QuickLinks 126 - 8 September 1999
Forthcomings events | Background items
Legal and regulatory issues
- France Finishs On Top (The Amsterdam-Maastricht Summer University) In the First Internet Intelligence Test of EU Governments, French government websites were rated the best in a first of its kind study. With a score of 69 out of a total of 100 possible points, France was followed closely by Denmark at 68, and the UK and Germany tied at 67.
- USA - National Technical Information Service to be closed (Press Release) Commerce Secretary William M. Daley announced his intention to close the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) at the Department of Commerce, while preserving public access to scientific and technical reports. The core function of NTIS, providing government information for a fee, is no longer needed as agencies and groups have begun to post their reports on the Internet for free.
- UK - Public debate on BBC funding (BBC) Following hostile reactions to plans for a "digital licence fee" and privatisation of parts of the corporation, the government has invited the public - and broadcasting organisations - to air their views on the report on BBC funding by the independent panel, chaired by the economist Gavyn Davies. The closing date for responses is 1 November.
- UK - Public service broadcasting 'dying' (BBC) Public service broadcasting has only a limited shelf life and "will soon be dead", ITV chief Richard Eyre has said. Mr Eyre said the BBC should concentrate on "public interest" broadcasting instead.
- UK - TV giants set to oppose BBC children's channel (Daily Express) The BBC is heading for a showdown with commercial television operators over its plans to launch a new digital channel aimed at children - a move which deeply worries commercial operators such as Nickelodeon and Fox Kids which fear they will be hard-pressed to make sufficient financial returns in a head-on battle with the licence fee-funded BBC.
- EU - Commission clears a joint venture between Kirch and Mediaset (RAPID) The European Commission has authorised the Eureka joint venture between the Kirch and Mediaset groups of companies. Eureka will be mainly active in TV broadcasting, sale of TV advertising, TV productions and distribution of TV rights internationally. Since both groups are essentially active in different geographic markets, there is no significant overlap between them.
- EU - Telekom Comes Under Further EC Fire (Handelsblatt) Telepassport (Erfurt, Germany) has added to its complaint made to EU competition authorities against Deutsche Telekom. Telepassport maintains that Telekom's pricing policy is designed to force competitors from the market, saying that specific call tariffs for end-customers in the evenings and at weekends are lower than the interconnection tariffs paid by rivals. see related story
- Child porn GP struck off Medical Register (The Register) A doctor was struck off the medical register of practising clinicians after he was convicted for Net-related kiddie porn crimes. According to the General Medical Council, the "offences for which he was convicted in December 1988 are so abhorrent that we consider the he is totally unfit to retain the privilege of registration." He had already been convicted at Chester Crown Court and sentenced to four months in prison for possessing 5,000 pornographic images - including 1,200 of children - downloaded from the Net.
- UK porn case may set precedent (ZDNet) A businessman was given an 18-month suspended sentence for running the UK's largest porn operation from servers located in America. The Judge ruled the images were uploaded from the UK and were therefore subject to British law. The defense claimed the evidence against him was inadmissible because it was gathered from a UK computer rather than from the server it originated from. Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, every computer involved in a crime needs to have a certificate to prove it was working properly when the crime was committed. The Judge found that only the seized computer needed a certificate.
- UK - Gulf War veteran gaoled for kiddie Web porn (The Register) A Gulf War veteran was gaoled for two-and-a-half years after being found guilty of possessing almost a quarter of a million images of child porn downloaded from the Net. The judge said he was satisfied that the defendant did not accumulate the material to distribute. He has been placed on the sex offenders register for ten years and had all his computer equipment destroyed. Last month, a teacher and former Tory parliamentary candidate was jailed for child Net porn offences. He was sentenced to three years by Cardiff Crown Court for downloading 16,600 pictures of children from the Web.
- UK - Net agency to track drug gangs and paedophiles (The Register) The Government is setting up a unit of professional code crackers to track drug runners and paedophile rings on the Internet. The unit will get £20 million in Government funding, and will be staffed by encryption specialists from GCHQ, as well as new recruits from the private sector. It is expected to be called the Government Telecommunications Advisory Centre (GTAC).
- UK - Priest avoids prison in child porn case (The Register) An English Catholic priest has been convicted for downloading child pornography from an ICQ chat-room, used by "dozens of paedophiles". The priest stored the obscene images on a computer at a Catholic girls school where he used to teach. He was put on two years' probation and placed on the national register of sex offenders.
- USA - Investigators Face a Glut of Confiscated Computers (New York Times) Law enforcement officials say they lack the time, resources and sometimes expertise to examine all of the computers are in federal and state custody. For example, at the headquarters of a federal cybercrime task force in Dallas, more than 100 hard drives await examination, but only three forensics experts are available to look at them. The computers were seized in cases involving a range of alleged crimes, including fraud, embezzlement, child pornography and computer break-ins.
- USA - Web hoax creator sentenced to home detention, probation, restitution (Nando Media) A former employee who drove up the price of PairGain Technologies stock by posting a fake news story on the Internet avoided a jail term when he was sentenced to five months of home detention and five years of probation. He also was ordered to pay $93,000 to investors who purchased PairGain stock and sold at a loss after the company denied the bogus report that it was about to be purchased by an Israeli company for $1.35 billion.
- USA - Judge Itemizes Downloaded Evidence in Sentencing Decision (Delaware Law Weekly)
- Australians reject Net censorship (EFA) An international survey has shown that the Australian public does not support government censorship of the Internet, according to Internet regulation watchdog Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA).
- Net laws world's most 'draconian' (The Australian) Australia's new Internet censorship legislation is among the world's most draconian and should be repealed before it does further damage to the country's reputation and e-commerce industry, Nadine Strossen, the president of the American Civil Liberties Union warned.
- The twenty enemies of the Internet (Press Release) Reporters Sans Frontières names forty-five countries which restrict their citizens' access to the internet - usually by forcing them to subscribe to a state-run Internet Service Provider (ISP). Twenty of these countries may be described as real enemies of the Internet because they control access totally or partially, have censored web sites or taken action against users. They are: the countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus (Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan), Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and Vietnam.
- China - Dissident Arrested For Printing Internet Newsletter (IT Daily) A Chinese dissident has been charged with subversion after making copies of an Internet pro-democracy journal, according to an Associated Press report.
- RTL-Gruppe stellt Digital-Angebot vor (dpa) Die RTL-Gruppe (RTL, RTL II und Super RTL) startet ins digitale Zeitalter: Auf der Internationalen Funkausstellung stellte sie das Angebot «RTL World» vor. Kern ist ein elektronischer Programmführer, der Zusatzinformationen zum Programmangebot ermöglicht.
- Telekom will Kabel-TV-Käufern freie Hand lassen (Reuters) Die Deutsche Telekom AG will den Käufern ihrer regionalen Kabelnetze freie Hand dabei lassen, welche Dienste über das Netz angeboten werden. Die Telekom wolle als Minderheitsgesellschafter zwar auch künftig sicher stellen, dass die bisherigen Kunden umfassend versorgt würden.. Die Telekom will Anteile an ihren neun regionalen Kabelgesellschaften verkaufen. Die Frist für eine Angebotsabgabe war am 20. August abgelaufen. Bis dahin waren dem Vernehmen nach mehr als 20 Gebote eingegangen.
- USA - Excite@Home takes cable fight to court (CNET News.com) Opposition to "open access" cable regulations is mounting as the Federal Communications Commission and Excite@Home filed "friend-of-the-court" briefs asking federal judges to carefully consider an earlier ruling that could help open cable networks to competitors. The FCC said in its filing that it believes it is "the only agency with jurisdiction over all the current providers of broadband technology."
- USA - FCC suggests changes to cable ownership rules (Reuters) Staff of the Federal Communications Commission have proposed only modest changes to rules limiting cable television ownership, creating a major headache for AT&T's acquisition of MediaOne Group if the agency's five commissioners approve the plan.
- Australia allows reverse engineering of software (Ministerial Media Release) The Copyright Amendment (Computer Programs) Bill 1999 will allow software engineers to decompile computer software in limited circumstances so they can develop interoperable products.
- Deep Linking (Salon Magazine) Article on the recent legal attacks against "deep linking" (having a link to a page several levels in on another site's heirarchical structure).
- USA - AOL: You Haven't Got a Trademark (Reuters) AT&T has won the go-ahead from a US federal court to use slogans and service names popularized by rival Internet services provider America Online. The Court granted AT&T summary judgment regarding the use of "you have mail" and the other terms as generic expressions that are no one's property. The judge held that AOL cannot claim the expressions at issue as trademarks and prevent any party from using these terms,
- USA - Feds convict first Internet pirate (Reuters) An Oregon college student who gave away music, movies and software on the Web has become the first person convicted of a felony under violating the No Electronic Theft Act of 1997, a law punishing Internet copyright piracy.
- USA - Newspapers sued over mapping (Reuters) Four of America's largest newspaper groups are being sued for allegedly using without permission technology that helps visitors to their Web sites locate restaurants and businesses.
- Amazon modifies purchase data policy (Reuters) Online retailer Amazon.com, reacting to concerns it was violating the privacy of customers, will let customers opt out of a new feature that shows group purchasing patterns. The Seattle-based company said it would allow people to exclude their purchases of books, videos and CDs from its "Purchase Circles" page that shows sales rankings for groups such as corporations and for cities and states. Amazon also said it would remove specific companies from the list at their request. see also Big Brother, Big Fun at Amazon.
- USA - Court overturns FCC privacy rules (CNET News.com) A federal court overturned Federal Communications Commission rules requiring telephone companies to obtain customers' permission before using their personal information for marketing purposes. Under that rule, firms could not sell customer information to outside companies. The FCC had modified it to allow companies to sell their own new services to consumers, or try to win old customers back. The court said the rule was a violation of First Amendment rights. The text of judgement in US West v. FCC (10th Cir., Aug. 18, 1999) .
- USA - Sex Offenders Want Offline (Wired) Oregon is set to launch a Web site divulging the names, addresses, and photos of the state's registered sex offenders. But a lawsuit filed by some of the offenders has kept the site from going live.
- Privacy Issues Raised in Syphilis Cases (New York Times (registration required))
- Someone's watching (Sydney Morning Herald)
- USA - Campaign Sites Unclear on Use of Personal Data (Wired)
- France - Signature électronique: adoption d'un projet de loi (AFP) Destiné à favoriser le développement en France du commerce en ligne, le Conseil des ministres a adopté un projet de loi qui vise à donner la même valeur juridique à un document électronique dont l'émetteur est reconnu et authentifié, qu'à un document signé de la main.
- Internet Body Feels Democracy's Tug (New York Times (registration required)) Equal representation seems to be the big challenge for Icann, the experimental body that met here for three days last week as part of its continuing effort to create a new system for global Internet governance. In its first open board meeting, Icann's interim board, which consists of 10 members from seven nations, approved draft rules meant to resolve so-called cybersquatting disputes between parties with competing claims to the use of trademarks in Internet addresses.
- ISP tries to block VW from hijacking domain (Reuters) An Internet service provider under pressure from Volkswagen to stop using the Web address "www.vw.net" has filed suit in a Virginia federal court in a bid to block an attempt to reassign the domain name.
- EU - Electronic commerce: amended proposal (European Commission) An amended proposal for a Directive to establish a coherent legal framework for electronic commerce within the Single Market has been put forward by the European Commission. A number of clarifications have been introduced in the amended proposal concerning definitions of Information Society services and of consumers, the link between the electronic commerce proposal and existing consumer protection and data protection Directives, the treatment of unsolicited commercial communications via electronic mail and determination of the moment when an on-line contract is concluded. However, the Commission has maintained the proposed rules limiting the liability of on-line service providers who act as intermediaries.
- Illegal Kidney Auction Pops Up on EBay's Site (New York Times (registration required)) Bidding for a human kidney, described on the Internet auction site Ebay as "fully functional," began at $25,000 and reached $5,750,100 before the company abruptly ended the auction Thursday afternoon. To buy or sell them is a felony under Federal law, and trading in illegal goods is a violation of Ebay's rules.
- French legislation proposed (Wall Street Journal (subscription required)) French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin announced plans for Internet-related legislation that his administration will present to Parliament in early 2000. The proposals for regulation will attempt to formalize mechanisms for applying laws to cyberspace in areas such as encryption and confidentiality, consumer protection, copyright and data protection. Prime Minister Jospin also proposed creating an independent body that would bring together public and private players to consult and set standards on Internet issues. The Prime Minister also announced his intention to pursue an increase in the defense budget to fund efforts to protect France's information infrastructure. See also Société de l'information : discours du Premier ministre, Address by Prime Minister Lionel Jospin at the 20th Summer and Jospin annonce une loi pour débrider l'Internet (Libération).
- French Regulator Seeks Internet Watchdog (New York Times (registration required)) The head of France's broadcasting watchdog is proposing that public authorities and private operators join hands in regulating the Internet. The question of how to regulate the largely free-wheeling Internet will figure prominently at the two-day World Summit of Regulators on the Internet in Paris starting on November 30, which will be sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
- EC hands ISPs liability lifeline (Silicon) The ISP industry is breathing a sigh of relief as the European Commission ruled that service providers will not have to act as Internet content censors. see related story
- Software pirates doing brisk trade on auction sites (CNET) According to the the Software & Information Industry Association (SIAA), 60 percent of the more popular software titles sold on eBay and two other sites is pirated. For years, software makers and other content providers have argued that Internet sites should be held liable when their services are used to infringe copyrights. eBay representatives say monitoring all auctions would be impossible because approximately 2.5 million items are for sale at any given time. eBay maintains that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 protects it from any responsibility for pirated sales on its site.
- USA - Gambling Ruling Stirs E-Commerce Concerns (New York Law Journal) In the wake of a recent Manhattan Supreme Court decision on cyberspace gambling, Internet lawyers are questioning the steps that Web site operators must take to prevent residents of certain states from using their sites when such use would run afoul of state law. See also Judge in Gambling Case Takes On Sticky Issue of Jurisdiction New York Times (registration required)
- The Mein Kampf Minefield (American Lawyer Media)
- AOL, others plan global Net content rating system (CNET News.com) Following the example of the film and television industries, major Internet companies may embrace a global framework for rating content, marking the most aggressive push so far toward a system to filter nudity, hate speech, vulgar language, and other material online. See also Upcoming Munich Conference Worries Privacy Advocates (Newsbytes) see related story
- USA - Senator defends entertainment-labeling bill as 'citizenship,' not censorship (Freedom Forum) Senators are crafting measures to warn parents of undesirable content in television, movies, video games and music. The Media Violence Labeling Act of 1999 is a bill that, if passed, would lead to the development and enforcement of a system for labeling violent content in entertainment media.
- UK Car Buyers Turning to the Internet (NUA) In the UK, almost 500,000 car purchasing decisions, representing 20 percent of the national new car market, will be made online by 2003, according to a report from Fletcher Research.
- Australia - Spectrum released for local telephone services (Press Release) Competition in the local telephone market will be enhanced as a result of the Government's decision to make available spectrum in the 3.4 Gigahertz (GHz) band.
- UK - British Telecom Loses One to the Little Guy (Industy Standard) Oftel, the regulatory body that oversees telephone networks in Britain, has ordered BT to make life easier for Localtel. BT is required to allow other companies to resell voice and data telephony services on its network. Localtel not only offers cheaper telephony services, but also, through its Screaming.net service, provides customers with free access and no local phone charges on evenings and weekends.
- UK - Government Appeals 3G Roaming Decision (Total Telecom) The U.K. government has said it will appeal against the court decision that it acted illegally by mandating a change in their existing cellular licenses for any operator which wanted to gain a third generation (3G) license.
- USA - Alabama Court Upholds Reciprocal Compensation Ruling (Newsbytes) The United States District Court in Montgomery, Ala., has upheld a decision of the Alabama Public Service Commission that says calls to Internet service providers (ISPs) are local telephone calls and therefore subject to reciprocal compensation.
- USA - Phone Fee for School Internet Service Too Popular to Overturn (New York Times (registration required)) The new fee on long-distance telephone companies to raise money for Internet connections at schools and libraries, officially called the E-rate, has proved to be so popular that even the harshest critics now agree that further complaints are futile
Market & Technology
- BT to offer wireless networks for the home (VNU Newswire) BT will introduce wireless networking technology for households and small businesses early next year. The networking hardware has been developed under BT funded research by Home Wireless Networks, a US start-up technology company, which has provided similar systems in the US.
- Dutch Info Giant Buys Nielsen and Gets the Net (The Industry Standard) Dutch publishing and information giant, VNU, paid $2.7 billion for TV-audience-ratings firm Nielsen Media Research today, specifically citing the Nielsen NetRatings Web-audience ratings service as part of the strategic rationale for the purchase.
- Iridium Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection (Bloomberg News) Iridium LLC is seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after its bondholders and its biggest investor, Motorola, couldn't agree on a plan for the cash-strapped satellite-telephone company to repay its debts. see also ICO Files for Bankruptcy Protection (Bloomberg News).
- Denmark - Dänische TV-Zuschauer erhalten nach Urabstimmung Softporno-Kanal (dpa) [Denmarks cable subscribers vote to include a soft-porn channel] Dänemarks größter Anbieter von Kabel-TV nimmt nach einer Urabstimmung unter den Zuschauern erstmals einen Softporno-Kanal in sein Angebot. An der zum zweiten Mal durchgeführten Abstimmung, bei der 123 TV- und 35 Rundfunk-Kanäle aus aller Welt zur Auswahl standen, beteiligten sich 215 000 Haushalte und damit 41,4 Prozent der Stimmberechtigten. Die Abstimmung war in der dänischen Öffentlichkeit stark umstritten, weil die Regeln als undurchschaubarer Dschungel für die stimmberechtigten Zuschauer galt.
- Internet Code-Cracking Project Shows Need for Stronger Locks (New York Times (registration required)) When an international team of researchers demonstrated recently that they could break the standard lock that protects financial transactions over the Internet, they sent a clear message to the e-commerce community: Now is the time to get stronger locks.
- Microsoft took 10 hours to fix email breach (ZDnet UK) A Swedish reporter who told software giant Microsoft that its free Hotmail electronic mail service could be breached said it took Microsoft 10 hours to repair the security problem. Microsoft shut down its Hotmail service following a security flaw -- one of the biggest security breaches in the Internet's history --that let Web surfers access any of its 40 million email accounts. "
- AOL says to block Tribal Voice messaging users (CNET News.com) Just as it moved against Microsoft, America Online will block an instant messaging service developed by software company Tribal Voice from communicating with AOL users. The statement came the same day that Freeserve, a British free ISP which competes with AOL, announced it has licensed Tribal Voice's Powwow instant messenger software.
- Group rejects standard Web data plan (Associated Press) A computer industry group standards-setting group, called RosettaNet, launched to harness the XML software language has rejected a proposed version of the standard over concerns it skewed toward U.S. companies and will prevent European companies from participating.
- EuroISPA Appoints New President (Press Release) The European Internet Services Providers Association has appointed its French representative, Jean Christophe Le Toquin, as the new president, succeeding outgoing president Michael Schneider.
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edited by Richard Swetenham (firstname.lastname@example.org). - Contributors: NewsNow UK, TKRnews, MediaGrok, David Goldstein, Gerhard Heine, CPSR Cyber Rights, Stephen Balkam, Gordon Lennox
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