Cyber Ramblings - Jun 20, 2000

20 June 2000

U.S. House Catapults E-Signatures Bill to the Senate
The U.S. House voted, almost unanimously (by a 426-4 vote), to pass an act that validates electronic signatures, enabling Americans to sign contracts over the Internet. The bill still needs to go through the Senate and receive approval from the president, but most believe that it likely won't face much of an opposition. E-biz advocates predict the bill will eliminate some of the few remaining obstacles for e-commerce. And of course, office landscapes dominated by endless stacks of paper mountains may become a thing of the past.

U.S. Says No to Spam
While U.S. legislators try to make the operating of e-businesses much more efficient, they certainly don't want to make it any easier on spammers. And they put an exclamation point on that sentiment June 14 by passing the Unsolicited Commercial Electronic Mail Act of 2000. The new law will give ISPs more power to filter out spam on their systems and will require advertisers to label all spam messages as advertisements. Did anyone ever think about trying this with direct mail?

EU Lawmakers Pass Copyright Bill
The European Union's board of national ambassadors on June 12 approved a digital copyright law similar to America's Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which Congress passed in 1998. The EU proposal specifically provides protection to works posted on the Internet. Legislators expect the law to make the flow of copyrighted material much smoother and quicker over the Internet. The bill now goes to the European Parliament where changes may be added. From there, if the bill remains in tact, it can move to final passage and be implemented as a directive to EU member states.

U.S. Considers Money Laundering Policy
The International Counter-Money Laundering Act before U.S. Congress could give the Treasury Department broad powers over the American banking system. Under the act, the Department could require U.S. banks to track transactions with offshore financial institutions. Plus, the Department could force U.S. financial institutions to break ties with an offshore center being shielded from investigation by its government--without seeking Congress' approval first. "This legislation will give the secretary of the Treasury broad tools to root out international money-laundering havens, which are used to funnel dirty money...into the legitimate international financial network," Chairman of the House Banking and Financial Services Committee Jim Leach told "Unfortunately, the U.S. banking system is hardly immune from the dirty money that flows all too freely through the global economy." Dominica, Antigua and Liechtenstein were fingered as being among the leading money-laundering centers.

Thailand Looks to Standardize E-Commerce
According to the Bank for International Settlements in Switzerland reports that, the Bank of Thailand (BOT) is working with Thai finance authorities to establish a framework for regulating the use of multipurpose electronic money. The BOT has also proposed an amendment to the Bank of Thailand Act that would give the bank more explicit control over overseeing payment instruments, including those of electronic money and their issuer institutions. Meanwhile several groups are interested in setting up a smart-card based system in Thailand.

EU Commission Aims to Tax Foreign Companies on Internet Sales
The European Commission has proposed a directive that would force non-EU companies to pay VAT on a range of goods delivered electronically. Should the law be passed, any company not registered in the EU but which has annual sales of Internet services and paid-for TV in excess of 100,000 Euros to EU customers will have to register in a member state and pay VAT at the prevailing national rate. The law is designed to enable EU companies, who have to the VAT, to compete with non-EU competitors.

Pennsylvania Attempts to Filter Email Ads
On June 13, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge signed into law a bill aimed to help parents protect children from sexually explicit electronic advertisements by requiring advertisers to place a warning on email ads' subject lines. Senate Bill 262, sponsored by Sen. Melissa A. Hart (R-Allegheny), amends the Crimes Code to prohibit the intentional electronic transmission of unsolicited advertisements for websites containing explicit sexual material, unless the ad includes an "ADV-ADULT" warning at the beginning of the subject line. The subject line is defined as the area of an electronic advertisement that contains a summary description of the ad and its contents. The transmission of obscene materials also is made illegal. Violators could face up to seven years and up to $1,000 per ad. Cases involving sexually explicit advertisements will be under the jurisdiction of the Attorney General and district attorneys. Enforceability, however, is obviously quite limited. The bill passed the House and Senate unanimously and takes effect in 60 days.