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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?

IT Today

Each Tuesday, The Australian newspaper has a special section called IT Today, which includes IT Business. It is worth reading (or at least skimming) this section each week.

Here a few interesting articles from the section published today that touch upon issues we will cover later in the semester:

There are also interesting and relevant articles that are not available online, so it was worth buying The Australian each Tuesday just to stay on top of what is happening.

Who owns the Internet?

Following on from the question posed in class last night - who owns the internet? - look at this article from CNN, "Tolls could dot the Internet highway". The article refers to the major telecommunication companies as "the operators of the Internet" and reports that they wish to provide a tiered service whereby consumers pay more for a faster service.

The article is worth reading as it reinforces a number of things discussed last night - how information on the information is carried in packets, the historical origins of the internet, how the internet has evolved, as well as positing that perhaps it is the telecommunication companies that own the internet. What do you think? And if the telecommunication companies do impose what the article refers to as a toll, what would be the implications on internet usage? Also, what privacy issues may this raise?

Cyberlaw at QUT

Let's begin with a posting about QUT ...

A new "open access to knowledge" project hosted by the Queensland University of Technology aims to ensure that anyone can legally share knowledge across the world, whether they be an every day citizen or a top end researcher.

The QUT team, led by School of Law head, Professor Brian Fitzgerald is embarking on a $1.3 million, two year project to develop legal protocols for managing copyright issues in an open access environment.

For more information, see the press release or visit the project's homepage.

What do you think? Is this a valuable project? Should research be available under an open access protocol? What should such a protocol involve?

Welcome to LWN117 Students

Welcome to all the LWN117 Legal Regulation of the Internet students for semester 1, 2006. As well, welcome to anyone else who happens to read and/or wishes to contribute to the posts.

I hope you find this to be a good way of keeping up to date with a wide variety of issues and of contributing to the discussion of the issues we cover in this unit.

Thanks and I hope you enjoy the semester!

Release of geographic names in and

auDA is lifting the restriction on the use of geographic names as domain
names in and

auDA has determined that the fairest and most effective way of releasing
the geographic names will be by way of individual ballots.

auDA intends to launch the ballot process in June 2005.

For more information please refer to the announcement at

Too much IT jargon?

"It says something of the times that the latest great hoax has not been foisted upon the art and literary world but the jargon-laden internet industry." To read the rest of the article and discover the hoax, visit The Australian.

More cybercrime

LexisNexis has disclosed that criminals may have breached computer files containing the personal information of 310,000 people. The personal information was apparently accessed by unauthorised individuals using stolen passwords and IDs.

Read more here.

Euthanasia and a proposed internet ban

The Criminal Code Amendment (Suicide Related Material Offences) Bill 2005 aims to stop use of the Internet, the telephone and faxes for communication that "counsels or incites suicide." (More information is contained in The Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill.)

Critics have contended that this would threaten Australia's freedom of political communication, as well as freedom of the press and rational adults' right to have access to information. Electronic Frontiers Australia has made a submission to the Senate Committee inquiry.

Dr Philip Nitschke has also suggested that banning the spread of information on voluntary euthanasia over the Internet could boost the number of people who commit suicide. Read more here.

Should the internet be regulated in this way?

Another way to deal with content regulation

Another solution to the content regulation issue may be for parents to make an internet use agreement with their child. That's one option presnted by GetNetWise.

What do you think of this approach?


In Monday's class we will be looking at a case study of e-commerce implementation: e-tendering. The discussion will be informed by a recent report of Cooperative Research Centre for Construction Innovation (CRC CI) .

The report was the result of collaboration between project members, researchers and affiliates from the CRC CI, QUT (Law, IT/Security and BEE), University of Newcastle, Queensland Crown Law, Queensland Department of Public Works, Queensland Department of Main Roads, and Brisbane City Council.

The report can be accessed here. (You will need your QUT Access usernsame and password to open the file.) Although an overview of the report will be presented in class, if you are interested it may be useful to have a browse through the report before class.

Parents use of internet filtering software

Another report updating some of the issues we discussed in our class on content regulation.

In the United States, more and more parents are using internet filtering software, according to a report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Robert MacMillan of the Washington provides a summary here, and the full report is available here.

Content Regulation in China

In class a few weeks ago, we considered content regulation in China. Now, a study by the OpenNet Initiative has found that the Chinese government's Internet controls have kept pace with rapid changes in technology and are buttressed by self-censorship.

For a summary of the findings, click here.

Web Wrap Agreements

There is an important recent decision upholding web-wrap agreements. v. Verio

In that case, one of the three appeal judges died while writing the decision. (He was dissenting). This case has special circumstances -- repeated use of website and bad conduct -- so even though it is from an important court, I am not sure if it will be followed in all circumstances.

More on the Yahoo Nazi paraphernalia case

For another aspect of the French Yahoo case involving auctions of Nazi paraphernalia that were once held on Yahoo's web site, referred to in this blog on 29 March, click here. The article discusses the finding of a Paris appeals court to uphold a decision to throw out accusations by French human rights activists who said that Yahoo should be held legally responsible for the auctions.

Regulation of political blogs?

Here is an interesting article on the Federal Election Commission in the United States considering whether to regulate political blogging.

What do you think?

Yahoo Japan sued in class action

YAHOO Japan has been sued by customers for scams on its site in the nation's first class-action suit seeking compensation from an online auction broker.

A total of 572 people across Japan paid via Yahoo for auctioned items such as liquid-crystal televisions and digital cameras but did not receive the goods, said Noboru Mizuno, who leads the group.

To read more, click here.

Google in the news

Here are some recent articles involving Google:

And check out Google Gulp.

Is Amazon becoming Big Brother?

From the Associated Press:

" Inc. has one potentially big advantage over its rival online retailers: It knows things about you that you may not know yourself.

"Though plenty of companies have detailed systems for tracking customer habits, critics and boosters alike say Amazon is the trailblazer, having collected information longer and used it more proactively. It even received a patent recently on technology aimed at tracking information about the people for whom its customers buy gifts."

Read more here.

Should we be concerned about our privacy? Or is it making online shopping more convenient? What does Amazon's Privacy Policy say?

Consumer Watchdogs Join Forces to Hunt Down Cyberscams

Consumer protection agencies from around the world have joined forces in an international assault on scams in cyberspace. Australian consumers can report scams by calling the ACCC Infocentre on 1300 302 502, filling out a complaints form at the ACCC's slam-a-cyberscam webpage or registering an overseas scam at

To read more, click here.

Do you think it this sort of attempt will work? What issues/problems could arise?

US Supreme Court hears MGM Studios v. Grokster

On Tuesday the US Supreme Court heard oral argument in MGM Studios v Grokster, a case that has previously been mentioned on this blog.

Read about the case at CNN Money or at Findlaw. Fore more background information about the case including a list of some of the strange alliances that have developed between organizations wanting to either save or kill Groskster, click here.

If you are interested, the briefs (detailed written submissions) filed before the Supreme Court are available here.

What do you think of the argument that these sorts of lawsuits might have discouraged past inventions like copy machines, videocassette recorders and iPod portable music players - all of which can be used to make illegal duplications of copyrighted documents, movies and songs?

Web censorship case

Lawyers for Yahoo Inc. have asked a federal appeals court for legal protection for U.S.-based Internet portals whose content is protected by the First Amendment in the United States, but is illegal in foreign countries.

Read more here.

Should Yahoo be protected by the First Amendment?

Want to know more about legal blogs?

If you are interested in reading more legal blogs, visit The Blog Book: A Guide to Legal Blogging. As well as providing links to many legal blogs, the Blog Book also blogs on issues involving legal blogs.

The Australian IT Today

There are a few interesting articles in the IT section of today's Australian:

Comment on any of the articles that interest you ...

Privacy and online shopping

"A company that provides payment services to online merchants has reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over allegations it sold information about more than 1 million Internet shoppers without authorization."

Read more here.

The Australian IT Today

There are a few interesting articles in the IT section of today's Australian:

Comment on any of the articles that interest you ...

Money for jam: a new kind of scam

Money for jam: a new kind of scam
By Sam Varghese
September 10, 2003

In what appears to be a scam of a different kind, an email is doing the rounds offering people 10 percent of the money deposited in their bank accounts by outsiders.

The email starts off:

"Looking for a perspective (sic) and well-paid job in Australia?
1. If you are looking for a perspective and well-paid work in Australia (of more than 1000 $ aud in a week guaranteed).
2. If you are a Australian resident (Obligatory condition).
3. If you are over 18 (Obligatory condition)."
A link with the text "Check up our site for the further information" follows, advising the readers to "Click here (once)".

Clicking on this link take one to a webpage located at which provides the following advice:

"My name is Andrew Colobanoff. I am an advertising manager of the A.I.C company. Our website address

(Reader Derek Jenkins added a word of warning about the aicau site: "It contains malicious VB scripting that creates a trojan (Win32/Aicau.Downloader) EXE called c:\2.exe. It was only discovered on September 9 and I suspect that most users' antivirus packages would not offer protection from it at this stage," he wrote.)

"The company deals with many overseas partners, but for the time being we have offices only in Russia and in the USA.

"At the moment we receive a lot of orders from Australia and New Zealand. So we are looking for agents in Australia for distant work.

"Our clients stipulate that they pay for our services only in Australian banks such as ANZ, National, and Westpac.

"Our offices will be opened in the country only in 2-3 months. Meanwhile, in order to start working with the clients in Australia we need to have accounts in the above-mentioned banks.

"If you live in Australia and you are ready to become our agent you should do the following:

"1. Open an account in one of the above-mentioned banks

"2. Send us the bank account data

"3. After receiving money (you'll get $2000-3000 monthly) you are to take 10% commission and send us the rest by WesternUnion

"With time you'll be able to open more accounts...

"Frequently-asked questions (FAQ's):

"1. Do I have to pay the money order tax?

"No, you don't, all the taxes are included.

"2. How long do you intend to cooperate with me?

"We are going to cooperate with our agents until we open an office in Australia. Provided we are satisfied with your work, we might suggest you signing a full-time job contract.

"3. Are you not afraid of entrusting me your money?

"As far as we know your bank account data, we can easily find you. We need honest and reliable people who have unlimited access to internet. You'll get a chance to earn some money, it can be both a good perquisite, and a favorable collaboration with us. The internet business is developing rapidly and has good prospects. It will bring you considerable profits, besides it can provide you with a place in our company. If you are ready to cooperate, you should open an account in one of the above-mentioned banks and inform us of its data."

Reader Robert Coleman, who received the email and did a bit of sleuthing, said: "The basic modus operandi appears to be, money is not transferred out of the bank, but across to another account within the bank. Who would think to look within the bank for the proceeds of a robbery? It is then taken out of the country via Western Union. Neat and simple. This is based just on the websites I saw and a bit of supposition, but it fits pretty well."

Another reader, Daniel McNamara, wrote in that he had received a different piece of spam that creates the same trojan. McNamara was curious and did a bit of investigation which makes for compelling reading.

An email query to Colobanoff as to where the money was coming from received no reply.

This story was found at:

Message from Citibank

Dear x,

You may have heard the term “phishing” in the news lately.

In case you haven't, it's not just “fishing” misspelled. It actually refers to unsolicited email that looks like it's from a trusted institution — but in reality is an attempt to lure people into providing personal or sensitive account information on phony web sites. The information collected is later used to commit fraud.

Citi Cards holds your security in the highest regard. For that reason, we're working diligently with law enforcement, industry organizations, and governments overseas to shut down these scams permanently.

But there are a few simple things you can do as well to protect yourself:

* Look for your “personal header” on all emails.
For your protection, effective immediately look for your first name, last name and the last 4 digits of your account number in an “email security zone” at the top of email we send you. Be suspicious of emails claiming to be from us that do not include this information.

* Never type account information into a pop-up window.
Don't type account information into a pop-up window, even if it looks legitimate. We never request account information through pop-up windows.

* Don't respond to emails asking you to verify information.
We'll never send you an email asking you to verify information. If we have an issue with your records, we'll contact you another way.

* Be suspicious of grammatical or spelling errors.
These are usually indications of a fraudulent message.

If you happen to receive a suspicious-looking email claiming to be from Citi Cards, please forward it to We have agents on staff around the clock monitoring these reports and acting on them immediately.

If you'd like more information on phishing, please visit our “Security and You” module. Or, you can contact one of our Internet Security Specialists at 1-888-285-9696.


pFor tomorrows class, we will look at:

Once the bad guys get your account details, how do they get your money?

More on whether bloggers are journalists?

In a case that could ultimately decide whether bloggers can be classified as journalists, a California judge has ruled that three online blog sites must surrender the names of confidential sources who allegedly leaked information about an upcoming product put out by Apple Computer Inc. Read more about the case here.

To read the opinion of the court, click here.

Call for blogger freedom

"Internet bloggers should enjoy traditional press freedoms and not face regulation as political groups, US politicians and journalists have said." Read more here.

If this was so, what would the jurisdictional implications (if any) of this be?

BitTorrent case to test FTA laws

Read all about it here.

Campaign Launched to Crack Down on Online Fraud

A national awareness campaign has been launched by banks and the Australian Federal Police outlining practical ways consumers can protect themselves and reduce risks of fraud perpetrated by criminals over the Internet.To build awareness of this criminal activity, banks and police have worked together to produce an advertising campaign and free consumer fact sheets with useful tips for minimising risks. As well as individuals, small business has also been identified as being at risk.David Bell, chief executive of the Australian Bankers Association, says identity theft is a complex crime and is an emerging threat, not just for banks, but for individuals, for other corporations and the entire community.Suggestions for protection include installing and keeping up-to-date anti-virus software and firewalls, never giving out your PIN or password, deleting spam e-mail and not accessing internet banking from a link in an e-mail.

For more information, click here.

Beware of changes to privacy policies

Tonight's session is on privacy and the internet. As we will be looking at privacy policies at some stage tonight, have a look here.


Although it is not a topic covered in LWN117 Legal Regulation of the Internet, there have been a couple of interesting articles on e-voting recently:

Is home internet banking safe?

The Associate Dean of IT at Queensland University of Technology, Bill Caelli, says that hacking tools such as trojans and spyware - which lure users to sites where software was secretly downloaded allowing criminals to log every keystroke - has rendered the home PC useless for secure financial transactions.

Read more here.

A privacy issue?

"A woman who installed a spyware program on her husband's computer to record his online exchanges with another woman cannot use that evidence in her divorce proceeding, a Florida appeals court has ruled on an issue of first impression."

For more, click here. What do you think?

Media giants join forces to fight Ontario ruling

More than 50 of the world's largest media organizations have banded together to overturn an Ontario court ruling that they say threatens free speech and development of the Internet.

"This is a case of free expression," Brian McLeod Rogers, a Toronto lawyer representing the media coalition, told the Ontario Court of Appeal yesterday.

The 52-member coalition includes CNN, The New York Times, Time magazine, The Times of London, Google and Yahoo, as well as Canadian media such as The Globe and Mail, CanWest Publications Inc., CTV and CBC.

Read more here.

EBay and Phishing

From The New York Times: "On EBay, E-Mail Phishers Find a Well-Stocked Pond"

"The proliferation of eBay and PayPal phishes means that the legitimate e-mail that powers eBay transactions are increasingly being eliminated by junk e-mail filters. At the same time, some sellers say that buyers are becoming wary because of the constant threats from phishing, which is straining eBay's relationship with customers and may be driving down auction prices."

Read more at: This article is relevant to a couple of topics we wil look at this semester.

Australian Court Won't Freeze Kazaa Directors' Assets

"A court refused Friday to grant a request by the Australian recording industry to force owners of the file-swapping giant Kazaa to disclose their assets pending a decision in a landmark music piracy case.

"Australian recording labels are suing Kazaa's owners, accusing the company of contributing to widespread copyright infringements by letting Kazaa users download up to 3 billion files each month, freely exchanging songs, music and television programs without paying royalties."

Contiuned at:

Jurisdiction: Maryland v. Carefirst Pregnancy

Carefirst of Maryland v. Carefirst Pregnancy, a 4th Circuit Court of Appeals decision involves issues of Internet jurisdiction. The court ruled that absent a manifest intent to target residents of the forum, a semi-interactive website with a localized focus based in a foreign state is not sufficient to confer personal jurisdiction. The fact that web hosting services occurred within the forum state was not seen as relevant.
Decision at

EBay's Joy Ride: Going Once ...

EBay's Joy Ride: Going Once ...
By GARY RIVLIN, New York Times
Many longtime sellers and Wall Street analysts, long bullish on eBay, now say they are uncertain about the company's ability to sustain its torrid rate of growth.

Are pop-ups spam?

"Computer users are often bombarded with annoying pop-up advertisements. Separately, they also are often bombarded with annoying "spam"-- unsolicited commercial email. Can the pop-up ads be thought of, legally, as a form of spam?"

Read more at:

The Case of MGM v. Grokster

"The Supreme Court Finally Steps Into The Fray Between Online File Swappers And The Major Movie And Recording Studios.

On March 29, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd., a closely-watched case involving peer-to-peer file sharing - a process in which people send or receive music or movies over the Internet.

The most famous peer-to-peer file sharing site was, of course, Napster. However, after a number of rounds of litigation, Napster has now been transformed into a site that, for a monthly payment, allows only legal downloads of music (that is, downloads of copyright music for which a license has been granted). Other sites, however, continue to offer peer-to-peer file sharing software despite the fact that one of its uses is to pirate copyrighted music and movies - and Grokster is one such site.

The Court's ultimate decision in MGM v. Grokster is very likely to be one of the landmarks of this term."

From: (The article continues to give a simple, but good, overview of the case.)


Gambling operator Ladbrokes, owned by Hilton, cannot offer
Internet-based betting services in the Netherlands,
according to a ruling by the Dutch Supreme Court that upheld
a ban by a lower court. Gambling is regulated under Dutch
law, and only organizations with a special permit can offer
services. Ladbrokes, which does not have a permit, is
offering its services on the Internet and through call
centres operated outside the Netherlands. The Supreme Court
noted that the gambling site may use geolocation software to
ban Dutch users from accessing their site. Dutch decision at
Coverage at,12597,1419838,00.html
[Source BNA newsletter]

Some recent UK Internet jurisdiction cases...

"Online defamation: where a website hit packs a real punch"

"Libel - Abuse of Process - Jameel Vs Dow Jones Inc"

"... the case of Jameel v Dow Jones Inc brings an important restriction on the right of Claimants to sue in this jurisdiction (which is amongst the most Claimant-friendly regimes in the world for libel). Previously, as long as a Claimant could show publication to one person in this jurisdiction, he could bring an action for libel here. This created the difficult scenario for online publishers (e.g. any website owner) of facing claims in England brought by foreign individuals or companies in respect of publications which in reality had little to do with England. The Jameel case was a good example, a Saudi individual suing a US publisher in this jurisdiction on the basis that the website was accessible from England and that he (the Claimant) had some level of reputation here. It emerged in evidence that, in fact, only five people had accessed the website from England, including the Claimant himself and two of his legal advisors.

The Court of Appeal indicated that it will no longer allow this sort of claim. It held that the costs of the case would have been completely disproportionate to the benefit which the Claimant could have acheived and the action was therefore struck out as an abuse of process. The decision is of some comfort to website owners, but is unlikely to impact claims where the Claimant does have some genuine connection to this jurisdiction and can show that the defamatory words have been read by more than a minimal number of people."

ACCC to Review Facebook, Google and other large digital platforms

The ACCC is seeking views from consumers, businesses and other parties on options for legislative reform to address concerns about the domin...