QuickLinks 76 - 28 July 1998
Legal and regulatory issues
Access to public sector information / IT in government
- UK's most wanted to appear online
UK Home Secretary Jack Straw is considering an Web site featuring the UK's most wanted criminals, according to reports in the Sunday Times. The British police force is said to be backing the idea having been impressed by the US Federal Bureau of Investigations' success with its most wanted list online. The US authorities report that more than 100 criminals have been arrested thanks to tips originating from its Web site.
- UK - ISPA fires warning shot over BT 'Click'
The UK Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) has complained to Oftel regarding BT's proposed 'Click' service. The BT Click service will offer anyone with a BT telephone account access to the Net for about 4p per minute on their normal phone bills using WorldCom-supplied bandwidth. The letter asks Oftel to investigate the service on the grounds that it is anti-competitive, but also alleges that BT Click could damage the UK's Internet industry.
Convergence of telecommunications, media and information technology sectors
Data Protection (privacy)
- Canada - Un étudiant découvre sur Internet une liste d'acheteurs de produits érotiques
(Agence France Presse)
Un étudiant canadien en informatique qui effectuait des recherches sur Internet est tombé par hasard sur des listes de noms, adresses, téléphones et numéros de cartes de crédit de personnes ayant fait des achats par Internet, notamment de produits érotiques.
- US - FTC's Mozelle W. Thompson Pulls No Privacy Punches
The Federal Trade Commission is moving on privacy in a big way. After holding back for nearly three years, the agency now seems poised to lay down regulations protecting the confidentiality of online information. Mozelle W. Thompson will likely have a say in it all.
- USA - Industry Makes Online Privacy Enforcement Recommendations
Under the increasingly restive eye of Congress and the White House alike, an industry trade group that includes the likes of IBM Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Netscape Communications Corp. Tuesday issued its first recommendations for enforcement of privacy standards online.
- European Domain Debate Finds Some Consensus
The debate over the future of Internet-address management made significant progress at last weekend's meetings in Geneva, but some key issues remain unresolved. In particular, attendees agreed on the role of the new nonprofit corporation that will assume control of the domain-name management process in September, said members of the Internet community on Monday. But attendees said they couldn't reach consensus on which Internet industry sectors should be represented on the corporation's 15-member board. The Geneva meeting was more productive than the first of the three-stage meetings in Reston, Va. last month, said Jim Dixon, president of the European ISP Association. The third meeting will be held in Singapore, on Aug. 12 and 13.
- Domain Debaters Are Given Deadline Warning
President Clinton's Internet adviser issued a stern warning to Internet-community members to reach a consensus about the future of Internet-address management, or risk losing control of the process. Ira Magaziner, senior adviser to the president for policy development, told attendees at the International Forum on the White Paper conference here in Geneva to put aside their differences and find consensus on plans to establish a new nonprofit organization to run the domain-name system, before the Sept. 30 deadline set by the U.S. government.
- Magaziner hopeful for domain deal
President Clinton's Internet adviser said today industry leaders and policy makers were close to a deal on a U.S. plan to reform the Net's domain name system and make it more competitive. Ira Magaziner said the Internet community was close to a consensus over how the U.S. government should phase out its management of the vast global network. "We're pretty optimistic right now that things are moving along well," Magaziner told a news conference on the sidelines of the annual global conference of the Internet Society.
- UK rules against web brand pirates
(Financial Times (registration required))
The UK courts yesterday acted to protect companies from internet "pirates" who register famous brand names as world wide web "domain" names and then try to sell them on for a profit. The Court of Appeal ruled the practice of appropriating corporate brand names without consent and then dealing in them amounted to unlawful trademark infringement and "passing off". The ruling is seen as a substantial enhancement of worldwide internet regulation. It brings UK law into line with that in the US where the courts have previously ruled such practices amount to illegal trademark dilution.
- WIPO internet domain name process
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is convening an international process to develop recommendations concerning the intellectual property issues associated with Internet domain names, including dispute resolution. Recommendations resulting from the WIPO Internet Domain Name Process will be made available to the new organization that is being formed to manage the Internet domain name system.
- WIPO - Domain-Name Disputes Will Be Fought Online
Legal disputes over domain-name ownership and other Internet-related issues will be conducted online using a new system developed by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). If both companies agree, they can conduct their entire arbitration over the Internet -- including administration fees, documentation, and evidence -- using the Online Expedited Arbitration Service, developed by the organization.
- Germany - Web site takes the worry out of voting
(Wired - Reuters)
Say you're German and you can't decide whether to back or sack Chancellor Helmut Kohl in the September election. What do you do? If you've got Internet access, your worrying days are over. The brainchild of a Passau University politics professor, Wahltest '98 (http://www.wahl-test98.org) lists six political issues a day. Surfers are asked to vote by choosing whichever view most closely resembles theirs. A computer processes the results and displays a message telling users where their true political persuasions lie.
Information society and Internet policy
- EU - European Commission wants to leave main role in Internet to private sector
The European Commission plans to take only a minor role in regulating and promoting the Internet, preferring to leave its development up to the private sector, said Frans de Bruine of the European Commission DGXIII/E in an INET '98 keynote speech. While the Commission has the responsibility to help cultivate global solutions to issues such as Internet taxation and tariffs, the protection of intellectual property and private data and the use of encryption, it will act mostly as a forum to bring governments and corporations together, who will, in turn, come up with solutions, he said.
- Governments Back Hands-Off Approach To Net
Government officials from around the world said Friday they want an international and --where possible -- government-free approach to regulating the Internet. Senior representatives from the United States, Europe, and Australia said they want international cooperation on the many regulatory issues that surround the Internet -- but generally, they want regulation in the hands of the market rather than governments. The comments were made during the final session of the Internet Society's eighth annual conference held here in Geneva. The session will be immediately followed by the European meeting of the Global Incorporation Alliance Workshop international forum on the white paper, a series of meetings to discuss the domain-name-management proposals laid out in a draft revised by the U.S. government in June.
- Germany - "Legales Abhören" im Internet
Die Regierung habe in einem Entwurf für die neue Telekommunikations-Überwachungs-Verordnung einen "Lauschangriff" auf Datennetze wie das Internet vorgesehen, meldete das Nachrichtenmagazin "Focus" in einer Vorabmeldung zu seiner neuesten Ausgabe. Damit könne der Inhalt von E-Mails oder Internet-Gesprächsforen ausgewertet werden. Bundesinnenminister Manfred Kanther (CDU) wolle eine Such-Software einführen, die das Internet nach verbotenen Inhalten durchforste. Innenstaatssekretär Kurt Schelter (CDU) sagte "Focus", bei Verdacht auf Straftaten wie Kinderpornographie werde damit die Möglichkeit zum "legalen Abhören" geschaffen. Wie das Magazin weiter berichtete, sollen die Provider - die Zugangsanbieter zum Internet - den Plänen zufolge verpflichtet werden, bestimmte für die Strafverfolgung wichtige Daten zwischenzuspeichern und bei Bedarf den Behörden auszuhändigen.
- UK - Technological 'threat to civil rights'
The law on phone-tapping by the police fails to take account of new means of communications such as e-mail, a civil rights group has warned. A report by Justice concludes criminal intelligence work poses a threat to people's privacy and could break European law. The organisation calls for a unified set of regulations covering the bugging of all forms of communication.
- Dutch civil servant dismissed for distributing pornography at work
Dutch justice authorities, already disgraced by accusations of bungling a probe of an Internet kid-porn ring, braced for a fresh barrage of criticism Monday when news emerged that a civil servant faces child pornography charges. The man, who worked in the Justice Ministry's computer applications management department, was fired last week for downloading pornography from the Internet and distributing it through the ministry's internal computer network.
- Dutch minister vows to stop child pornography in the Netherlands
Dutch Justice Minister Winnie Sorgdrager promised to invest more money and resources in fighting Internet porn in the Netherlands. Sorgdrager, serving out her last weeks as justice minister before the swearing in of a new cabinet, had previously refused comment on a police probe into a pedophile ring suspected of distributing pornographic images of infants over the Internet. But on Thursday, stung by attacks on her ministry from anti-pornography campaigners and government deputies, Sorgdrager said she had given the fight against child abuse top priority. Dutch police launched an investigation into a suspected international pedophile ring at the end of June after they discovered thousands of pornographic videos and computer discs. The inquiry became public knowledge after Belgian anti-pornography group Morkhoven, approached Dutch current affairs program NOVA with more video and computer evidence from the same address. In the week since the revelations on NOVA, criticism of Dutch police and justice officials has mounted. They have been slow to respond to leads and brushed aside tip-offs, according to anti-pornography campaigners and newspaper commentators. On Wednesday, the main television news began by asking why all the nation's politicians were remaining silent on the affair. The conlusion was that they were too busy carving up ministerial posts for the next cabinet.
- German police detain child porn ring suspect
German prosecutors said today a suspect they had detained in connection with an international child pornography ring had confessed to sexually abusing his 12-year-old son over a period of 18 months. A spokesman for prosecutors in the western town of Koblenz said the 39-year-old man had also confessed to having taken a photograph of his son which was later posted on Internet pages of child-porn pictures for pedophiles.
- No EU decision on Net gambling
The European Commission is studying existing rules on Internet gambling but has not decided whether common legislation is needed. "In its current examination of the framework for electronic commerce, the commission...is considering the issue of the regulation of such online services," European internal market commissioner Mario Monti said in a written answer to a question on Internet gambling by John Cushnahan, a member of the European Parliament.
- Sex Site Surfing Declines, Internet Policies Double
The percentage of companies suffering from employee "sex site surfing" has dropped 10 points to 62 percent over the past 12 months, while the percentage either planning or already implementing policies on Internet use has almost doubled to 93 percent, according to a study by Elron Software Inc. The new policies being created vary considerably, however, from one employer to the next. Some employers are only permitting sex site surfing from the workplace to take place after-hours or at lunchtime, for instance. Many others are banning the practice entirely.
- USA - Senate OKs CDA II, gambling bill
The Senate today approved the first legislation restricting content on the Internet since portions of the Communications Decency Act were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court last summer. Senators unanimously passed a major spending bill with controversial amendments--one of which is known as the CDA II--that would make it a crime for Web sites to distribute "harmful" material to children. Another provision would require most schools and libraries to filter federally funded Net access, and the last bans most forms of Net gambling. However, the House has yet to vote on its own version of the spending legislation. The two chambers of Congress would have to resolve any differences before sending the bill to President Clinton. The Coats amendment prohibits "commercial" Web sites from allowing underage surfers to view adult-oriented material deemed "harmful to minors." It would apply to any communication, image, or writing that contains nudity, actual, or simulated sex, or "lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific" value. Violators could be fined up to $50,000 and imprisoned for six months.
Liability, jurisdiction and applicable law
- Canada - ISPs ordered to reveal user names
Internet service providers including America Online, CompuServe, and PSINet have been served with court orders that could force them to reveal the names of members who posted messages online that allegedly disparaged Canadian waste recycling firm Philip Services Corporation. Philip claimed that a number of individuals were making malicious attacks against its employees on a Yahoo message board, including threats of stalking and violence, ethnic slurs, and sexually harassing statements.
Market & Technology
- Watermarking Raises Cost, Control Issues
Computer and consumer-electronics companies are jockeying to set standards for digital watermarking, a technique for electronically identifying and protecting copyrighted material. The technology they establish could bring a new level of security to digital videodisks and prove a key enabler for e-commerce via the Internet, cable TV, and satellite.
- Birth of a telecom giant
AT&T and British Telecom launch a $10 billion venture linking the industry giants in the world's most competitive telecom markets. For AT&T, the step continues chairman Michael Armstrong's bold efforts to jumpstart the once sleepy telecoms giant. But the firms will face intense regulatory scrutiny for their new $10 billion international partnership and may be required to agree to concessions to gain approval. In addition, analysts say the partnership may leave much to be desired in terms of Internet presence for both companies.
- AT&T forms equal alliance with British Telecom
(NandoNet - The Associated Press)
British Telecommunications and AT&T are combining their international telephone operations and creating a new Internet system in a $10 billion alliance. BT, the biggest British telephone company, negotiated the joint venture with AT&T, the biggest U.S. carrier, after BT's earlier plan to merge with MCI Communications Corp. was busted by a higher offer from rival WorldCom Inc. To join forces with BT, AT&T will leave two other international deals: The AT&T-Unisource alliance that has Dutch, Swedish and Swiss partners, and its WorldPartners arrangement, a loose alliance with other international long-distance companies.
- Report: By 2000, Portals Will Be Like TV Networks
GartnerGroup Inc. said its researchers think that by 2000 there will be five top Internet portals firmly established in consumers' minds, just as the major television broadcast networks are today. These portals will command the lion's share of Internet users and businesses that want to reach the broadest audience possible will have to find ways to align themselves with a portal site to advance their marketing strategies, said the technology research firm.
- UK - BBC Online loses its head
The reorganisation of BBC Online is underway and it looks as though a complete overhaul is taking place. First to go is Edward Briffa as controller of BBC Online & Interactive. There have been rumbles of discontent over the cost of Online's operations. So far, BBC Online is estimated to have spent more than £30 million to create the sites and structure it currently has. However, the cost per page for those sites is about 20 times the costs in equivalent operations both in the UK and the US. A report on the structure and business aims of BBC Online is being prepared and a final version will be issued in September.
- UK - BBC plans billion pound investment in digital media
The BBC is planning to invest 10 per cent of the revenue it collects over the next five years from the UK licence fee on digital media including online activities. That amounts to almost £1 billion as the corporation collects about £2 billion annually. Given market forces, the majority will be spent on digital TV and radio, but online will certainly gets its fair share.
- Survey: Britain not ready for Y2K
A majority of British IT professionals believe that many organizations will fall short of completing proper Year 2000 compliance testing before December 31, 1999. Independent London-based research firm Metrica Research Limited found in a study released this week that the vast majority of organizations in finance and retail/wholesale are "totally confident" that all of their IT systems will be Year 2000 compliant and fully tested by 31 December, 1999. However, the same is not true for manufacturing, where only half, or 49 percent, are "totally confident" that all of their IT systems will be Year 2000 compliant and fully tested before the new millennium.
Multilingual content and software
- Deja News offers 17 languages
English is not the only language spoken on the Net and companies hoping to capitalize on that diversity are increasingly offering non-English service. Deja News, a site that archives and organizes the Net's bulletin board system, has announced that it is offering support for 17 non-English languages.
- France's entry into the Internet age
Just over a year ago, only 15 per cent of French households had personal computers. Now in mid-1998, household PCs have reached 21 per cent with a 50 per cent increase in PC sales. At the same time, subscriptions to ISP services have increased by 35 per cent.
- Higher growth rate in Internet use outside US
Two reports have cast a different light on the breakdown of the Internet's population. The first from eMarketer reports that the number of active Net users in the US is estimated to only be 37 million, or 18.5 per cent of the US adult population. This is much lower than previous estimates, which put the figure nearer 50 million-70 million people. A second report, also from eMarketer points to a much higher growth rate in Internet use outside the US than inside, with the rest of the world adopting the Net at a growth rate of 70 per cent a year versus a rate of 43 per cent in the US.
Links to news items about
legal and regulatory aspects of Internet and the information society, and
market and technology
edited by Richard Swetenham
- Contributor: Andreas Grünwald
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