European Commission will launch a four-month investigation into the online travel agency planned by T-Online and Germany's two leading tour operators, Preussag and C&N. The in-depth probe, the first into a business-to-consumer internet deal, is expected to raise a series of issues surrounding the openness of internet access as well as ownership rights.

   Computer crime

  • France - Un réseau pédophile sur internet démantelé dans 27 départements (AFP) Un réseau organisé de trafic d'images pédophiles sur l'internet a été démantelé dans 27 départements français, dont La Réunion, et a donné lieu à 66 interpellations. Les investigations des gendarmes "ont d'ores et déjà permis l'arrestation de l'auteur d'un viol sur mineur qui a été écroué", a précisé la gendarmerie dans un communiqué.

  • Australia To Toughen Computer Crime Laws (Computer Daily News) The Australian government is planning to get tough on cyber crime. Stepping in to replace laws that were originally drawn up in the 1980s, a bill to go before Parliament shortly will lift the maximum penalty for computer crime to at least ten years in jail.

  • Dark side of cybercrime fight (FT) An international treaty on law enforcement for the web poses unsettling questions about civil liberties. European negotiators will finish the final draft of a treaty on law enforcement in cyberspace under the auspices of the Council of Europe, a 43-nation intergovernmental body. Several other non-European governments, including the US, have worked on the treaty with the aim of eventually signing it.

  • Swedish teenager faces fine for 'unknowing' video game piracy (Ananova) A Swedish teenager has appeared in court after allegedly copying PlayStation games on CD copying equipment he received for his birthday.

  • UK - Home Office may criminalise chatroom 'grooming' (ZDNet UK) The Home Office is to propose a controversial "anti-grooming" order, making it a criminal offence for paedophiles to solicit children in Internet chatrooms.

   Content regulation

  • Iran shuts internet cafés (FT) Police in Tehran have shut down several hundred internet cafes over the past week in a crackdown believed to be driven by concerns of the state telecommunications monopoly that it is losing business to the newly emerging private sector.

  • Report Includes Surprising Assessment of Internet Freedom (Freedom House) In a major study, Freedom House finds that press freedom registered overall gains throughout the world in 2000. However, despite the positive trends reflected in the latest annual Survey of Press Freedom, freedom of expression was dealt a severe blow in a number of large and geopolitically important countries. The Survey also finds that Internet freedom exceeds levels of press freedom in most countries, including some closed societies governed by censorious regimes.

  • The Impact of the Internet on Myanmar (First Monday) In the present paper, Viola Krebs explores how the Internet has affected the flow of information between in and outside Myanmar (Burma). There is a strong difference between the way information was presented before and after the introduction of the World Wide Web.

  • The porn crusaders (Salon) How a small group of media moralists busted Yahoo - after years of failing to make a dent anywhere else. see also Pulling the porn (Guardian).

  • Australia - Net censorship a $2.5m 'waste' (Australian IT) The internet regulatory regime cost taxpayers about $2.5 million in its first full year, yet in the second half only six complaints related to local sites, Electronic Frontiers Australia has found.

   Convergence of telecommunications, media and information technology

  • Australian Govt Abandons Interactive TV License Auction (Newsbytes) The Australian government has canceled a planned auction of licenses to provide interactive television, or datacasting, services nationwide. The cancellation was partly due to a lack of interest in the licenses and the likely lack of competition in services. This also reduced the potential return for the government on the sale of public airwaves.

   Copyright, trademarks and patents

   Data Protection (privacy)

  • "Spyware" piggybacks on Napster rivals (CNET News.com) As online file traders stream to Napster alternatives, many find their computers saddled with unwanted piggyback software that tracks their online movements and feeds them unwanted advertising.

  • EU 'no' to data privacy delay (FT) The European Union has rejected a US request that it delay approval of a "model contract" that financial institutions would be asked to sign to ensure that their exports to non-EU countries complied with the Data Protection directive.

  • USA - Judge limits police data online (Seattle Times) A Web site that provides sensitive information about police officers will stay on the Internet, but without the extensive lists of Social Security numbers. A judge ruled that the publication of home addresses and phone numbers falls under the umbrella of political speech.

  • USA - Privacy Commission Bill Clears Subcommittee (Newsbytes) A House subcommittee approved a bill that would establish a commission to study the need for privacy legislation at the congressional level. Critics maintain that it is a stalling attempt to keep privacy legislation from becoming law.

  • USA - Studies out to debunk privacy legislation (CNET News.com) Two industry-backed organizations attacked government efforts to create online privacy protections as costly, knee-jerk reactions to faulty public opinion polls.

   Information society and Internet policy

  • UK - e-Research: a First for Oxford (Press Release) Oxford University is creating the world's first truly multidisciplinary Internet Institute based in a major university. The Oxford Internet Institute (OII), with initial funding of £15 million, will carry out research and make policy recommendations about the effects on society of the Internet with the goal of putting Oxford, the UK and Europe at the centre of debates about how the Internet could and should develop. See also further information and video clips


  • Europe 'Dismayed' by U.S. in E-Mail Spy Probe (Reuters) A European Parliament team probing a suspected U.S.-led global electronic eavesdropping system cut short a fact-finding visit after failing to meet with U.S. intelligence chiefs.

   IT in education

  • Europe Morphs Into 'Knowledge Society' (Newsbytes) Sharing and using key knowledge are the foundation stones of electronic learning in the knowledge society, said Erkii Liikanen, the European Commission (EC) member responsible for the Enterprise and the Information Society. Speaking at the EC's eLearning summit in La Hulpe, Liikanen said that Europe is currently undergoing an important transformation.

  • Mise en oeuvre de eLearning (RAPID) Viviane Reding, Membre de la Commission européenne responsable de l'Education et de la Culture, eLearning Summit, La Hulpe, 10 mai 2001.

   Junk mail (spam)

  • Spain Slams Spam With New Law (Internetnews) Following a tug-o-war between proponents of privacy and those of unfettered advertising, Baudilio Tome, Secretary of State for Telecommunications and the Information Society, announced week the final draft of the Information Society Services and Electronic Commerce Law -- which clearly bans unsolicited commercial e-mail.

   Liability, jurisdiction and applicable law

   Mobile and wireless

  • BT delays launch of first 3G service (FT) The launch of third-generation mobile phone services faced another delay as British Telecommunications said its 3G services on the Isle of Man would be posponed because of problems with handsets.

   Protection of minors

  • Child Protection Online (UNESCO) A survey of issues.

  • USA - COPA Members Urge Congress To Act On Net Porn Report (Newsbytes) Concerned that their recommendations for protecting children from "harmful" material on the Internet are going unheeded, members of the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) Commission urged congressional staffers to take a closer look at the commission's final report, which was issued to Congress late least year.

   Racism and xenophobia

  • A banner day for neo-Nazis (Salon) Last month, Hatewatch shut down, declaring that the battle against hate groups has been won. It hasn't.

  • Ban on Nazi Items Upsets Collectors (New York Times) In the past year, both Yahoo Auctions and eBay have taken steps to prohibit members from selling any items, except coins and stamps, with Nazi insignia. The bans make no distinction between legitimate collectors and Nazi sympathizers looking for props to promote their cause.

   Rating and filtering

  • Filtering company SurfControl gets patent (CNET News.com) SurfControl, which produces Web and e-mail filters, has been granted a U.S. patent for software that allows companies to block Web sites. SurfControl won a patent for its "pass by" technology, which works from a standalone computer and "sniffs" Internet data before it hits a server.

   Security and encryption

  • White House Prepares Cyber-Security Plan (Newsbytes) The White House is kicking into high gear a new version of the National Plan for Cyberspace Security and Critical Infrastructure Protection, which it said will be ready for action later this year.


   Universal service

  • FCC Adopts Universal Service Changes (Newsbytes) The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made several changes to the way it tries to insure that rural telephone consumers receive service at affordable rates. The changes are also supposed to help ease the costs for rural and low-income communications consumers who benefit from the universal service fund, which helps rural and low-income consumers receive affordable telephone and Internet access. They also are expected to make it easier for would-be telecom competitors that want to enter the market.

Market & Technology


  • Taste of TV to come (Times) The television authorities have always policed zealously the distinction between editorial and commercial messages on television. Taste CFN, a new television channel devoted to all things foody and the Wellbeing Network, a channel devoted to health and beauty are TV channels owned by advertisers.


  • eBay bans links to other sites (CNET News.com) eBay will ban sellers from posting hyperlinks on its auction page. Some sellers have used the links to whisk buyers to independent Web sites where the seller will finalize sales to avoid paying eBay its auction fees.

  • ICQ: Meaningful revenue elusive (ZDNet News) It took AOL Time Warner's ICQ instant messenger service just four years to hit 100 million users, but AOL's dream of turning ICQ into a business has yet to materialize.

  • Nintendo Grows Up and Goes for the Gross-Out (New York Times) Games like Conker's Bad Fur Day, which is rated Mature by the Entertainment Software Rating Board, the industry's self-regulatory body, reflect maturing demographics. Long considered the domain of young boys, the $7 billion-a-year video game business now attracts an increasingly diverse audience, not just children.

  • Sony and AOL Join Forces on the Video Game Front (New York Times) Moving to create a strategic alliance against Microsoft, Sony Computer Entertainment and America Online plan to announce a new relationship aimed at blending the video game and online Internet experience. See Internet News: Sony and AOL in PlayStation 2 alliance.

   Security and encryption

  • Automatic Web-Defacing Worm On The Loose, CERT Says (Newsbytes) Network administrators who haven't been keeping up with security patches for their servers are being warned about a new Internet worm that breaks into machines running Sun's Solaris operating system in order to launch automated attacks on Web sites hosted on Microsoft's Windows NT. CERT at Carnegie Mellon University is calling the malicious code the "Sadmind/IIS worm".

  • X-rated 'Homepage' worm dying out (ZDNet News) The worldwide flood of e-mails caused by the virus is starting to dry up, say antivirus experts, less than 24 hours after the malicious attachment first went out. see also Homepage worm spreads quicker than Lovebug (ZDNet UK).


  • A Quarter Of All UK Kids Check Out Porn, Gambling Sites (Newsbytes) British kids' cat-like curiosity is leading them to cyber-places that parents likely would not approve of - namely, gambling and pornography sites. Or so says a study just published by market-research firm NetValue. The U.K.'s under-17s are still not top of the league when it comes to Internet surfing. While the nation has a higher percentage of under-17s online than the U.S., the top slot belongs to the German youth. se also and Who really lets your child see online porn (Guardian).

  • Fewer wired homes as free ISPs vanish (CNET News.com) The number of U.S. homes with Internet access dropped slightly during the first quarter of 2001, marking the first decrease in years. The study, conducted by Telecommunications Reports International, found that the 0.3 percent decline to 68.5 million was partly because of the shrinking number of free Internet service providers

  • The Net Is Changing The Way Americans Consume Media (Newsbytes) The growing interest in the Internet is switching people off traditional media sources - television, newspapers and radio - according to the results of a study released today.


  • Forget The Web, Make Way For 'X Internet' (Newsbyte) The Web's tenure as the driving instrument of info-revolution is waning, a new Forrester Research report says. In its place is emerging a new version of the Internet, which Forrester analyst Carl D. Howe dubs "X Internet."

  • Snoop software: Unhealthy at home? (MSNBC) Experts worry about rise of spouse-catching computer tools. More and more Internet-savvy users are turning to computer monitoring software, looking for proof of their worst fears. Some claim it’s a life-saver. But marriage and family experts are warning that technological snooping and meaningful relationships just can’t coexist.

  • Upstart eyes Napster fix (FT) Travis Hill, a 20-year-old former classical pianist from the US state of Utah, has developed Songbird, software that can track the use of copyrighted material over Napster's peer-to-peer service so artists and publishers can remove work uploaded to the network without their permission. More importantly, he has found a way to identify misspelt file tags to address the problem of Napster users tweaking artist and song titles to get around tracking systems. see also Songbird: Big Huff, Small Puff .


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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