Cyber Ramblings - Dec 19, 2000

19 December 2000
Compiled by Kevin Smith

UK Announces Plans for Regulatory Body to Cope with Converging Media
A new proposal by the British government calls for a new regulator for Great Britain's communications sector. Under the proposal, a White Paper, the regulator will roll the ITC, Radio Authority, OFTEL, Radio Communications Authority and Broadcasting Standards Commission into one body. Ofcom will be responsible for regulating electronic communication networks and services, including telecommunications, and licensing broadcast services. The regulator will have broad powers in conjunction with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to ensure consistency in their approach to competition laws. It will also have sector-specific powers to promote effective competition for the benefit of consumers. Ofcom's powers will extend to cover electronic program guides, used to provide information about digital TV channels. Viewers can use the menus to order pay-per-view services and gain access to interactive services.

Aussie Firm Inks Smart Card Deal
Keycorp, a smart card company from Australia, has struck a deal with MasterCard International in which Keycorp will introduce its competitively priced multi-application smart card into the international market. The company believes this partnership will accelerate the utilization of multi-application smart cards around the world. MasterCard anticipates 15 million cards will be rolled out worldwide by 2003 with Keycorp.

Hacker Victimizes
A hacker last week was able to gain access to 55,000 credit card numbers and posted them on for over a day. The FBI was able to pull the numbers from the site and the hole that allowed the hacker to gain access to the numbers was fixed. The numbers were posted after the hacker failed in his attempts to extort money from the site. Privately held is a Los Angeles-based business-to-business service that works with Web merchants so they can accept credit card payments. According to the company's website, its customers include software maker iKnowledge and health site Premier Solutions.

Interactive Games Come to Irish cellular users
Eircell, Ireland's largest mobile telephone operator, and Indiqu, a leading mobile entertainment network, have joined forces and will bring interactive games to the 1.2 million Eircell subscribers. The partnership calls for Indiqu to deliver a wide spectrum of mass-market games to the mobile-phone user, including casino, card, arcade, sports, quiz show, board and parlor games. The games were launched on Eircell's GSM network Dec. 4 and are accessible to both WAP and SMS users. In addition to the first suite of games introduced with Eircell, Indiqu is developing 15 more titles that are anticipated to be available by the end of the year. Eventually, players will be able to compete for points to win daily, weekly and monthly prizes.

IBM Joins List of Companies to Hire Privacy Officer
When IBM last week hired a privacy officer, it became the latest technology company to add one of the hottest new job titles in the business. As some companies have been sharply criticized or even sued for how they have handled customer information, many businesses have responded by hiring officers to establish and maintain privacy policies. High-profile companies have caused an uproar over how they have handled private information. And lawsuits have been filed against failed Web businesses and Toysmart, charging that they sold or tried to sell customers' private information. Even the federal government is on board; Congress is considering proposals for a government-wide chief information officer to manage information and technology policies.

German Court Convicts Australian Website Operator
The German Federal Court of Justice ruled that anyone publishing pro-Nazi material on the Internet could be subject to German law, regardless of his or her country of origin. The court found that an Australian national who runs the Adelaide Institute could be liable under legislation that bans the glorification of the Nazis and any denial of the Holocaust. Germany's supreme court denied the appeal of German-born Dr. Fredrick Töben who operated the Adelaide Institute website and printed leaflets denying that millions of Jews died during World War II. He had originally been sentenced to 10 months in prison and appealed on the grounds that, because his Internet material was "printed" outside Germany, it should not be subject to German legislation. The Federal Court judges disagreed and ruled that the country's anti-Nazism laws apply to material stored on servers outside Germany that is accessible to German internet users

Wal-Mart Loses WIPO Case
Kenneth Harvey of Newfoundland has won the right to continue hosting a customer grievance web site at following the first decision of its kind by a panel of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) that went against Wal-Mart, the retail giant. It was the third case between Wal-Mart and Harvey to come before WIPO. The other cases involved similar domain names, but also involved requests for money from Wal-Mart, which WIPO took as evidence of bad faith use, ruling in favor of Wal-Mart. The latest decision concerned the question of whether a domain name including the suffix "sucks" is confusingly similar to the word to which "sucks" is appended; and whether a criticism or parody privilege extends to the use of the suffix "sucks."

French Court Distinguishes between Defamation Online and Offline
A court in Paris last week ruled that a website is not entitled to rely on a rule, which protects newspapers from defamation actions brought more than three months after publication. Carl Lang, the leader of right-wing French political party Front National, brought an action in November for an article that appeared on the website of Réseau Voltaire in June 1999. Lang claimed the article was defamatory. Réseau Voltaire argued that it was protected from court action by a law of 1881 that makes French newspapers and magazines immune to action if the content is deemed defamatory more than three months after publication. However, the Paris court ruled that when a newspaper article is also published on a website, it becomes a new publication that is permanently accessible, and any breach of defamation law is a continuing breach. The court said that because the internet allows individuals to look for information at any time, the clock for the three-month limitation period only starts running when the information is removed from the website.