Adsense HTML

IIA Questions ALP Policy Position on Internet Content

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, March 21 2006

The Internet Industry Association has questioned the rationale for the
fundamental change to Australia's internet content regulatory scheme
proposed by the ALP today.

"We are not convinced that Australian families will benefit from
fundamentally changing a scheme which is internationally recognised as
the most advanced of its kind in the world", said IIA chief executive
Peter Coroneos.

Mr Coroneos added: "Under the government-backed Internet Content Code
scheme which applies in Australia, ISPs are already required to provide
their customers with access to a filter or filtered feed. Furthermore,
these filters must pass rigorous independent testing to ensure they not
only catch the kind of content referred to the in the Opposition's
proposal, but also thousands of other sites which are likely to cause
offence to adults and potential disturbance to children. On top of all
this, the scheme prohibits ISPs from profiting from the provision of
these filters - they must be offered on a cost recovery basis, and some
ISPs even offer them for free."

Under Australia's Broadcasting Services Act, industry Codes of Practice
are developed and enforced. The Codes apply to all ISPs in Australia who
are required to adhere to the scheme, and substantial penalties exist
for non-compliance. These penalties are enforceable in the Federal Court.

Mr Coroneos added: "It is important to recognise that the UK 'Cleanfeed'
scheme (upon which the Labor proposals are modelled) was a
market-drivien initiative which arose because the UK lacked the strong
legislative protection available to Australians. We can't understand why
we'd adopt measures that will impose significant extra costs on users,
degrade network performance and deliver no real upside for Australian
families beyond that currently available."

"For families and those concerned with child safety the message is
simple," Mr Coroneos concluded. "Follow the advice given by your ISP and
take advantage of the tools and services they provide to shield your
children from unsuitable sites."


More information about the IIA Codes and family friendly filters is
available at For details of Australia's
co-regulatory scheme see For general information about
protecting children online, see

For further information please contact:
Peter Coroneos
Chief Executive
Internet Industry Association
phone (02) 6232 6900

Tales from the Public Domain: Bound By Law?

Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke University School of Law, which focuses on the delicate balance between intellectual property and the public domain - the realm of material that is free to use without permission or payment - has published a comic book that provides a commentary on the most pressing issues facing law, art, property and an increasingly digital world of remixed culture. You can check out the comic book here.

Michael Geist: Goes From Bad To Worse

From Michael Geist's blog:
  • "I recently blogged about CRIA's failure to renew, which it used as part of its 'educational' campaign to convince users to stop downloading. A blog reader has noted that the situation has gone from bad to worse as the site is now owned by a Russian download service offering up thousands of MP3 files it says are legal for nine cents each. Bear in mind, there are thousands of CDs sitting in Canadian stores today encouraging people to visit"

Google's GDrive

Google revealed last week that it had inadvertently disclosed its closely guarded financial projections and also let slip information about a personal, digital storage service that is in the work, known as GDrive. GDrive would be an online storage service that would give users an alternative to storing data on their personal computer hard drives. Such a service could allow users to get access to their files wherever they are, whether from a laptop, cell phone or personal digital assistant.

Read more here.

Government censorship in Australia?

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Friday that a spoof John Howard website that featured a soul searching "apology" speech for the Iraq war has been shut down under orders from the Australian Government. Read the article here and view a copy of the "speech" here.

Is this censorship? Should the Australian government be allowed to ask Melbourne IT to shut down the site?

EFF: Proposed New Jersey Laws Would Chill Free Speech

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is objecting to a proposed New Jersey law that would require internet service providers to record users' identities and reveal them in any claim of defamation. The EFF believes that this would remove anonymous speech from the internet, thereby chilling free speech protected by the First Amendment.

Read EFF's open letter to three New Jersey congressmen.

US trys to stop internet gambling

Last week a United States House committee approved a bill aimed at stamping out the $12 billion internet gambling industry by stopping businesses from accepting credit cards and other forms of payment. Read the article from the Washington Post (free subscription required).

What dangers are posed by internet gambling? Should internet gambling be banned? How can we regulate internet gambling?

More censorship in China

On Friday a Chinese court jailed a teacher for 10 years on Friday for publishing anti-government views on the internet. Read CNN's report here.

dot.XXX legislation proposed in the US

Two US senators have proposed legislation that would establish a new ".XXX" domain for racy or sexually explicit websites. The bill proposed by senators Mark Pryor and Max Baucus, both Democrats, calls upon the US Department of Commerce to exclude sexually charged content from established website domain names such as .gov, .com, .org, .net, and .edu.

Read more here.

China defends internet censorship

On several occasions this blog has discussed content regulation of the internet in China. Last week, the Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, offered a defense of China's internet censorship. Read more here.

ICANN to test non-English domain names

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has outlined a plan for testing domain names entirely in non-English characters, bringing closer to reality a change highly sought by Asian and Arabic Internet users.

Read more here.

France to open up iTunes

France is pushing through a law that would force Apple Computer Inc to open its iTunes online music store and enable consumers to download songs onto devices other than the computer maker's popular iPod player. Under the proposed law it would no longer be illegal to crack digital rights management if it is to enable to the conversion from one format to another.

Read more here.

What might the implications of this proposed law? Should other nations consider implementing a similar law? Why? Why not?

More criticism of AOL's attempt to create a two tiered email service

In previous weeks, this blog has linked to stories on the introduction of a two-tiered system of email. Now Californian state Senator Dean Florez, a Democrat, has criticized AOL's attempt to create a "two-tiered world of e-mail service."

"It seems to me that AOL is setting a horrible precedent here," he said. "The whole ideal of Net neutrality gets wiped away, and we are left with an Internet of haves and have-nots."

Read more here.

ID theft in South Korea

The Korean government will strengthen its measures to prevent crimes related to the stealing of personal
information, amid increasing concerns over privacy theft on the Internet. The Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs has proclaimed a new law, under which one could serve up to three years in prison or face a maximum 10 million won fine for unauthorized use of personal information.

Read more here.

Creative Common license upheld

The first known court decision involving a Creative Commons license was handed down on March 9, 2006 by the District Court of Amsterdam. The case confirmed that the conditions of a Creative Commons license automatically apply to the content licensed under it.

Read more at the Creative Commons blog.

Google wins a court battle

Today a US District Court judge ruled that Google did not violate copyright law when it automatically archived a posting on Usenet by Gordon Roy Parker and by providing excerpts from Parker's website in its search results.

Read a summary of the case here. The judgment is also available to read.

Microsoft to help parents monitor their children

Microsoft has announced plans to include a free service to help parents control and monitor what their children are doing online in its upcoming Windows Live offering of Web services.

Read more here.

Do you think this will be an effective way to regulate content on the internet?

For LWB141 Legal Institutions and Method students

For a copy of the PowerPoint slides used Peter Black's week 3 tutorial, click here.

Australian IT: Cybersnooping laws differ in Australia

According to Australian IT, the law relating to cybersnooping are are different in different Australian states and there seems to be little prospect of a uniform "cybersnooping" rule appearing any time soon. Read the article here.

Microsoft joins the fight against spam

Microsoft has joined the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group, the organization announced Tuesday. The move brings the software giant's Outlook, Exchange Server and MSN Hotmail products and services into the effort, which is dedicated to combating spam, phishing, viruses and other security threats distributed via e-mail.

Read more here.

Do you think the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group will be effective in reducing spam?

Abu Ghraib photos online

The online news magazine has published what it says is the complete archive of the Army's photographic evidence in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse investigations. The archive included a photo depicting a naked Iraqi detainee with bleeding wounds allegedly from an attack by U.S. military dogs.

Most of the photos had been published before. said it was the first news organization to publish the full file of photos collected by the Army's Criminal Investigation Command, which previously released some in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Read more here. To see the pictures, click here.

Should these images be available on the internet? What policy considerations underpin your opinion on this issue?

Online international paedophile pornography ring

27 people who were part of an international paedophile pornography ring that streamed live molestations of children over the internet have been charged with possession, receipt, distribution and manufacture of child pornography.

Authorities have identified seven child victims, including an infant whose molestation in April by a suburban Chicago man was transmitted live via an internet chat room to a co-conspirator who used the screen name "BigtDaddy619".

Four of those charged allegedly molested the children, making the resulting images available in the chat room called "Kiddypics & Kiddyvids," that facilitated trading of thousands of images and videos, the statement said.

Read the full story here. See one of the indictments here.

ISP held not liable for passively posting defamatory content

A UK court has ruled that an internet service provider (ISP) cannot be held liable for passively posting defamatory content. The court ruled that "an ISP which performs no more than a passive role in facilitating postings on the internet cannot be deemed to be a publisher at common law." The court did acknowledge that
"if a person knowingly permits another to communicate information which is defamatory, when there would be an opportunity to prevent the publication, there would seem to be no reason in principle why liability should not accrue."

The case is Bunt v. Tilley [2006] EWHC 407 (QB) (10 March 2006).

Google to put whole books online

  • Google is expanding its role in the publishing world from a search engine for books to a distributor making entire books available to read online.
    The company launched a new program Friday that allows traditional book publishers in the United States and Britain to sell and set the price for access to full copies of their books, Google spokeswoman Megan Lamb said Monday. Consumers who purchase the access cannot save copies of the books or individual pages to their computers and can view them only through a Web browser.
    "We are collaborating with publishers -- in response to demand from them -- to develop a suite of online tools that will enable publishers to experiment with new and innovative ways to generate more book revenue,'' Lamb said in an e-mail.
    The new program is open only to U.S. and U.K. publishers at this point.
    Several points remained unclear: whether Google would get a cut of the price paid for access to a book; whether customers who purchase access to books see advertising while they read the books; and whether independent authors will also one day sell full access to their books through the service.

Read the full article here.

US Family Entertainment and Copyright Act

A pair of apparent Ryan Adams fans violated the new US Family Entertainment and Copyright Act when they made portions of the singer's latest album available on a website frequented by his fans. The indictments are believed to be the first under the pre-release provision of the 2005 FECA law. Read more here.

Reinventing the internet

The Economist wonders what the internet would look like if a clean slate redesign was implemented. Read more here and listen to an audio interview with Tom Standage, Technology Editor of The Economist here:
  • The internet has been a hotbed of innovation because it’s "dumb". The designers didn’t presuppose how the internet would be used and that has made it extremely flexible. But what we are running into now are scaling and security problems, and some people are asking: if we were building the internet from scratch, what would be the ideal clean-slate design?

Do you think the internet should be redesigned from scratch? What do you think the internet would look like? Do you think that such a redesign could ever realistically happen?

Legal to search a computer for child pornography

The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that police may search computer hard drives for child pornography if their owners subscribe to websites selling the images. The panel found that there was a "fair probability" customers of child pornography Web sites receive or download the illegal images, opening the door for police searches.

The opening two paragraphs of the opinion summarise the issue:
  • The term "Lolita" conjures up images ranging from the literary depiction of the adolescent seduced by her stepfather in Vladimir Nabokov’s novel to erotic displays of young girls and child pornography. This case requires us to consider probable cause to search a computer for child pornography in the
    context of an Internet website, known as "," that admittedly displayed child pornography.
    Micah Gourde appeals from the district court’s denial of his motion to suppress more than 100 images of child pornography seized from his home computer. Gourde claims that the affidavit in support of the search lacked sufficient indicia of probable cause because it contained no evidence that Gourde actually downloaded or possessed child pornography. We disagree. Based on the totality of the circumstances, the magistrate judge who issued the warrant made a "practical, common-sense decision" that there was a "fair probability" that child pornography would be found on Gourde’s computer. Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 238 (1983). The Fourth Amendment requires no more.

The full opinion is available here. A news story reporting on the ruling is available here.

US Child Online Protection Act

In 1998 the US Congress passed Child Online Protection Act. The Act was to impose a $50,000 fine and six-month prison term on commercial Web site operators who publish content "harmful to children',' as defined by "contemporary community standards". However, legal challenges from sexual health sites, the online magazine and other internet publishers have kept it from being enforced. The US Supreme Court has twice granted preliminary injunctions that prevent the government from enforcing theAct until the case is tried.

Opponents of the Act contend that not only is it too broad and would therefore stifle free speech, but that advances in technology have made it obsolete. summarises the issues plaguing the Act.

Is the Act obsolete? Does the Act unduly infringe upon free speech? How can we protect children from offensive content that is available online?

Judge plans to order Google to hand over data to the US Government

The New York Times reports that as the US Justice Department has sharply cut back its request for search-engine data from Google, a federal judge indicated that he would instruct Google to comply with a government subpoena in the department's defense of the Child Online Protection Act, a 1998 law that would impose tough criminal penalties on individuals whose websites carried material deemed harmful to minors..

Read more here (free subscription required). See also

Microsoft in trouble with the European Commission

According to the Associated Press, the European Commission told Microsoft last Friday that it was "still not in compliance'' with a 2004 antitrust ruling that ordered it to share information with rivals to make their software work with Microsoft servers. The EU has already threatened Microsfot with 2 million euros in daily fines, backdated to 15 December, and said it will make its final decision after a hearing for Microsoft to plead its case later this month.

Read the full report here.

US Government sideas against eBay in patent dispute

The US Office of the Solicitor General said in a brief filed with the US Supreme Court on Friday that eBay willfully infringed on patents held by Great Falls-based MercExchange LLC and should be enjoined from using its "Buy It Now" feature, which allows users to buy goods at fixed prices rather than compete in auctions. Goods sold using that system account for about a third of eBay's business. Read more here.

AFP: Hong Kong clamps down on data firms after police leak

From AFP:
  • Hong Kong authorities said that they would set up a register of data-collection companies after details of 20,000 people who complained about the police were leaked on to the Internet. Roderick Woo, Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, said the companies would have to provide information on what kind of data they collect and why, and who will access to it. Woo said authorities were investigating the leaked data, including names, addresses and criminal records, which apparently came from the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC). The IPCC had denied any link with the website that carried the information but local media quoted unnamed police source saying the council outsourced data processing. Read more here.

Should Australia implement a similar register of data collection companies?

Michael Geist asks "Does the Government Have a Role in Internet Connectivity?"

Michael Geist picks up on Toronto Hydro's announcement of its plans to blanket the City of Toronto with wireless Internet access. He notes that the announcement has sparked an important debate about the
appropriate role for governments and public institutions in providing Internet connectivity. He argues that government cannot adopt a hands-off approach, though it must recognize that its role differs in the urban and rural markets with the urban focus on the competitive environment, while the rural mandate concentrated on establishing connectivity.

Read Michael Geist's comments here.

Do you agree that "Given the Web's importance, government cannot adopt a hands-off approach, though it must recognize that its role differs in the urban and rural markets"?

Google's Brazilian unit in trouble

Google's Brazilian unit has been asked to appear before Brazilian authorities on Friday to explain what the company was doing to curb crimes allegedly being committed through its Orkut chat rooms. According to CNet, Google's Brazil spokesman confirmed that the unit, Google Brasil, had received a summons from the Public Ministry, but he declined to give details.

Read the full story here.

Does this tell us anything about jurisdictional difficulties on the internet?

Internet hate speech in Canada

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has issued an interesting internet hate decision that focuses on the applicability of Canada's Human Rights Act to internet hate materials. The Tribunal ordered fines against several individuals for their role in maintaining several hate websites and newsletters.

You can read the decision here.

IT Today

From today's liftout in The Australian:

Hate speech and the internet

On page 7 of today's The Australian newspaper, an article headlined "Warning of hatred on racists' fantasy website" (the same article is available online under the headline "Racist site wanrings ignored"), referred to "A racist website where extremists fantasise about gassing Arabs has been allowed to operate freely for months, despite warnings sent to state and federal authorities that it breaks laws prohibiting the incitement of racial violence."

The website referred to is a blog titled Patriot Alliance Downunder. You can view the website at

Does this website breach Australian state and/or federal law? Should a website with this sort of content be allowed to remain online? What does the fact that this website is still online tell you about internet content regulation in Australia?

Japan: the internet and suicide pacts

CNN reports on internet suicide pacts in Japan:
  • "Internet suicide pacts have occurred since at least the late 1990s and have been reported everywhere from Guam to the Netherlands. But in Japan, where the suicide rate is among the industrialized world's highest, officials are worried about a recent spate of such deaths."

Read the full article here.

Is it possible to stop the internet being used in this way?

EFF Consumer Alert: isn't Anonymous Email

From EFF:
  • EFF is warning the public about a so-called anonymous email service located at's tagline is "Anonymous email made easy" but this service does not provide real anonymity -- it's a trap for the unwary and should not be used by battered spouses, whistleblowers and others who need real protection. Read more here.

Will Google take on Microsoft in the market for office-productivity software?

Google has purchased Upstartle, a small startup that runs a collaborative word processor inside Web browsers. Jen Mazzon from Upstartle blogs about the acquisition for Google here. Business 2.o Magazine believes that this acquisition is the surest sign yet that Google plans to take on Microsoft in the market for office-productivity software. Read more here.

Who do you think will win? Can you think of any legal concerns users may have with an online office-productivity suite?

Amazon to make movies and tv shows available to download

The New York Times reports that is in talks with Paramount Pictures, Universal Studios and Warner Brothers about starting a service that would allow consumers to download movies and TV shows for a fee and burn them onto DVD's. Read more here (free subscription required).

Internet censorship in Russia

On Friday the Russian government sought to shut down a popular, independent news Web site ( in Siberia for publishing extremist views of an anonymous reader who insulted Islam. This came the day after the government warned a different website ( over its decision to post on its site caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that were first published in a Danish newspaper last September and inflamed violent Muslim protests when European and other newspapers reprinted them this year.

New York Times: "Anonymous Source Is Not the Same as Open Source"

From the New York Times:
  • "Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, currently serves up the following: Five billion pages a month. More than 120 languages. In excess of one million English-language articles. And a single nagging epistemological question: Can an article be judged as credible without knowing its author? Wikipedia says yes, but I am unconvinced."

Read the full article here.

What do you think? Can an article be judged as credible without knowing its author?

European Digital Library

At least six million books, documents and "other cultural works" are to be put online and housed in the European Digital Library by 2010, the European Commission announced last week.

US internet search giant Google triggered an international race to build an online library when it announced plans in December 2004 to digitise books and documents from a handful of big libraries (see Google Book Search). US based internet and software giants Yahoo, Microsoft and Amazon have since announced separate plans while France, angry that private companies took the lead, has pushed for the creation of a public digital library.

Read more here.

What copyright issues need to be considered when creating a digital library?

Backspace: 5 March to 12 March

This week this blog covered several important stories and raised a number of interesting issues:

For LWB141 Legal Institutions and Method students

The PowerPoint slides used in Peter Black's computer LWB141 tutorials are available here.

Microsoft's search engine is Live

This blog has been following the launch of Microsoft's new search engine. Now we can start using it and see whether it is a serious threat to Google's dominance.

To start searching, go to

Personal information released onto the internet

Wired reports that customers of the online payments service iBill have had their personal information released onto the internet. The information, including names, phone numbers, addresses and email addresses, are now being bought and sold in a black market made up of fraud artists and spammers.

As the report notes, "The breach has broad privacy implications for the victims. Until it was brought low by legal and financial difficulties, iBill was a top credit-card processor for adult entertainment websites."

To read about the details of this story, click here.

Australian IT: "Aust internet crawls along"

According to Australian IT, "A report by the World Bank has Australia well behind other developed nations in terms of broadband internet speed - a key factor in modern-day business and essential to accessing new features on the web such as movie and music downloads and telephone calls." Read more here.

Check out The Browser from Business 2.0 Magazine

The Browser this week has these headlines:
  • The launch of a new Internet incubator is a scary reminder of the bubble years.
  • Microsoft's Origami draws criticism.
  • Intel demo turns into shouting match.
  • Google acquisition could challenge Microsoft Word.

Can Google commit libel?

MediaBistro's Tool Box asks "Can Google commit libel?"

The question is asked following an article in The Times reporting that Google has been asked by Premiership footballer Ashley Cole's solicitors to explain why his name has been linked to the word “gay” in internet search results.

Read more here and here.

More on the online sale of a car that once belonged to one of the Columbine gunmen

Earlier today this blog linked to a story that eBay pulled from its website an advertisement for a car that was advertised as once belonging to one of the gunmen in the Columbine High School killings.

The Rocky Mountain News is now reporting that the seller has now set up a personal website to solicit bids on the car at

Should the seller be allowed to create this website? Although you might find the nature of this website unpleasant, is there any legal justification for banning such a site or closing it down?

Australian IT: Podcasting transcends geek factor

Sheena MacLean in Australian IT notes that "but radio podcasting is rapidly moving from the realm of hip and hype into serious media". Read all about the rapid growth of podcasting here.

The internet beats TV in Britain

The Guardian reports that Great Britain now spends more time on the internet than watching television, according to a survey published by Google. The report showed that British internet users spend an average of 164 minutes online daily, compared to 148 minutes watching television. Read more here.

Does this fact surprise you? Are people spending too much time on the internet?

Google settles lawsuit

According to The Australian, Google has settled a lawsuit filed by Lane's Gifts earlier this year in an Arkansas state court and is designed to settle all outstanding claims against Google for fraud committed using its pay-per-click ad system back to 2002. To read more, click here.

EFF warns: "Google Copies Your Hard Drive"

Commenting on Google's Desktop software, the Electronic Frontier Foundation urges consumers not to use it as "it will make their personal data more vulnerable to subpoenas from the government and possibly private litigants, while providing a convenient one-stop-shop for hackers who've obtained a user's Google password." Read more here.

Are you concerned by the potential privacy implications of Google's Desktop software?


Although not covered in LWN117 Legal Regulation of the Internet, this blog did link to developments relating to e-voting in March last year.

Some of the legal complexities relating to e-voting are currently being considered by the courts in North Carolina. If you are interested in e-voting and want to know what is being litigated in North Carolina, click here.

If you would like to know more news about e-voting in the US, visit Voters Unite.

Copyright and Google image search

This Modern Practice Feature article by Jason Allen Cody, "Copyright Clash Over Image Searches: An Imperfect Means to a Pornographic End?", summarises a recent decision of the US District Court for the Central District of California which held that Google’s display of thumbnails of Perfect 10’s copyrighted images does constitute direct infringement of Perfect 10's copyright in the image and that this display is not a "fair use".

Do you agree with the decision? How do you think the appeal will be decided? Do you agree with Cody's conclusion that, even if the decision is upheld on appeal, "the vitality of Web does not appear in jeopardy as a result of the district court’s decision"?

Russian copyright laws

The Coalition for Intellectual Property Rights has warned that Russia's chances of joining the World Trade Organization this year will fade if the government pushes ahead with new legislation on intellectual property rights saying the proposed laws were flawed. Findlaw reports that pirated films, music and software in Russia cost U.S. companies nearly US$1.8 billion (euro1.5 billion) last year and that the laws as proposed do not do enough to counter piracy concerns.

This report reminds us of the important role that intellectual property rights are playing in the promotion of free trade through free trade organisations and agreements, especially in bilateral agreements with the United States.

eBay removes advertisement for car owned by one of the gunmen in the Columbine High School killings

eBay has pulled from its website an advertisement for a 1982 BMW that was advertised as once belonging to one of the gunmen in the Columbine High School killings. According to the Rocky Mountain News, eBay spokesman Hani Durzy said the listing was what eBay officially terms "offensive material," or in this case "murderabilia".

Do you agree that this material should have been removed from the eBay website? Is this censorship, or should eBay be able to decide what is sold through its website?

Cyber-criminals gettting smarter

According to a report by Symantec, cyber-criminals are focusing less on destroying data and increasingly on attacks designed to silently steal data for profit without doing noticeable damage that would alert a user to its presence.

Read a summary of the report here. And this is how The Australian reported the story.

"A new twist on online song swapping" ...

With peer-to-peer file sharing garnering so much attention from the legal community, politicians, the music industry and consumers alike, The Australian reports on a new way to share music. A new online music service aims to offer CDs for $US1 ($1.35) by letting members trade used physical discs. Read more here.

Would you share music in this way? Would such a system be legal in Australia?

Microsoft's new search engine

On Monday this blog linked to a story where the president of Microsoft Europe, Middle East and Africa, Neil Holloway declared that Microsoft will have a better search engine than google in 6 months. Microsoft has now released the beta version of their new search engine. Read about it here.

Life in the Googleplex

Time has this interesting photo essay inside Google headquarters ...

Bloggers as advertisers

The standards to which we should hold bloggers was briefly referred to in this blog last year. When bloggers comment on issues, should they disclose any potential conflicts of interest? Should blogs be allowed to be set up as appearing independent, when they are really an advertising tool of a company? What legal issues (in the Australian context or elsewhere) may be raise in such a situation?

Some of these issues are covered in this article from the New York Times, "Wal-Mart Enlists Bloggers in P.R. Campaign" (free subscription required).

Microsoft and China

Content regulation in China continues to be major issue. covers a denial from Microsoft that it had any involvement in the arrest of a Chinese journalist on subversion charges following reports that the reporter's 'Hotmail' account was mentioned in the indictment against him.

Is China Creating Its Own Internet?

From the Tech Law Prof Blog:
  • "There are conflicting reports as to whether China is considering creating an internal Internet structure that is not governed by ICANN. Reports in the China People's Daily suggested that China would create top level domains using Chinese characters as addresses. A lot of the non-English world wants to extend addresses to their own alphabets, something with which ICANN has been moving glacially slow.
    Reports are that China is working with second-level domains, rather than .cn, .com, and .net as suggested by other reports.
    A report in the Toronto Star by Professor Michael Geist suggests that whether top or second level domains are involved, the prospects of China being used as a model by other countries has the potential to up-end U.S. control of top level domain servers. China is a little different from most countries in that the population of Internet users is large enough that the Chinese government could, indeed, make the split work for that country. Critics believe if China successfully splits from the Internet as it is currently governed, the government there would be able to censor content even more than is possible under current circumstances.
    Stories on this from CIO Today, the Toronto Star, and Xinhua."

Why do people read blogs?

In a light hearted article, Media Guy, Simon Dumenco, attempts to explain why people read blogs. What do you think, can you get lucky reading Media Guy?

EFF fights against charging a fee for email

Last week the blog considered whether email on the Internet should be free:
  • Would charging for email be just like a road toll?
  • When will email cease to be free?
  • Would charging for email introduce a two-tiered system?

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has started an open letter to AOL in which it expresses its serious concern with AOL's adoption of Goodmail's CertifiedEmail, seeing it as a threat to a free and open internet. Read the letter and see if you agree with EFF's argument? What are some of the counter-arguments?

End of patent lawsuit against Blackberry

Blackberry has settled its patent infringement lawsuit filed by NTP. Read more about what this means and why there are still detractors of Blackberry's wireless email system from the New York Times (free subscription required).

For some background and commentary, see Ben at LawFont.

China and Google

Content regulation in China was also discussed in this blog last week. There have been some developments this week relating to Google's attempts to capture the Chinese search engine market:
  • A United States Congressional Committee has accused Google (and other internet companies) of a "sickening and eveil" collaboration with the Chinese government and of being complicit in the jailing and torture of dissidents. This stems from Google's agreement with the Chinese government to block various politically sensitive terms from their new China specific site, Read more here.
  • The Electronic Frontier Foundation has called for internet companies to adopt a code of conduct when engaging with authoritarian regimes.
  • While all the controversy dominates the media, Beijing News, a Beijing newspaper, indicates it may be academic as Google's new China specific site doies not have a license. Read more here.

Is safe?

Last week in this blog, we linked to a story involving threats made on a website. This week, USA Today reports that the company's Chief Executive Officer has had to reassure users that MySpace is as safe as anyplace in the offline world despite recent reports that sexual predators may be using it to find and lure young victims.

Is the internet a safe place for children? What can the law do to help protect children when they go online? Or is simply something that parents need to monitor?

Legal peer-to-peer file-sharing ... for a fee

In December last year, members of the French parliament voted to legalise peer-to-peer file-sharing through scheme that allowed internet users to download as much as they want as long they paid a small monthly fee. The money from the fee would go to artists' royalties. The bill faced heavy opposition from the government, who withdrew the bil and therefore stopped the bill from completing its way through the legislative process. The government reintroduced an amended version which lighten fines for illegal downloading and to allow people to make private copies of DVDs and CDs. Read more about it here.

What do you think of the original French scheme? Is such a scheme a solution to the problem of illegal downloading? Should peer-to-peer file-sharing be legal? Why? Or why not?

IT Today

From today's liftout in The Australian:
  • The federal government's committment to e-health, through HealthConnect, has been called into question by Queensland Health. Read about it here. What role can e-healthcare play in our health system? Is government adequately committed to e-health? Is e-health simply a waste of money? What legal issues would inherently surround e-health? (Think about privacy law?)
  • Following on from Google's profit projections mentioned in this blog last week, Google's chief executive Eric Schmidt says he sees no limit to the search engine's ability to increase advertising revenue, allaying investor concerns about slowing growth. Read more here.
  • Research by Seccom Networks suggests that up to a third of companies are having information taken from their computers by adware or spyware. The research apparently reveals that about only two in every 100 companies in Australia are able to identify any threat, mitigate it and collect forensic evidence so legal action can be taken. Read more here. What does this mean for Australian businesses? And what does it tell us about the difficulty in collecting forensic evidence in an electronic and digital environment?

Money and the internet

Last week in this blog, we considered whether email will one day cease to be free and the potential consequences that this may have on internet use. This week the New York Times weighs is, posing the question ""Are consumers going to start having to spend a lot more to surf the Web? (free subscription required).

Can blogs replace the mainstream media?

In a column titled "Those Busted Blogs", William Power looks at the role and status of the blog now that the "hype-fueled blog mania" has eased. He believes that the three main functions of the media can be serviced by the bloggers. These three main functions are: "1) convenience (organization of news and information in user-friendly formats); 2) truth-telling (digging up important stories and holding powerful people accountable); and 3) pleasure (the sheer fun of reading, listening, or watching)."

What do you think? Can bloggers better fulfil these functions? Could the blog hasten the end of traditional media sources?

Inquiry into music downloading

The BBC reports that the US Department of Justice has launched an inquiry into allegations of price fixing by top music labels on their charges for digital downloading. The background to these allegations stems from the major record labels being at loggerheads with Apple over what it charges for tracks sold through its iTunes online service. The article observes that "The digital music market has really taken off in the past couple of years, with revenues from digital sales topping the $1bn mark last year. Its growth has come at a time when sales of CDs and other traditional music formats are falling."

For further discussion see the Tech Law Prof Blog.

How should the major music labels respond to this trend?

Some of the difficulties inherent in content regulation

SmartFilter is a system used by corporations, schools, libraries and governments that allows system administrators to monitor and filter their users' access to web sites. Their website states that "By controlling inappropriate Internet use with SmartFilter, organizations can reduce legal liability, enhance Web security, increase productivity, and preserve bandwidth for business-related activities. SmartFilter puts you in control."

However, the New York Times reports (free subscription required) that the relatively innocent site Boing Boing: A Directory of Wonderful Things had been blocked by SmartFilter on the basis that a site reviewer from SmartFilter had "spotted something fleshy" and incorrectly (or at the least unfairly) labelled the site with the Nudity characterisation.

As is noted in the article, "There is far too much content on the Internet for one company to review manually, so they have to cut corners. And they're going to fall further behind as the Web gets bigger."

Is there a solution to this problem? Should we just accept that it is impossible to provide effective content regulation for the internet? Should we even go so far to say that there should be no regulation of the internet?

Who should profit from a blog?

If you have a popular blog, should you have the write to sell advertising space on that blog? Or should any advertising space be controlled by the web portal that places the blog online? This is the dilemma being faced by Xu Jinglei, a Chinese actress, who is China's most popular blogger. Read more from the New York Times website (free subscription required).

What do you think? Who should profit?

Microsoft v Google

The president of Microsoft Europe, Middle East and Africa, Neil Holloway, has declared that Microsoft will have a better search engine than google in 6 months. The new search engine will be introduced in the US and Britain first, before being introduced into Europe, and will be put into Microsoft's widely used communications tools Windows Messenger and Hotmail. Read more here.

Backspace: 26 February to 5 March

The blog began 2006 with a welcome and some news about an exciting new research project hosted by the Queensland University of Technology, OAK Law. Other issues canvassed in the last seven days have included:

I hope you found some of these links and issues interesting. Please post your comments to encourage more debate and discussion.

South Korea and "cyberviolence"

CNN has posted this report on cyberviolence in South Korea. The report is interesting for these aspects:
  • South Korea is the world's most wired country, boasting the highest per capita rate of broadband Internet connections.
  • The term cyberviolence encompasses anything from online insults to sexual harassment and cyberstalking.
  • Prosecutors are beginning to respond to the threat posed by cyberviolence.
  • Also responding is the government, who plans to introduce a bill that real-name authentication.
  • Websites too are responding by actively seeking to filter comments.

There are four questions worthing considering here. First, is given the nature of the virtual environment of the internet is cyberviolence really a threat or danger? Second, are the respective responses of prosecutors, the government and individual websites warranted and proportionate to whatever threat or danger is posed? Will real-name authentication, which would have the effect of removing anonymous online speech in South Korea, be a threat to free speech? Do we, and should we, have a right to anonymous speech?

Did this school do the right thing?

According to this report, 20 school students were suspended after seeing a posting on a website that contained a threat directed toward a girl at the school. Did the school overstep its bounds by disciplining students for actions that occurred on personal computers, at home and after school hours?

Google continues to expand

Google aims to become a $US100 billion company according to Australian IT today. The article also notes that despite Google's new products, 97% of its revenue is from search-related advertising.

More on when will email cease to be free?

This issue was raised in this blog on Wednesday, but I thought it interesting to posit the idea that perhaps that rather than all-free email or all-pay email, we could be seeing the introduction of a two tiered system. This is certainly the allegation that is being levelled at AOL (see this Financial Times article).

Is there anything wrong with a two tiered system? If users are prepared to pay for an email system that guarantees increased speed and authentication, why shouldn't just accept that it is their right to do so? It all comes back to the fundamental questions: should email be free, and why?

Internet performance in Australia

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has also issued a report on the data rates and reliability of internet connections in Australia. Although the report is quite technical, it concludes that Australian internet performance across different technologies and access plans is generally consistent with transmission protocols and the inherent nature of the internet. The report is titled Understanding your Internet Quality of Service 2004-05.

ACMA warning on phishing

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has issued a warning about phishing, a topic we will cover a bit later in the semester. You can read the warning here.

Are we too email dependent?

Are we too email dependent? Joceyln Noveck wonders if that is so in her article "In the age of e-mail and instant messaging, the lowly handwritten note gains currency ..."

Do you agree or disagree? Is the handwritten note gaining currency?

Content Regulation in China

The issue of content regulation in China was mentioned in this blog last year. In the last few weeks, this issue has once again pushed into the international media. The Washington Post recently published an excellent series of stories on this issue, titled The Click That Broke a Government's Grip.

Here are some other recent stories relating to content regulation in China:
  • The Chinese government continues to prosecute people for subversion for online writings. For example, on Tuesday the AP reported that a Chinese journalist has been whose reports on rural poverty and unemployment riled local officials has been charged with subversion after posting essays on the internet.
  • China is cracking down on spam and piracy.
  • Much to the chagrin of the US government, various internet companies have agreed to China's censorship demands.

For a detailed study, see this report from the OpenNet Initiative: Internet Filtering in China in 2004-2005.

Of course, the Chinese government defends its right to regulate the internet in the way it does.

There are really two issues here. First, how successful has China's regulation been? And second, assuming the Chinese government's attempts at regulation have been relative successful, should a government be able to regulate what its citizens can access through the internet? So basically, the first is a practical or technical question - does it work? - while the second is the moral or philosophical question on the role of government and the value of free speech? Any thoughts or different perspectives? Who would defend what China is doing?

New Phishing Law Used

America Online has filed three lawsuits under Virginia's anti-phishing law. Read more here.

Do we need such new specialised legislation to combat phishing, or can existing laws be used.

Technological protection measures

The House Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs has handed down it's report on the inquiry into technological protection measures (TPM) exceptions.

A copy is available here:

This is more a straight IP issue, but has some impact on Internet distribution of content.

When will email cease to be free?

In class on Monday night, someone asked when internet companies were going start charging for email. Here may be the answer - CNN reports that Yahoo! and America Online plan to start charging businesses to send commercial e-mail messages. Of course, as the article points out, this planned move is provoking protest.

We need to think about why should email be free? Is it just because it always has been? Or are there other reasons? Note that for the moment at least, the plan is only charge to businesses. Will this last, or will all email users eventually have to pay a fee for each email they send? Would charging a fee for each email sent impact upon the use and adoption of email and the internet?

How should damages be assessed for privacy and cybersecurity breaches

Listen to this podcast where I discuss how damages should be assessed in privacy and cybersecurity lawsuits. The Lawyers Weekly Show host J...