QuickLinks 118 - 21 May 1999
Legal and regulatory issues
- EU - Commission clears Microsoft's agreements with ISPs (RAPID) The European Commission has approved Microsoft's licensing agreements with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) by means of a comfort letter. Microsoft has removed all the provisions which could be contrary to European competition rules. This clearance only covers the agreements between Microsoft and the ISPs; the Commission has not ruled on the overall behaviour of Microsoft, in particular concerning a possible abuse of dominant position.
- Child pornography banned in Japan (AP) Japan's lower house of Parliament banned the production and sale of child pornography and outlawed sex with a minor. The measure has been approved by the upper house, so yesterday's vote made it law. The new restrictions will take effect sometime in the fall.
- UK - Children’s author found guilty of kiddie Web porn crimes (The Register) A children's author has been convicted of peddling kiddie porn on the Internet. He told the court that he downloaded explicit material from the Net as part of research for a book he was writing on child pornography. But his plea was thrown out by the judge who said it was sheer "humbug" to suggest such an idea, before sentencing him to four months in prison, suspended for two years.
- USA - Feds seek to curb cybercrime (USA Today) The Federal Bureau of Investigation and private white-collar-crime specialists are announcing the formation of the Internet Fraud Council and a complaint center to take complaints from consumers about alleged Internet fraud. The council, created at President Clinton's request, is to devise new ways to fight crimes in cyberspace, from credit card fraud to stock manipulation to get-rich-quick schemes.
- USA - Victims fight bomb info on Net (Reuters) The brother of convicted Unabomber, a victim of one of his bombings, and the mother of a victim of the Oklahoma City bombing made a plea today for Internet companies to purge or block Web sites that carry recipes for building bombs.
- Scam diverts surfers to porn sites (MSNBC) A cyber-scam is proliferating on the Web. The scheme threatens valuable trademarks and often hurls a series of unwanted pornographic sites at innocent consumers in rapid-fire sequence.
- Sex Sites Getting Screwed (Wired) "Adult" sites complain that credit card issuers make it too easy for customers to dispute charges.
- EU - Call for tenders on consumer law (European Commission (DG XXIV)) An open invitation to tender for a study on Community law in the consumer field and the Information Society has been published. The deadline for requesting tender documents is 25 June 1999. The final date for submission of tenders is 19 July 1999.
- USA - Court delays telco anti-slamming rules (Reuters) An Appeals Court temporarily delayed the application of new federal rules intended to crack down on unauthorized switches of consumer long distance service.
- USA - Court Orders $1.7 Million In Redress By Internet Firm (Reuters) A court has ordered Inetintl.com to pay $1.76 million in redress to consumers who responded to its investment promises. Inet offered franchise businesses allowing people to sell Internet access, Web site development, TV Internet boxes, computers and other services, the FTC said.
- Canadian regulator to keep hands off Internet (Media Central) The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission will not regulate the Internet because it does not fall under the definition of broadcasting under the country's Broadcasting Act. see also http://www.crtc.gc.ca/ENG/NEWS/RELEASES/1999/R990517e.htm
- Extent of support for Australian government plans contested (Sydney Morning Herald) There may well be in-principle support for the idea that there should be regulation of the online industry, but there's little or no political agreement with the government's proposed methods of doing so.
- USA - Consumers to get choice of set-tops (ZDNN) Federal regulators adopted a compromise to speed competition for new high-tech cable boxes. Consumers will gain set-top box choices starting next year, when, instead of being required to pay to lease a box, they will be able to purchase their own equipment. The key to the new boxes will be a separate plug-in security module that cable operators will be required to provide to allow the equipment to operate.
- Grateful Dead members back Internet music format (Reuters) Surviving members of the rock band the Grateful Dead Tuesday backed MP3, a controversial format for sending music over the Internet, but Web site operators could not charge for downloads, solicit advertising, including banner ads, or sell data such as e-mail addresses about fans downloading Grateful Dead music. Only live recordings are sanctioned by this initiative. The band members would aggressively prosecute any Web site or business trafficking in studio recordings.
- Survey finds Web privacy practices better (Reuters) A survey of information gathering practices at leading World Wide Web sites found a growing number have begun warning visitors of data collection but not all are giving those visitors a chance to avoid becoming just another Web statistic.
- U.S., EU privacy talks hit stalemate (Bloomberg News) The United States and European Union have failed to reach an accord to protect companies like America Online and Bell Atlantic from EU online privacy laws and may not agree by next month's summit between President Bill Clinton and EU leaders. An EU official in Washington voiced optimism that the two sides can still reach agreement.
- USA - Hoist with her own petard (MSNBC) In what he says is a technological tit-for-tat, filmmaker Michael Moore has trained a Webcam on the apartment of literary agent Lucianne Goldberg to "turn the tables on her" for instigating Linda Tripp's secret taping of Monica Lewinsky.
- USA - Bush Campaign Asks Government to Go After Critical Web Site (New York Times (registration required)) The exploratory committee of Gov. George W. Bush of Texas has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against owners of a Web site that is strongly critical of the potential Presidential candidate, asking that the owner of the site be required to post a disclaimer identifying who built the site and to file with the FEC as a political action committee.
- Cyber Sillies (The Guardian) Duncan Campbell examines the background to the publication on the Internet of British MI6 officers' names. He claims that had MI6 kept quiet instead of issuing a D-notice, the message would have been ignored and disappeared. [Ed: the author may be right about it being ignored, but not about it disappearing without trace. see DejaNews].
- FCC Seeks Good Way To Separate Cable, Net (Reuters) Federal Communications Commission Chairman William Kennard said his agency had authority to prevent discrimination by cable companies offering high-speed Internet service but added that he had not yet heard an appealingly simple proposal to do so.
- Euro ISPs slam EU email law (Silicon) The European Internet Service Provider Association (EuroISPA) has strongly criticised a European Parliament move to legitimise spam email, claiming it will put people off electronic commerce. MEPs ruled that unsolicited emails are allowed - and that anyone not wanting to receive them should join a national 'opt-out' list. The clause is part of the EC directive on ecommerce.
- USA - FTC pursues case against unnamed sender of junk e-mail (Associated Press) The Federal Trade Commission announced actions against an unidentified defendant accused of sending unsolicited e-mail, better known as "spam" that deceived consumers into making international calls to an adult entertainment phone line. The commission will have enough information to name a defendant in a few days. In the meantime, the court order has blocked the flow of money from American telephone carriers to the foreign telephone company that pays the operators of the hot line.
- USA - ISP sues mortgage firm over spam (ZDNN) A Washington state Internet service provider (ISP) has filed a $6 million anti-spam lawsuit against a Fortune 500 company, alleging it disabled the ISP's mail servers by sending thousands of e-mail advertisements to subscribers. The lawsuit is among the first to target a large company using Washington state's anti-spam law.
- Amazon reverses decision on book ban (ZDNN) After absorbing withering criticism for its decision to stop selling a book critical of Scientology, Amazon.com has reversed itself. The book, a critical examination of Scientology and its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, was pulled by Amazon in February after an injunction against its distribution in the United Kingdom. The courts had ruled in 1995 that the book contained defamatory language. Amazon will again offer the book after the company implements a feature that blocks its sale to the United Kingdom.
- France - Amendements Bloche : l'espoir d'un Internet démocratique (IRIS) [French deputy proposes amendments on declaration for Internet services and on ISP liability] Deux amendements déposés par le député Patrick Bloche visent à compléter le projet de loi du gouvernement ayant pour objet de modifier la loi relative à la liberté de communication. Le premier amendement vise à supprimer la nécessité de déclaration préalable pour les services de communication par réseau, et notamment Internet. Le deuxième amendement vise à réglementer la responsabilité des fournisseurs Internet.
- Bloody games don't breed violence (ZDNN) A trade show full of game and entertainment executives were told they are not responsible for teen violence. Instead of blaming the Internet and computer games for violent behavior, society should be doing more research. "Kids can tell the difference between what's in a game and what is real"
- E3: Blood and Guts as Usual (Industry Standard) If the game industry is ducking for cover in the aftermath of the Littleton shooting, it's not apparent at E3, the gigantic annual digital entertainment convention that opened Thursday in Los Angeles.
- USA - Congressional Internet Debate Turns to Issue of Violence (New York Times (registration required)) Lawmakers trying to protect children from the dark side of the Internet have turned their focus from pornography and child predators to violence and hate in the wake of growing school violence.
- Internet Content Rating Association Formed (Press Release) The Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA) has been formed to create an international Internet content rating system that protects children and free speech on the Web. The voluntary self-rating system will be both user and provider friendly, and culturally non-specific and objective, based on the established RSACi content rating system. The founding companies of ICRA include AOL Europe, Bertelsmann Foundation, BT, Cable & Wireless, Demon Internet (UK), EuroISPA, IBM, Internet Watch Foundation, Microsoft, Software & Information Industry Association, and T-Online Germany. see also Web ratings debate heats up (ZDNN).
- Internet companies meet to discuss Web content rating (vnu|net) The Internet Content Rating for Europe (Incore) two day conference in Brussels discussed the creation of a global content rating system for Web sites suitable for European users.
- Rating & Filtering recommendations (Yale Information Society Project) Draft Recommendations for Initiative for Self-Regulation on the Internet - Rating & Filtering (project funded by Bertelsmann Foundation).
- USA - Dr. Laura Saves Censorware Law (Wired) Radio talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger is taking credit for resurrecting a controversial California measure that would force public libraries to use Internet-filtering software.
- USA - Senate passes bipartisan filter bill (ZDNN) The Senate unanimously approved a bill requiring Internet service providers to offer content-filtering software to subscribers.
- Firm unveils encrypted free email (CNET News.com) Hush Communications today announced the debut of HushMail, a Web-based email service that uses a Java applet to encrypt and decrypt messages on senders' and recipients' computers. Users can only send encrypted messages to other HushMail accounts.
- France Telecom suit against Deutsche Telekom could last years (vnu|net) France Telecom took its case yesterday to the arbitration tribunal of the Paris based International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). With Deutsche Telekom saying it will not pay a pfennig in damages, the major law suit issued by its former partner France Telecom looks set to last "for years".
- Van Miert wants more open Belgian telecoms market (Reuters) European Union Competition Commissioner Karel Van Miert criticised Belgium and partly state-controlled telecoms firm Belgacom for resisting EU efforts to liberalise the local telecoms market. Tariffs remained generally too high. Van Miert said he had been surprised by a suggestion at the last meeting of EU telecoms ministers, including by Belgium, that Internet services should be qualified a universal service, giving former monopolies privileges in this market.
- EU - Public procurement: exempted telecommunications services (RAPID) A list has been agreed by the European Commission specifying which telecommunications services in which Member States are considered by the Commission to be exempted from the detailed provisions of EU rules on public procurement because effective competition exists within a Member State.
Market & Technology
- Sky plans ONdigital compatibility (The Guardian) British Sky Broadcasting has announced plans for an add-on module which will enable viewers to receive its services through the set-top decoder box designed for its rival, ONdigital.
- AOL To Deliver Internet Via TV (Reuters) America Online unveiled its long-awaited interactive television plans, seeking to demonstrate that the top Internet media network is ready to play in the converging worlds of computers and TV. AOL TV, as the America Online project is called, will bring many features of the existing AOL online service to U.S. TV viewers, like e-mail buddy lists and quick-checkout online shopping, as well as various special TV navigation features.
- Microsoft bids for German cable networks (BBC) The world's largest software company Microsoft is teaming up with German media giant Bertelsmann in a bid to buy parts of Germany's largest cable television network, currently run by Deutsche Telekom.
- UK - Net castaways emerge happy but smelly (BBC) Four volunteers shut away for 100 hours to test their survival skills on the Internet have emerged, concluding that while deodorant is hard to come by, eager e-mailers are never far away. The two women and men had to feed, clothe and entertain themselves with only the Internet for company. The experiment had been a great success. All four castaways had "greatly enjoyed the social connections available on the Internet". The experiment was run by msn.co.uk, Microsoft's Internet arm which plans to repeat the study next year to see how online shopping and other everyday usage of the Internet changes over the next 12 months.
- Singapore Staking Claim As E-Commerce Hub (TechWeb, CMPnet)
- Europe: Flat Rate, or Else (Wired) The lack of flat-rate Internet access is stalling Europe's ability to catch up to the United States in the global digital marketplace, a new report says. The Jupiter Communications research notes that the popularity of "free" European Internet service providers is not increasing the number of Europeans on the Net.
- Microsoft joins free Net spree (BBC) Microsoft has acted to stem losses of subscribers from its UK Internet access service by announcing it is going free from next month.
- AOL, free ISPs in 'Battle of Britain' (ZDNN)
- Amazon to cut bestseller prices (CNET News.com) Amazon.com threatened to begin an Internet book sale war today by selling books on the New York Times bestseller list at 50 percent below list price. The price cuts apply to hardcover and paperback books in three categories on the Times' list: fiction, nonfiction, and advice/how-to books.
- AOL overhauls shopping center (ZDNN) AOL will create Shop@AOL, a platform that dumps its current proprietary format in favor of using HTML. The new platform will have a coherent design with its three Web sites. AOL will remake its design, and duplicate the new look and feel on its CompuServe and Netcenter.
- Dow Jones and Reuters join forces on the Web (Silicon) Rival financial news services, Dow Jones and Reuters, are joining forces to provide a Web-based service called Dow Jones Reuters Business Interactive. The companies say the combination of Dow Jones Interactive and Reuters Business Briefing will reach over 650,000 users.
- Microsoft’s CEO summit draws bigwigs (WSJ Interactive Edition) 107 top-level executives, including heavyweights such as Jack Welch, Rupert Murdoch and Warren Buffett, are gathering at Microsoft's corporate campus for the three-day, third annual Microsoft CEO summit.
- Microsoft, Sony link up on digital music (Wall Street Journal) Sony, using technology developed by Microsoft, plans to begin selling new hit "virtual singles" over the Internet at the same time the songs are available in record stores.
- MTV to Acquire Web Music Rival (New York Times (registration required)) MTV Networks will acquire two new-media businesses, SonicNet, one of the first commercial sites on the Web dedicated to music, and The Box, a pay-per-view cable television music service.
- Nintendo intensifies video games battle (BBC) The real-life battle for video game supremacy escalated with Nintendo saying they will launch a powerful new games console by the end of 2000. Nintendo have revealed that the new console will load games using DVD technology. IBM will build 400 megahertz PowerPC microchips for the console. The next generation of game machines is likely to offer Internet connection and music and video entertainment.
- Are Web surfers fleeing portal sites? (ZDNN) Traffic to the major sites on the Internet fell during the month of April, as folks in northern climates left their computers to emerge from hibernation and a more sophisticated Web audience visited more narrowly focused sites.
- Microsoft Can Claim a Browser Majority (New York Times) A survey shows that almost 60 percent of companies say they now use the Microsoft Corporation's Internet browser.
- Netscape releases updated Communicator (CNET News.com) Netscape Communications, acquired earlier this year by America Online, has posted Communicator version 4.6. The update offers RealNetworks' G2 multimedia player, a simpler way to get digital certificates, new 56-bit DES encryption ciphers for export and domestic versions, and unspecified bug fixes.
- Yahoo debuts voice chat in Canada (Reuters) Yahoo launched new Canadian features today, including the first free service allowing Web surfers to chat in real time around the world via voice messages.
- Bids temporarily off at eBay (CNET News.com) Popular auction site eBay has extended some auctions because of continuing technical difficulties that have brought all bidding at eBay to a halt.
- Asian businesses will soon use the Internet more than Europeans (vnu|net) Businesses in Asia will leapfrog Europe in terms of Internet use over the next few years, but their US counterparts will remain on the vanguard of the phenomena according to a survey by Booz Allen & Hamilton and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EUI).
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edited by Richard Swetenham (firstname.lastname@example.org). - Contributors: TKRNews, Yaman Akdeniz, Gerhard Heine, Alan Reekie, Stefaan Verhulst
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