QuickLinks 64 - 2 May 1998
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.
USA - States may seek injunction against Microsoft next week
USA - Domain tax approved
EU - Pay-TV: Kirch et Bertelsmann font des concessions à Bruxelles, selon la presse
USA - Digital Copyright Bill has exemptions for service providers added
Trade powers: No tariffs on Net
France - Les concurrents de France Télécom saisissent le Conseil d'Etat
Legal and regulatory issues
Access to public sector information / IT in government
- Britain's Blair goes online to talk politics
(Nando.net - Reuters )
Tony Blair polished his image as the most modern of prime ministers on Wednesday, taking to the Internet to field questions from the British public. In what aides said was the first "live" interview on the Internet by a European government leader, Blair unveiled his vision for Britain's future and covered topics ranging from Northern Ireland to health spending.
- U.S. Agencies Dragging Their Feet Online
The United States government is far behind schedule in its efforts to publish information online, says a report released last week by a Washington, D.C., watchdog group. OMB Watch, a nonprofit group focusing on budget issues, said few agencies are complying with the 1996 Electronic Freedom of Information Act (EFOIA) regulations, which requires them to post many public documents on their websites.
- France - Les concurrents de France Télécom saisissent le Conseil d'Etat
L'Association française des opérateurs privés en télécommunications, qui regroupe notamment Cegetel, Bouygues Télécom et Colt, a décidé de saisir le Conseil d'Etat et le Conseil de la Concurrence sur l'offre de France Télécom pour raccorder les écoles à internet. Les concurrents de France Télécom contestent la décision du gouvernement, annoncée il y a un mois, d'autoriser France Télécom à casser les prix pour faire entrer internet dans les établissements scolaires. Le gouvernement avait privilégié la rapidité d'équipement des établissements scolaires, au détriment de la concurrence naissante dans les télécommunications.
Kirch - Bertelsmann
- EU - Pay-TV: Kirch et Bertelsmann font des concessions à Bruxelles, selon la presse
Le magnat allemand de l'audiovisuel Leo Kirch a proposé de revendre à des concurrents un quart des films achetés à Hollywood pour faire plier Bruxelles sur son projet d'alliance dans la télévision numérique avec Bertelsmann, rapportent deux quotidiens allemands à paraître jeudi.
- EU - Deutschland: Wolf-Angebot Kirch-Bertelsmann löst Problem nicht
Kartellamtschef Dieter Wolf hält die von den Medienkonzernen Kirch und Bertelsmann gemachten Zugeständnisse bei ihrer geplanten Pay-TV-Allianz nicht für ausreichend. Wolf sagte am Mittwoch abend in Berlin, er habe am heutigen Tag kurz vor Ablauf der Frist ein Angebot der Konzerne erhalten, in dem Änderungen der Zusammenarbeit beim Bezahlfernsehen vorgeschlagen würden. Er habe darin aber keinen Vorschlag gefunden, der seine wettbewerblichen Bedenken beim Handel mit Filmrechten ausräume. Im technischen Bereich sei aber die Bereitschaft zu einer Lösung ausgeprägter.
MCI - WorldCom
- EU Panel to Review WorldCom-MCI Deal
( Washington Post )
The European Commission yesterday signaled tentative objections to WorldCom Inc.'s proposed $37 billion acquisition of MCI Communications Corp., sending the companies formal notification of issues it wants to examine. The contents of the statement were not made public, but an MCI official said the objections included whether the combined company would control too much of the Internet's "backbone," or data trunk lines.
- EU - MCI, WorldCom: European Objections Won't Slow Merger
MCI Communications Corp. and WorldCom Inc. said that new, formal objections to their merger issued by European competition regulators will not stand in the way of quick completion of the deal. MCI and WorldCom have until May 4 to identify business secrets contained in the document. Then, a sanitized version will be distributed to competitors and other participants in the proceeding. Hearings are scheduled for May 12 and May 13. The deadline for a commission decision is July 15. The EC is not expected to try to block the merger outright. an EC official said. He said the commission favors structural remedies - such as asset sales - over regulation of ongoing corporate conduct, which requires a lot of policing.
- USA - States may seek injunction against Microsoft next week
(PC Week Online)
Attorneys general from nearly a dozen states are likely to take action against Microsoft next week, possibly as early as Monday or Tuesday, by seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent the shipment of Windows 98.
- USA - Microsoft Legal Consultant Lays Down The Rule
(Computer Reseller News )
While Microsoft faces the threat of additional antitrust lawsuits from both the U.S. Department of Justice and several state attorneys general, a Washington, D.C., lawyer serving as a legal consultant to the company said the government has no case.
- USA - Tech Execs Fear Win98 Suit
A collection of the heaviest hitters in the US technology industry have written a letter to the Department of Justice warning prosecutors of the dire economic consequences of taking any action against Microsoft Corp. that would delay the release of its Windows 98 operating system. The signers of the extraordinary letter, released by Microsoft Thursday, told the department that interfering with the scheduled 25 June release of the new operating system would seriously harm their businesses and have an adverse impact on the lives of millions of American workers and consumers.
- Singapore Vows Property Protection
(Wired - Reuters)
Facing a certification-or-sanctions vote from US anti-piracy watchdogs and hoping to become a hub for electronic commerce, Singapore says it's in the national interest to protect intellectual property rights over the Internet and today announced that it's looking at legislation and will accede to global protection efforts.
- US Hits Greece over Copyright
The United States today come down hard on Greece and China for continuing to pirate American entertainment programming and software products. In its annual review of how other countries protect copyrights and other intellectual property, the US Trade Representative Office said it initiated World Trade Organization proceedings with the European Union and Greece over what it called "high rates" of television piracy in Greece.
- USA - Blizzard Gets Sued For Snooping On Gamers
Game developer Blizzard Entertainment is being sued for unlawful business practices, stemming from the revelation that the company's hot-selling new StarCraft snoops through players' hard drives and e-mails information to the company over the Internet. But Blizzard defends the trap door, saying it was meant to determine if certain players unable to log onto the company's multiplayer gaming site, Battle.Net, were using pirated software. Without the security CD key that comes with each retail version of the game, a player cannot access the site.
Data Protection (privacy)
- USA - Magaziner: Industry Efforts To Protect Online Privacy Falling Short
Industry efforts to protect the privacy of people and businesses on the Internet are falling short, White House Adviser Ira Magaziner said. While he still has hope that the online industry will come forward with some concrete recommendations and proposals on how to protect privacy over the Internet, Magaziner said at the Internet and Electronic Commerce conference in New York that he does not believe the ideas will come in by the July 1 deadline set by President Clinton.
- USA - Online privacy rules proposed to ease threat to e-commerce
Self-regulation could help allay consumer fears Worried that privacy concerns represent a growing threat to Internet commerce, dozens of leading technology companies, advertisers and direct marketers are forming an alliance to promote self-regulation. Former Federal Trade Commission member Christine Varney is expected to be named next month to head what is tentatively being called the Privacy Alliance.
- USA - TV star sues porn sites over real, fake images
Former "Melrose Place" star Alyssa Milano on Wednesday filed two civil lawsuits claiming copyright and privacy violations against pornographic Web site producers in the U.S. and Canada who allegedly sell nude images of her and dozens of other Hollywood stars.
- USA - Domain tax approved
Congress last night retroactively approved a tax on the registration of Internet domain names--a tax that had been struck down by a federal judge three weeks earlier. Because the tax is not currently being collected, there will be no immediate effect on people registering new domain names. But those who registered during the period the tax was imposed won't be getting the refunds many of them expected. Approximately $56 million had been collected from the tax, according to Network Solutions (NSI), which is charged with registering domain names under a government contract.
- Final Domain Name Plan Is Expected In Two Weeks
Ira Magaziner, White House senior policy adviser and Internet point man, said Wednesday that he expects a final paper on the Internet domain names registry to be released within two weeks.
- Australia - Domain registry charged with fraud
The Australian government filed fraud charges against the operator of "www.internic.com" for allegedly collecting up to $3 million from consumers worldwide who apparently mistook the site for the official domain name registry in the United States. The Federal Trade Commission alerted the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) about the site in August. Today, the FTC said the ACCC have taken action against the site's owner, Peter Zmijewski, for allegedly misleading about 12,000 consumers who paid between $220 and $250 to register names for the most popular domains, such as ".com."
- USA - Controversial domains go to civil rights groups
Two of the country's most high-profile civil rights organizations registered a dozen domains containing racist and anti-Semitic epithets. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) registered in the ".com," ".org," and ".net" domains six names that include the word "nigger." "We prefer to have control of the names and use them for antidefamation purposes, rather than let hate groups control them," Hawley said. The Anti-Defamation League registered six domains with the word "kike" and stated similar motivations for acquiring them. The fact that NSI is now allowing the registry of names that it formerly considered offensive appears to signal a change in policy.
- EU Urges Ecommerce Debate
The European Union is suggesting more debate as a way to clarify the rules on ecommerce. The EU said in a statement Wednesday that the aim of the World Trade Organization debate should be removing obstacles and establishing basic principles to give ecommerce "legal certainty." Further, the statement said, the 132 WTO member countries should discuss an agreement against imposing border tariffs.
Information society and Internet policy
- White House's Magaziner says Internet should stay unregulated
Ira Magaziner, senior advisor to the President for policy development, cruised through a list of issues, concerns, and definitions concerning the Internet and Internet commerce during a keynote speech here Wednesday at the Internet and Electronic Commerce Expo.
- USA - FBI Sued over Wiretapping System
Two telecommunications industry groups filed a lawsuit alleging that the FBI and the Department of Justice are asking for a system that is far more extensive and expensive than the one envisioned under the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act.
- USA - Press tangled in child porn sting
Journalist Larry Matthews used risky tactics to expose the child pornography market on the Net. He infiltrated the digital underworld where sexually explicit images of minors are traded or sold. The FBI uses a similar strategy, with agents lurking anonymously in chat rooms to catch adults who solicit minors or offer up child porn. Matthews was indicted last summer on 15 counts of possessing and transmitting child pornography. Matthews says he was conducting research for a story. The prosecution argues that he wasn't acting as a journalist--and even if he was, reporters do not have the right to sidestep the law.
IT in education
- USA - Schools And Libraries Rush For Internet Discounts
Schools and libraries around the country have requested about $2 billion in discounted Internet hook-ups, the Federal Communications Commission said Friday. The program is limited to $2.25 billion each year and is funded through fees telephone companies pay to the universal service fund.
Junk mail (spam)
- UK - Police Drop Charges Against Spammer
A junk e-mailer who effectively crippled two British ISPs could walk away unpunished after police dropped a criminal investigation into the affair. Netmatters and Colloquium, both based in the United Kingdom, said they had suffered losses of £100,000 (when their services collapsed due to overload in February after the spammer sent out millions of unsolicited electronic messages. A representative for the Strathclyde police said its criminal investigation into the affair was dropped because of a lack of substance to the claim. McMillan said his company was now considering taking civil action under the Computer Misuse Act.
- USA - Digital Copyright Bill has exemptions for service providers added
Legislation to protect copyrighted material on the Internet passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday after a series of amendments soothed groups that had threatened to block the measure. The amended provision included four "safe harbors" granting online service providers immunity from liability for copyright infringements by others over their networks.
Multilingual content and software
- French groups lose language suit
The first test case attempting to apply France's disputed language law to the Internet ended in failure when an appeals court confirmed a lower court's dismissal on a legal technicality of a suit by two watchdogs promoting the use of the French language against the Georgia Institute of Technology's French campus for using English alone on its Web site. They based their case on controversial 1994 legislation requiring that all advertising in France be in French.
Security and encryption
- UK - Coded message
Two new laws will regulate how cryptography is used to secure electronic information online, trade minister Barbara Roche told Parliament on Monday. The first law, to be drafted by the Department of Trade and Industry, will not compel users to hand over copies of the software keys used to encrypt electronic data. But the second one, from the Home Office, will enable intelligence and law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant for access to information necessary to decrypt the contents of communications or stored data. Failure to comply would be a criminal offence.
- UK - Industry disappointed by government U-turn on encryption
The UK government published its long awaited encryption policy this week, backing down from earlier proposals that would have allowed all encrypted communications to be covertly tapped. But the announcement provoked industry-wide disappointment as it became clear the government still wants to decode encrypted messages through a legal mechanism known as key recovery.
- UK - Pretty Good Privacy Creator Slams New Encryption Policy
The British government's recently proposed encryption policy could open the door to human rights abuses, according to Phil Zimmermann, creator of the Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) cryptography software. British users should create their own grassroots public key infrastructure where they would not give anyone their message encryption keys and would chose who they trusted to hold their digital signature keys, said Zimmermann, speaking Tuesday at the Infosecurity '98 show in London.
Taxation and tariffs
- Trade powers: No tariffs on Net
The United States, Canada, Japan, and the European Union pledged to seek agreement on a "standstill" to keep electronic commerce free of tariffs, but disagreed on their approach to future trade talks. Representatives of the four trading powers agreed to work together toward an agreement on global electronic commerce in time for a World Trade Organization meeting in Geneva on May 18. Officials from the four nations said they would "work to develop as soon as possible consensus on a standstill to preserve current practices of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions." This pledge fell short of the U.S. wish to get an accord within the next month to ensure commerce conducted entirely over the Internet will stay forever free of tariffs.
- USA - Forbes: No Net taxes for 5 years
A Washington compromise on Internet taxation has serious flaws, publisher and former GOP presidential candidate Steve Forbes told a New York e-commerce conference. Instead, Congress should enact the original version of the Cox-Widen bill, also called the Internet Tax Freedom Act, which calls for a five-year moratorium on taxing the Net, two years longer than the current proposal.
Market & Technology
Convergence of telecommunications, media and information technology sectors
- USA - NetChannel to End Service
NetChannel, the WebTV competitor in bringing the Internet to people through their television, will pull the plug on its wheezing service this weekend. The Wall Street Journal reported today that AOL, which has lent the struggling firm some US$5 million over the past six months, is prepared to forgive that debt and pay $15 million more for the company's technology, but is not interested in its little-used subscriber service.
- Online booksellers just a typo away from sales
One Web entrepreneur has figured out a way to capitalize on the brand name of a well-known online bookseller and on people's spelling mistakes. It's called "Amazom.com." The site is easy enough to reach -- just mistype one letter. And it feeds traffic not to Amazon.com, but to two competitors.
- Nestle hoping to sweeten life for Net users
(Nando.net - Reuters)
Nestle SA said on Wednesday it was encouraged by tests of selling its products over the Internet and that electronic commerce could one day account for billions of dollars in sales. Chief executive Peter Brabeck said trials in Switzerland showed the idea of ordering Nestle products on the Internet and having them delivered by post held real promise.
Junk mail (spam)
- Deja News Launches Spam-Filtered Email Service
Continuing in its offensive against spam, Deja News Inc. is offering free, spam-filtered e-mail as an integrated component of My Deja News, a personalized service enabling users to access over 50,000 Internet discussion forums.
- ISPs crushed by internet giants
Europe's small ISPs are in danger of being eaten up by both telecom companies and larger US rivals. Small and medium-sized ISPs claimed 56 per cent of the European market in 1996, according to statistics from Dataquest. But in the past two years the European telecommunications companies and large US providers have started to join the fray. As they continue to do so, analysts and observers expect that the corpses of smaller ISPs will soon litter the information superhighway, the roadkill of inadequate business models and collapsing margins.
- Microsoft loses bid for SPA board seat
Don't expect the Software Publishers Association to rein in its campaign against Microsoft Corp. anytime soon. Microsoft, the SPA's largest dues-paying member, had hoped to win one of the six two-year SPA board seats up for election. But the results are in, and Microsoft Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Bob Herbold is not among the victors.
- UK - Scottish Telecom snatches up one of Europe's largest ISPs
Scottish Telecom confirmed Friday that it will purchase one of the Europe's largest ISPs -- Demon Internet -- after several weeks of speculation. Scottish Telecom, the telecommunications division of British electricity company Scottish Power, has agreed to purchase Demon Internet. Six-year-old Demon has 180,000 dial-up subscribers in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, between 30 percent and 40 percent of which are business customers, according to analysts
Multilingual content and software
- @Home Goes to the Netherlands and Belgium
@Home Network is planning a joint venture with Dutch cable operators CasTel and Palet Kabelcom. @Home Netherlands will develop and market a Dutch version of @Home's high-speed cable Internet service in the Netherlands and the Flemish-speaking areas of Belgium that will provide subscribers with broadband content and applications as well as Internet access.
- Lycos To Acquire Filtering Technology Developer
Lycos Inc. said it will acquire filtering technology developer WiseWire Corp. Lycos plans to use WiseWire technology to integrate an automated directory service into its search engine offering. Subsequently it plans to develop personalized software agents capable of combing the Internet for new Web sites that match a user's stated tastes.
- Microsoft to integrate euro system into Windows 98
Software giant Microsoft Corp. said Wednesday it will incorporate the symbol of the planned European single currency - the euro - in the operating systems of its Windows software.
- EuroISPA conference, Brussels, 4-5 June 1998
The European Internet Service Providers Association is organising a conference on Internet pricing in the European Parliament's premises in Brussels. Programme and registration details at EuroISPA's Web site:
QuickLinks are edited by Richard Swetenham
- Contributors: Gunnar Bender, Rudi Roth
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