QuickLinks 119 - 7 June 1999
Legal and regulatory issues
- EU - Commission approves the restructuring of CEGETEL (RAPID) The European Commission has cleared the creation of a joint venture between Vivendi (France), British Telecom (UK), Mannesmann (Germany) and SBC International Incorporated (USA). The purpose of this operation is to enable CEGETEL to become the second full-service telecommunications operator in France, offering a full range of telecommunications services, including fixed voice telephony.
- EU - Commission authorises Vodafone and AirTouch to merge (RAPID) The European Commission has approved the merger between the British company Vodafone and the Californian AirTouch Communications. The companies' main activity is the operation of mobile telecommunications networks. The Commission identified a competition problem in the German market, where both companies are active through joint ventures (E-Plus and D2 respectively). Vodafone agreed to sell its stake in E-Plus.
- EU - Commission clears the change of shareholders of Omnitel (RAPID) The European Commission has cleared the operation by which Mannesmann and Bell Atlantic acquire joint control over Omnitel Pronto Italia (OPI). The operation is conditional on the exit of Olivetti from the shareholding of Omnitel if its bid for Telecom Italia is successful.
- USA - B&N Closes Book on Merger Reuters (Reuters) Barnes & Noble, the biggest US book retailer, scuttled its plans to buy Ingram Book Group, the biggest wholesaler, in the face of opposition from US antitrust regulators and powerful organizations in the publishing industry.
- USA - FTC ends Cisco probe (San Jose Mercury) The Federal Trade Commission has ended its short-lived antitrust investigation of Cisco Systems, the world's largest computer networking company, which plans to expand beyond its core business of selling equipment to carry companies' computer data and to start selling devices that can carry voice and video traffic as well as computer data.
- Federal Cybercrime Unit Hunts for Hackers (New York Times) Raids by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation against several suspected computer hackers are part of a new Government cybercrime unit's crackdown against illegal tampering with computer networks and Web sites.
- Hong Kong Computer Hacking Syndicate Smashed (IT Daily) Hong Kong police arrested an organized group of computer hackers, seizing computers and CD-ROMS, after a five-month hunt. The arrests marked the first time an organized hacking group has been arrested in Hong Kong. The hackers stole the passwords and personal information on legitimate Internet account holders and sold them to users who wanted cheap, unlimited Internet access.
- Belgium - Co-operation agreement on illegal content (ISPA Belgium) Belgian Internet service providers have signed a cooperation agreement with the government (ministers of telecommunications and the Interior) protocol in order to combate illegal acts on the Internet.
- Police following trails left on the Internet (Associated Press)
- Net shopping under fire (BBC) A study funded by the European Union made by Consumers International, a federation of 245 consumer organisations - including the UK's Consumers Association - showed that there were still obstacles to shopping online with complete trust.
- Australia - Compensation Fund Set Up For Victims Of Internic Deception (Newsbytes) An Australian Internet domain name registrar, Internic Technology, has agreed to pay A$250,000 ($161,500) into a compensation trust fund and gave undertakings to the Court no longer to use the name "internic" or any similar name following complaints of deception and misleading conduct by consumers.
- Digital price war hots up (BBC) Terrestrial digital broadcaster ONdigital is to give away its £200 set-top boxes free as the cost of switching to digital television continues to plummet in the UK. In addition to the give-away, ONdigital said it had secured a deal with electronics company Bush to sell an integrated digital TV - a TV set with a set top box built-in - for £299. ONdigital, like Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB, also plans to sell their subscribers a telephone service, offering discounts of up to 40% on standard British Telecom charges.
- EU - Amended proposal for Directive on copyright and related rights (European Commission) An amended proposal for a Directive on copyright and of related rights in the Information Society has been presented by the European Commission. The amended proposal would continue to require Member States to provide network operators with an exception from the reproduction right for certain technical acts of reproduction (such as certain 'cache' copies arising during transmission over the Internet) and recognise that Member States may provide rightholders with fair compensation for private copying by analogue as well as digital means in accordance with their legal traditions and practices.
- Brazilian ISP Prevails In AOL Lawsuit (InternetNews.com) A small ISP in southern Brazil triumphed in a lawsuit filed by America Online which contested the Brazilian provider's use of domain name aol.com.br. The court ruled that since Brazil's America On Line registered the name first, it doesn't have to surrender the domain name to its US rival.
- PlayMedia settles MP3 suits (The Register) PlayMedia yesterday settled its copyright infringement suit with Nullsoft, developer of the leading Windows-based MP3 player, WinAmp. The announcement came a day after AOL said it was buying Nullsoft. see related story
- USA - Amazon asks court to OK bestseller ads, sales (Reuters) Amazon.com, facing threats of legal action from the New York Times for infringing on the newspaper's copyright and trademark, has asked a federal court to OK the Internet bookseller's advertising of the New York Times bestseller list and sale of books on it at a 50 percent discount.
- Trademark suit pits porn against profits (ZDNN)
- EU and US still at stalemate over data privacy issues (vnu|net) Europe and the US are still at loggerheads over data privacy issues that could potentially unbalance continued electronic commerce between the two regions. The Clinton Administration's trade representative, David Aaron, and the European Union's director general for financial services, John Mogg, met in Brussels. They were unable to resolve differences over whether the US Administrationís proposals for allowing businesses to regulate their own privacy guidelines was sufficient to meet the strict EU privacy directive, which took effect last year.
- UK - ISPs raise the bar on Net privacy (Silicon) At the second quarterly meeting of the Internet Users Privacy Forum (IUPF) last week, Internet service providers (ISPs) and civil liberties groups redoubled their efforts to establish standards on Internet privacy above current government guidelines. Part of the meeting was given over to rubber-stamping best common practice documents published by the London Internet Exchange (Linx) relating to traceability, illegal material and spam email.
- USA - Scientology subpoenas Worldnet (CNET News.com) The Church of Scientology is invoking the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to force AT&T to disclose the identity of an Internet service subscriber who allegedly infringed the church's copyrights online.
- USA - Tackling E-Privacy in New York (Wired) The New York State Assembly has passed the part of a legislative package designed to erect unprecedented privacy safeguards for consumer information in the information age.
- USA - To regulate or let self-regulate? (Inter@ctive Week) Members of a House subcommittee were openly skeptical of claims that companies that profit from selling information about other people will keep that same information confidential over the long haul. see also Privacy Policies Inadequate, Lawmakers Told (TechWeb).
- Domain dispute policy pushed forward (CNET News.com) The body in charge of the Net's core technical functions has directed its newly formed delegations to consider a controversial proposal to handle trademark disputes over domain names.
- ICANN sets up group to help manage domain names (InfoWorld Electric) The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) at its two-day meeting in Berlin, created a Domain Names Supporting Organization (DNSO). DNSO will make recommendations on how ICANN oversees the domain name system. DNSO will help ICANN establish ways to settle domain name disputes, and decide how and when to expand the number of top-level domains such as .com. The groundwork was also laid at the meeting for setting up another committee called the Protocol Supporting Organization (PSO). see also Press Communique.
- ICANN still waiting on Network Solutions (CNET News.com) Network Solutions has yet to sign an important contract with the nonprofit corporation now in charge of the Net's technical underpinnings.
- WWW - Asia Could Face Internet Address Crunch (Reuters) The Internet could face an address crunch in Asia, unless service providers use their infrastructure judiciously, a senior official from of the Asia Pacific Network Information Center (APNIC) warned.
- UK government launches ecommerce taskforce (Silicon) The UK government has launched a taskforce designed to address the twin issues of ecommerce and cyber-law enforcement. The Performance and Innovation Unit is tasked with finding an alternative to the widely criticised key escrow policy, which has now been dropped by the government. The unit will develop a legal and commercial framework which will allow law enforcement agencies access to encryption keys when they need to monitor criminal activity, but without encroaching on the privacy rights of businesses trying to trade over the Web.
- UK - VW fights online car deals (BBC) Europe's biggest car maker, Volkswagen, has sent a letter to its UK dealers warning them they could lose their franchises if they try to sell cars over the Internet.
- Information Society studies and services (Cordis) The European Commission, DG XV, has published a call for expressions of interest for the provision of studies and consultancy services within the fields of Information Society, media and commercial communication(OJ No. S 102 of 28.5.1999, p. 40).
- UNESCO Observatory on the Information Society (Newsbytes) Created by UNESCO, the Observatory on the Information Society's main objectives are to raise awareness on the ethical, legal and societal challenges brought about by new technologies. It aims, in particular, to provide information from around the world on the information society, access to public information, privacy and confidentiality, content regulation and multilingualism.
- Japan: More Crime, Less Privacy (Wired) Privacy issues have taken center stage as Japan prepares to enact legislation allowing the police to eavesdrop on phone calls, intercept fax and computer transmissions, and read email. The draconian measures are ostensibly intended to help law enforcement halt premeditated murders, trafficking in drugs and guns, and smuggling of illegal aliens into Japan. See also Crossbow Incident Linked To Japan Wiretap Bill(Newsbytes).
- L'ART autorise sous condition le forfait internet de France Télécom (Agence France Presse) L'Autorité de régulation des télécommunications (ART) a donné un avis favorable, mais assorti de conditions visant à respecter l'exercice de la concurrence, au forfait de 100 francs pour 20 heures de connexion à l'internet proposé par l'opérateur public France Télécom. L'ART a refusé une restriction posée par France Télécom, qui voulait que seuls les abonnés des fournisseurs d'accès qui utilisent son réseau puissent bénéficier du forfait avantageux proposé. Les abonnés de fournisseurs d'accès recourant à des opérateurs privés, comme Cegetel, auraient alors été exclus du forfait. voir aussi Internet: le forfait d'accès français parmi les moins chers d'Europe (Agence France Presse).
- Europeans Try New Telco Boycott (Wired) Internet users in 14 European countries will shut down their modems, and leave their phones on the hook to draw attention to their campaign for lower phone rates. see also Cyberstrike gets lift from AOL (The Register).
- Judge to AT&T -- Free access for all! (ZDNN) A Federal judge in Oregon upheld a local government order for AT&T to open up its high-speed cable networks to competitors - a ruling that could have a major impact on the formative market for high-speed Internet access.
- France - Les associations d'internautes maintiennent l'appel au boycottage d'internet (Agence France Presse) Plusieurs associations françaises d'internautes, qui réclament comme leurs homologues européens un accès moins cher à internet, ont maintenu leur appel à un boycottage d'internet le 6 juin, malgré la proposition de France Telecom d'instaurer un forfait de 20 heures de connexion par mois à internet pour 100 francs. L'ADIM (Association des internautes mécontents) réitère sa demande d'un forfait de 100 francs pour 100 heures de connexion.
- France - Regulator speaks about internet access policy (L'Autorité de régulation des télécommunications) Intervention de M. Jean-Michel HUBERT au FORUM TELEPHONIE SUR INTERNET organisé par l´association TENOR le 18 mai 1999. Téléphonie sur IP. Le développement et la diversification de l´accès à Internet - La concurrence sur la boucle locale et les avis tarifaires. *
- USA - California Internet Call Decision On Hold (Newsbytes) The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has put off for another week its decision on whether calls to the Internet will continue to be classified as local calls.
- USA - FCC under fire for boosting e-rate (Reuters) Schools and libraries will receive $2.25 billion this year, up from $1.7 billion last year, to subsidize Internet connections under a controversial funding increase approved by the Federal Communications Commission.
- Big business users cry foul over pricing controls (Total Telecom (registration required))
- USA - Clinton closes in on games - concern over violence (Reuters) President Bill Clinton stepped up his anti-violence campaign against Hollywood and the video game industry, ordering a study on advertising of violent entertainment to children and urging stricter enforcement of rating codes. The study, to be conducted by the U.S. Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission, will look at advertising of movies, music and video-games. see also remarks by the President and Mrs. Clinton on children, violence and marketing (White House) and Video-game ads at issue in probe of selling violent material to kids (San Jose Mercury).
- EU - Communication on the implementation of measures to combat child sex tourism (RAPID) The European Commission adopted a Communication on measures being implemented to combat child sex tourism. The Communication reports on progress achieved with regard to: improving knowledge of the phenomenon; strengthening the effectiveness of legislation and its application including extra-territorial criminal law; intensifying efforts aimed at stemming flows of sex tourists from European Union (EU) Member States; and developing initiatives contributing to the fight against child sex tourism in third countries. It also gives an overview of measures planned for 1999.
- USA - Broadcast Television, Cable Television, Telephone & the Internet (FCC) This web page provides information on ways parents can ensure that their children benefit from positive communications tools while providing protection from harmful or inappropriate material. As a public service, the FCC is providing parents some helpful tools and ideas for each of the four most popular communications technologies: broadcast television, cable television, the telephone and the Internet.
- USA - Members Write FCC Chair on Filtering Issue (IFEA) In response to a speech delivered by Federal Communications Commission Chairman William Kennard encouraging the use of Internet filters, 13 organizations wrote a letter to the Chairman urging him to present a balanced view of filtering software at the Commission website.
- Germany Endorses Strong Crypto (Wired) In an apparent response to corporate spying allegedly conducted in Europe by the United States, Germany is encouraging citizens and businesses to use strong cryptography. see also »Er hat!« (Heise Online)
- USA - Hackers hit two more federal government computers (Associated Press) A spate of high-tech vandalism against the government continued this week, as computer hackers defaced two more federal Web sites and left a taunting note promising to attack other sites because of a related FBI investigation.
- Germany - "Keine Selbstkontrolle ohne Kontrolle" (Newsroom DE) Die Kontrolle des privaten Rundfunks wird nach Ansicht des Vorsitzenden der Direktorenkonferenz der Landesmedienanstalten (DLM), Norbert Schneider, durch Institutionen der Selbstkontrolle gestärkt.
Market & Technology
- USA - Merrill Lynch Plans on Low-Cost Online Trading (New York Times) Merrill Lynch, the nation's biggest retail brokerage house with 14,000 stockbrokers who mixed advice with salesmanship, bent to the pressures of the Internet era. It will add a low-cost service for people who want to trade online. see also Merrill Lynch to offer online trading (ZDNet).
- Borders to offer book printing on demand (The Register) US bookstore chain Borders is set to bring printing on-demand to its shops, thanks to an agreement to be signed today with Atlanta-based Sprout.
- Gun buyers dodge controls with the Net (Reuters) Hundreds of merchants on the Internet are selling rifles, revolvers and semiautomatic pistols and they can get you one as quickly as Amazon.com can send you a book, only with less paperwork.
- NatWest offers online copyright protection (Silicon) NatWest has launched Magex, an Net-based service which promises copyright protection for online publishers. The service ensures publishers receive royalties for online content, using Intertrust technology to restrict access to material, along with NatWest's own micropayment system.
- Porn on the Web means cash (ZDNet UK) If anyone was in any doubt that porn is big business -- think again. Analyst firm Datamonitor has confirmed that adult material on the Web is raking it in. In a report, Datamonitor estimates the online content market was worth $1.4bn (£0.85bn) in 1998 with adult content accounting for 69 percent of this. The figures do not include e-commerce or advertising revenues.
- New technology makes work harder (BBC) A new survey of office workers in four countries shows that most are interrupted every 10 minutes by telephones, faxes and emails.
- BT goes free on Net strike weekend (BBC) BT is introducing an 0800 number for toll-free Internet access at weekends. The launch comes on the eve of a Europe-wide Net strike in support of unmetered telephone calls. Only subscribers to the BT Internet Plan Unlimited service will be eligible for the new number. They pay a subscription fee of £11.75 a month or £129.25 a year.
- In Paris, It's Cheaper but Not Up to Speed (International Herald Tribune)
- AOL buys 2 Internet music firms (San Jose Mercury) America Online has acquired two leading Internet music companies. Spinner Network's Internet music service, Spinner.com, broadcasts about 2 million songs daily, mostly to workers who listen over high-speed Internet connections in their offices. Nullsoft's Winamp is free software that allows users to play MP3 files. Nullsoft's SHOUTcast streaming audio technology allows users to broadcast personal music favorites over the Internet. see also AOL buys music sites (ZDNet UK)
- Difficulties in Downloading (New York Times) Heavy-handed security measures make the first commercial music purchases on the Internet a disgreeable experience.
- Firms tussle over Net music technology (Reuters) An alliance announced yesterday by AT&T, Japanese electronics maker Matsushita Electric Industrial, and record companies BMG Entertainment and Universal Music cast doubt that the joint initiative to unify the development of technologies to deliver and play Internet music can move fast enough.
- Global Crossing & U S West Unite in $37 Billion Merger (Bloomberg News) Global Crossing, a two-year-old company that's building an undersea global phone network, and U S West will unite in a $37 billion merger to rival the largest U.S. phone companies.
- MCI WorldCom to buy SkyTel for $1.3B (Reuters) MCI WorldCom, the No. 2 U.S. long distance telephone company, agreed to buy paging company SkyTel Communications Inc. for $1.3 billion in stock in a move that will allow it to expand into wireless messaging and data services.
- Fans get to interact with Austin Powers film (vnu|net)
- Are Web surfers fleeing portal sites? (ZDNN) Traffic to the major sites on the Internet fell during the month of April. But the question remains unanswered whether the month's decline was a blip or the start of a significant trend of Web visitors abandoning so-called portal sites. It marks the first time that Web traffic researcher Media Metrix has reported a month-to-month dip in the total number of users tapping into the Internet's top-rated sites.
- Mormons debut geneology database (ZDNN) Family history research, which ranks among the Internet's most popular activities will get a big boost when the Mormon Church unveils a coveted online database of 400 million names on its new FamilySearch site free of charge for church members and nonmembers alike. see related story
- Yahoo Buys Online Anywhere For $80 Million (Newsbytes) Internet portal Yahoo has acquired Online Anywhere, a software maker that delivers Web content to non-PC devices. Online Anywhere's "Author Once, View Anywhere" service automatically reformats and delivers Internet content to televisions, personal digital assistants (PDAs), pagers, and data phones.
- Vortals (vertical industry portals) - Why You'll Never Go to Yahoo Again (ZDNet)
- Call for Proposals for Standardization Projects for the Information Society (ISPO) The European Commission invites the submission of proposals for Standardization projects for the Information Society (ISIS). The themes are: Validation and demonstration of standards and specifications; Enhancing market transparency for users and consumers, including SMEs; Promoting industry and business networks; Supporting trust and confidence for businesses, users and consumers. The call is open until the 14 January 2000, and allows for continuous submission. The proposals will be evaluated in two lots: proposals received by 1) 9 July 1999, 2) by the 14 January 2000.
- Standardization Projects for the Information Society (ISIS ) (ISPO) The European Commissionís DG III/B3 (Industrial aspects of Electronic Commerce) is planning to organize an Information Day, on 11 June 1999 in Brussels. The aim of the Information Day is to provide a forum for the clarification of the workprogramme and the identification of possible partners in the context of the Call for Proposals in the area of "Standardization projects for the Information Society (ISIS )".
- Gateses Give Record $5 Billion Gift to Foundation (New York Times) In what is considered the largest gift ever by a living person to a foundation, the chairman of Microsoft, William H. Gates, and his wife, Melinda French Gates, Wednesday announced a gift of $5 billion to the William H. Gates Foundation.
Links to news items about
legal and regulatory aspects of Internet and the information society, and
market and technology
edited by Richard Swetenham (email@example.com). - Contributors: TKRNews, David Goldstein, Gerhard Heine, Alan Reekie
Archive | Full text of latest background items | Search site