QuickLinks 79 - 11 August 1998
Legal and regulatory issues
- UK - ITC set to face court action
(Financial Times (registration required))
The Independent Television Commission, the television watchdog, is today expected to face legal action from two media companies over changes to the way cable and satellite channels are sold. Flextech, the UK pay television group, and the Sci-Fi Channel Europe, a channel controlled by Universal Studios, the Hollywood studio, will file for a judicial review against the ITC. The companies are understood to argue in papers expected to be lodged at the High Court this afternoon that the ITC acted illegally in outlawing deals under which customers had to subscribe to large numbers of channels. Under previous rules, programme makers had guarantees from cable and satellite broadcasters that their programmes would be carried to at least 80 per cent of subscribers, often as part of a big package of channels. But at the end of June, the ITC ordered television groups to renegotiate these agreements.
- Esprit complains to EU about BT and AT&T alliance
Esprit Telecom Group PLC said it is raising in a letter to European competition commissioner Karel Van Miert a series of concerns about British Telecommunications PLC's alliance with AT&T. The proposed alliance would create "a tremendous reconcentration of market power" that could deny consumers and service providers in Europe to access to a greater variety of services at lower prices, Esprit said.
- Kirch klagt gegen EU-Verbot von Digital-Allianz
Die Kirch-Gruppe klagt gegen das EU-Verbot, die Pay-TV-Sender DF1 und Premiere zusammenzulegen. Ein Kirch-Sprecher sagte am Sonntag in München, sein Unternehmen habe Klage gegen die EU-Kommission beim Europäischen Gerichtshof (EuGH) in Luxemburg eingereicht". Der Kommission werde vorgeworfen, Bedenken von Wettbewerbern gegen die Digital-TV-Allianz weitgehend ungeprüft übernommen zu haben.
- USA - Alleged Internet confessor pleads guilty to child porn
(Nando.net - The Associated Press )
A man who allegedly confessed in Internet chat groups to molesting and killing his daughter pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal charge of trafficking in child pornography. Federal prosecutors said one of the pornographic images recovered from the computer of Larry Froistad Jr. was of his 5-year-old daughter, Amanda, who was killed in a 1995 house fire in Bowman. Froistad is scheduled to plead guilty Friday to his daughter's murder, according to state prosecutors. They said he has agreed to a 30-year prison sentence. In the federal court case, Froistad, 29, pleaded guilty to one count of sexual exploitation of children and admitted to producing, distributing and exchanging with others sexually explicit images of children over the Internet.
Convergence of telecommunications, media and information technology sectors
- Should Canada Regulate Net? by Arik Hesseldahl
The federal agency that regulates Canada's radio, television, and telephone industries has formally asked Canadians if they want their government to start looking after the Internet as well. Last week, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) called for public discussion on what role -- if any -- it should have in regulating matters such as online pornography, hate speech, and "Canadian content" on the Web. See New Media - Call for Comments http://www.crtc.gc.ca/ENG/BCASTING/NOTICE/1998/P9882_0.TXT
- Microsoft Busts German Piracy Ring
More than $60 million worth of pirated Microsoft software has been seized by German customs officers after an 18-month criminal investigation conducted in several European countries. Customs officers captured software CDs, manuals, labels and certificates worth about $61 million) near the Dutch-German border on July 31, in what Microsoft (company profile) said was its biggest anti-piracy raid ever.
- USA - Domain Name Guerilla Gets Off Lightly
Embattled domain name system hacker Eugene Kashpureff got off very lightly for his re-direction of the InterNic's site to his AlterNic site in July last year, a crime for which he pleaded guilty in March. Facing a maximum sentence of five years in jail and a $250,000 fine, Kashpureff was handed two year's probation with no real special conditions attached and a token $100 fine.
- USA - Request for comments on .us domain
The U.S. Commerce Department is inviting the public to submit comments in paper or in electronic form on issues involving the future expansion and administration of the .us domain space. The notice requesting comments will be posted on the Internet at http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/domainname/usrfc/dotusrfc.htm today and is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, August 4, 1998. The department on Monday said it would accept comments from the public, based on 11 questions, until Sept. 3.
- Government-Affiliated Casino To Open Online
An Internet casino affiliated with the Dominican government will open its digital doors in the Caribbean next week, a possible blow to U.S. policy-makers' attempts to quash online betting.
Information society and Internet policy
- EU - Euro IT Research Plan: Political Hot Potato
(EE Times )
The fate of what could be the world's largest program for IT and communications-technology research, with a potential value of more than $4 billion, now rests with Europe's politicians.
- Germany - Überwachungspläne auf Eis gelegt
Die Überwachung des Internet steht in Deutschland fürs Erste auf wackeligen Füßen. Das Bundeswirtschaftsministerium verschob die Entscheidung auf unbestimmte Zeit.
- Happy ending after Portuguese minister censors Internet
Terràvista, a service created by the Portuguese government for the free web hosting of Portuguese homepages, was closed after the Minister of Culture found that there were some pornographic contents in one of the 25.000 homepages. After a storm of protest from the Portuguese Internet community, the site has reopened after 10 days under the auspices of an independent association.
- Dutch step up fight against Internet child porn
The Dutch justice ministry, stung by criticism over its handling of child pornography on the Internet, is to increase the number of investigators working on it in the Central Research and Information service (CRI) and boost cooperation between Dutch authorities. The CRI will refer cases that fall under Dutch law to a special office of the public prosecutor, which will coordinate national investigations.
- German hotline set up
In Germany, the first thing some police forces do when they receive information about child pornography on the Internet is to investigate the informant. A new hotline, "Netz gegen Kinderporno", will use journalists, who are entitled not to reveal their sources, to forward information to the police and so allow informants to remain anonymous.
- Irish group advises self-regulation to combat Net abuses
(Freedom Forum - Yaman Akdeniz)
No new laws are needed to deal with illegal and harmful uses of the Internet, according to a new report published by an Irish Working Group set up by the Irish Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Individual responsibility on the part of parents and teachers is the key to safe use of the Internet, the group said, not the creation of new laws. The working group, which consists of representatives from both private and public sectors, published its 100-page first report, "Illegal and Harmful Use of the Internet," on July 8.
- Malaysia views riot rumors on Net as sabotage
The Malaysian government said Monday police had traced the source of embarrassing rumors, spread over the Internet last week, that riots had broken out in the capital. Deputy home minister Tajol Rosli declined to elaborate but said the government was treating the case as sabotage and would not accept the false rumors as a prank.
- Germany - Review of Compuserve judgment
(MultiMedia und Recht)
An unflattering review of the first-instance judgement against Felix Somm by Prof. Ulrich Sieber, counsel for the defendant (in German).
- Switzerland - Schweizer Polizei läßt Web-Sites sperren
Die Schweizer Bundespolizei hat in der Vorwoche 100 eidgenössische Internet-Provider bei Strafandrohung aufgefordert, ihren Kunden den Zugang zu zehn rassistischen Internet-Angeboten zu sperren. Die Polizeimaßnahme endete nicht unerwartet mit einem Debakel. Da sich einzelne Sites nicht herausfiltern lassen, kappten einige eidgenössische Dienstanbieter und Backbone-Betreiber prompt den kompletten Zugang zu Hosts, auf deren Rechnern inkriminierte Inhalte vermutet werden.
IT in education
- USA - College forces students to apply online
Students wanting to attend a business school in the United States will have to send their applications through the Internet. Applications will no longer be accepted on paper from people wanting to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It says that the move to electronic form-filling will save hundreds of hours of staff time.
Junk mail (spam)
- USA - Anti-spam forces take a loss in House subcommittee
(Inter@ctive Week Online )
Groups opposed to the spread of unsolicited e-mail suffered another setback in the House Thursday as the body's Telecommunications Subcommittee approved legislation to allow purveyors of unsolicited commercial e-mail to target any e-mail address at least once before being forced to stop. At the same time, the subcommittee quietly banned states from taking more restrictive measures themselves.
Security and encryption
- New Spanish telecommunications law opens a door to mandatory key recovery systems
(Global Internet Liberty Campaign)
A recently enacted telecommunications law in Spain gives a right to use "strong cryptography systems" to Spanish citizens. However, the new law also implies that some goverment agencies may have access to encrypted communications, by means of mandatory key recovery system in which private keys of Spanish citizens would be stored by the government agencies. Article 52 of the new Spanish Telecommunications Law 1998 (Ley General de Telecomunicaciones) opens the door to a mandatory key recovery system. The complete text of the law can be read in Spanish at http://www.asertel.es/cs/08017002.htm.
Market & Technology
- Startup has easier Internet name system
A new service called Easy.To/Remember lets homepage hosts replace a long and ugly Internet address with a more memorable and concise one. The address "http://members.ispnet.com/users/home/johnf,"; for example, can be replaced with "http://i.am/john." The .am domain is actually the international domain for the country of Armenia. The .to domain (for creating a phrase-address like hello.to/cindy) is for addresses associated with the South Pacific island of Tonga. The policies of those countries let users register host servers without having to be a resident of the country or physically keep his server within its boundaries.
- Excite localizes free email in U.K.
Leveraging the tremendous popularity of free Web-based email in the United States, Excite has introduced the service for users in the United Kingdom to further beef up its localized offerings overseas. European users already have access to free email through United States-based services such as Hotmail, as well as within global portals including Yahoo, Lycos, and Excite. But Excite is pushing its U.K. email service--which it plans to extend to France and Germany--in an effort to draw more local advertising.
- MSN pumps up portal power for the UK
MSN.co.uk, or Internet Start, is beefing up for the UK portal battle that is shaping up between Yahoo!, Excite, Netscape, MSN and soon to come, AOL.co.uk. MSN is to add a domain name search and ordering system later this month, thanks to hooking up with NetNames. MSN has added free email in the form of HotMail, and been scooping up numerous third parties to provide content and services.
- Number of ISPs to decline - Ovum
Independent telecommunications and IT analyst group Ovum has predicted a decline in the numbers of ISPs by 2000, in its August 1998 report "The Internet Access Market: Opportunities for ISPs, Telcos and Content Providers". The decline is expected to come as a result of the mergers between successful ISPs and the rate of ISPs going bust.
- UK cable companies consider mega ISP merger
The top three cable companies in the UK have confirmed that they are considering creating a joint-venture Internet service provider (ISP) that would provide high-speed access via a digital cable-based system. Cable & Wireless (C&W), Telewest Communications and NTL would only confirm that they are only at the considering stage, but that a joint effort would be required in order to compete effectively in a tough market. C&W has about 33,000 analogue subscribers, Telewest about 20,000, but competing companies such as AOL and BT have more than half a million subscribers combined.
- UK - BBC Online stays top of the pile in the UK
BBC Online may be going through some major internal restructuring but its sites are continuing to perform very well in the ratings stakes. The ABC has run the rule over the numerous BBC sites and found that usage has leaped by 64 per cent since March. The public section of BBC Online scored 31 million pages a month, while Beeb.com, its commercial arm didn't fare as well, bringing in only 4 million pages a month.
- UK - BT Internet chalks up 150K users
It's been a long and hard road, but BT Internet has reached the 150,000-subscriber mark this week. In addition to passing the landmark, the Internet service provider is adding 5Mb of Web space to the allocation for each subscriber, giving a total of 10Mb. BT Internet started life in March 1996 and is now claiming to add 2,000 new users each week.
- UK - BT losing international revenues to more competitive call providers
The most competitive part of the UK telecomms market is the international call sector, and the big players are suffering. BT is down to a 37.1 per cent share from 57.4 per cent only two years ago while Cable and Wireless Communications is down to 21.3 per cent from 27.9 per cent. See OFTEL Press Release 63/98 http://www.coi.gov.uk/coi/depts/GOT/coi4770e.ok
- Study shows top 50 growth sites
Personal expression and communication seem to be the name of the game for Web site growth, according to a study released today by Media Metrix, the PC Meter Company. The study measured growth in audience reach between December 1997 and June 1998, according to the research firm, which uses proprietary technology to determine Web usage patterns. At the top of the list were sites that offer space and resources for personal home pages as well as chat and email. Consumer e-commerce sites also played heavily on the list, with booksellers Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com and Net auction site eBay landing in the top 25.
Thought for the day
- Pope streamed live on the Internet
(Nando.net - The Associated Press )
The pope will begin broadcasting live audio and video of some of his religious services across the Internet. A link on the Vatican's Web site, www.vatican.va, will launch the software and start the broadcast of Pope John Paul II reciting the Angelus prayer on Saturday, the Feast of the Assumption.
Links to news items about
legal and regulatory aspects of Internet and the information society, and
market and technology
edited by Richard Swetenham
- Contributors: Yaman Akdeniz, Gerhard Heine, Alan Reekie
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