9/3/99 (modified 6/17/08)
9/3/99 -- AP's Laurence Arnold reports that the National Fruit Company has taken aggressive action to protect its famous mark White House Apple Juice from dilution, by sending domain name speculator Dan Parisi, operator of an x-rated site at whitehouse.com a letter demanding that he surrender the whitehouse.com domain name to National Fruit. Parisi has filed a declaratory judgment action against National Fruit, insisting that his site is "one of the largest and most famous Web sites in the world." (He may be right about that; mention of Parisi's site seems to be obligatory in any discussion promoting Internet content filtering software.)
9/1/99 -- Volkswagon is a large multinational automobile company. Virtual Works is a small Internet Service Provider in McLean, Virginia. Volkswagon has a website at www.vw.com, having registered the vw.com domain in 1995. Virtual Works has a website at www.vw.net; it registered the vw.net domain in 1996. Volkswagon sent Virtual Works a bigfoot letter last year and asked NSI to transfer the vw.net domain under NSI's domain name dispute policy, on the ground that Volkswagon owned a trademark registration for "VW". Now, Reuters reports that Virtual Works has filed suit against VW and NSI to prevent the suspension or transfer of its domain name.
We are committed to protecting your privacy. We use the information we collect on the site to make shopping at Amazon.com possible and to enhance your overall shopping experience. We do not sell, trade, or rent your personal information to others.It also says:
Your consent: By using our Web site, you consent to the collection and use of this information by Amazon.com.
8/27/99 update -- That didn't take very long. Stung by a slew of nasty reports, Amazon.com (which has demonstrated repeatedly that it reads its own press notices) announced an opt-out feature for its purchase circles. Reuters posted a story.
8/26/99 -- ICANN had its first open Board Meeting in Santiago. It made the decisions everyone expected it to make. In particular, it voted to approve the controversial uniform dispute resolution policy for domain name-trademark disputes, with some largely precatory concessions to the nay-sayers. Everyone and her brother will be posting personal observations soon. Harvard's Berkman Center cybercast the meeting live, and has made recordings available on its site. If you lack the patience to tune in to the cybercast, you can instead read the notes of the real time scribe, posted at the Meeting Archive.
8/25/99 -- NSI has sent the House Commerce Committee a not very persuasive justification for its claim to own all registrant data in the WHOIS database. The gist of the argument is that, although the language of the contract between NSF and NSI would seem to provide to the contrary, NSI and NSF entered into the agreement with the expectation that NSI would own any intellectual property generated in the course of the agreement, and the registrant data, although unprotected by any federal intellectual property statute, is the sort of data that would qualify as a trade secret under the law of the state of Virginia (if it were secret). WSU Professor Jon Weinberg, who testified about this mess in a House Oversight Hearing last July, critiqued NSI's legal claim at the House Commerce Committee's request, to devastating effect.
Earlier installments in the soap opera are here.
8/25/99 -- Robert Lane's Blue Oval News posts hot news about the Ford Motor Company, "based on actual internal Ford documentation or information that was obtained from a reliable source." Apparently, Blue Oval really does know whereof it posts; Ford has sued Lane for disclosing its valuable trade secrets. Judge Nancy Edmunds granted Ford's request for a TRO today. Reuters reports that Lane is not yet represented by counsel. He is, however, soliciting volunteers.
8/23/99 -- Displaying the same sensitivity to personal privacy concerns that it showed in connection with last month's FIDNET debacle, the Clinton Administration has drafted a Cyberspace Electronic Security Act that would give federal law enforcement officials the authority to obtain escrowed encryption keys secretly, or to install devices that enable the government to recover plaintext versions of encrypted communications secretly (entering the suspect's home if necessary) when no encryption keys have been escrowed. Once again, the folks at the Center for Democracy & Technology are on the case, and, once again, the Clinton administration's privacy advisors appear to have been caught off guard by the controversy. Read James Glave's story for WIRED.
8/22/99 -- Amazon.com, which operates virtual bookstores at www.amazon.com, www.amazon.de, and www.amazon.co.uk, announced that it had filed a lawsuit alleging racketeering, extortion, mail and wire fraud, trademark infringement and dilution, and copyright infringement against Greg Lloyd Smith, who operates a website at www.amazon.gr, for a business that calls itself "Greece's Biggest Bookstore". Smith apparently informed Amazon.com of his new website and invited it to invest a million or so dollars in his company. Smith has posted a press release responding to the suit.
9/2/99 update -- C|net reports that Smith continues to operate at www.amazon.gr, but has changed the name of the site to Greekbooksonline.com.
(The litigious Amazon.com is also a defendant in a trademark infringement lawsuit filed by the Amazon Bookstore, a feminist bookstore in Minneapolis that has been operating under the "Amazon Bookstore" mark since 1970. Read Bob Woods's story for Newsbytes.)
8/21/99 -- In reponse to the success of the Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan romantic comedy You've got Mail, AT&T Worldnet added features to its Internet services for the would-be Megs and Toms among its subscribers, and called them things like "You Have Mail" "Buddy List" and "IM" (instant messaging). America Online, which used those very same terms first (and presumably hoped that the film placement would give it a boost among subscribers of a certain age) sued AT&T for trademark infringement. On August 13, US District Judge Claude Hilton ruled that all three claimed trademarks are generic.
8/21/99 -- Nazi hate literature , like Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion , is banned in Germany, so German citizens have apparently been buying the book from US E-tailers amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. The Simon Wiesenthal Center knows this because one of its German researchers successfully ordered the books from both websites. It complained to both booksellers and to the German Justice Ministry. The New York Times reports that Amazon.com's response was that it does not offer such books on its German site, but that it doesn't restrict what books non-US residents buy from the US website based on laws in the receiving country. "We are a U.S. store. We view this as though a German was on vacation here and went into a physical bookstore and bought the books." Barnesandnoble.com, though, is owned by Bertelsmann, a German Company, and Reuters reports that Bertlesmann instructed its subsidiary to block sales of Nazi and hate literature to German customers, and to stop selling Mein Kampf entirely from its French or English sites as well as its German one. What Bertelsmann knows and Amazon.com may not is that, last year, a German municipal court prosecuted and convicted the managing director of the German division of Compuserve for disseminating "publications morally harmful to youth" -- that is, permitting US customers of Compuserve USA who were in Germany to gain access to violent online video games Doom and Heretic and to pornographic Usenet news groups, by furnishing those customers a connection from German dial-up modems to the US Compuserve host. (Compuserve.de is also a Bertlesmann company.)
8/14/99 -- Carl Gorton and Jon Hedrick appear to live in Florida and Colorado, respectively. They are allegedly responsible for a website at www.ghbinfo.com, giving directions for making the controlled substance GHB, a.k.a. gamma-hydroxybutyrate, a.k.a the "date rape drug", from legally available checmical components, and offering a do-it-yourself kit for sale, containing the constituent ingredients to enable the purchaser to manufacture GHB at home. The website and the business that operates it are located in Florida, but the members of the new Michigan High Tech Crime Unit who noticed the site on the web and ordered the three kits were located in Michigan. Michigan Attorney General Jennifer Granholm announced that Michigan had charged both Gorton and Hedrick with felony solicitation to manufacture a controlled substance:
“Drug dealers who move their operations off the street corner and onto the Internet should know that they’re not welcome in this state, period. The Internet was intended as a research tool and a resource for learning, not a haven for criminals and criminal activity. Let this be a warning to those who abuse this technology -- we, in Michigan, are watching, and we will punish your crimes.”
8/11/99 -- Many search engines makes money selling advertising that's associated with search queries containing particular words. Lycos is one of them. It sold the word "jewish" to the Jews for Jesus evangelical organization for $1700. USA Today reports that Lycos received complaints, and decided not to renew the ad contract when it expires, because ''controversial advertising is bad for business.''
(A quick and unscientific search indicates that both Excite and Disney's Infoseek appear to have sold "jewish" to matchmaker.com. Hotbot seems to have sold the word to a website named "Virtual Jerusalem", which maintains a 24-hour live, interactive camera pointed at the Western Wall.)
8/11/99 -- The DOJ and Microsoft have filed proposed findings of fact in the antitrust case, and have posted the documents on their websites. Microsoft's documents are at www.microsoft.com/presspass/trial/fof/; the government's are at www.usdoj.gov/atr/cases/f2600/2613.htm.
6/17/08 UPDATE -- In August of 1999, I posted an item, based on this WIRED article by Chris Oakes, about a San Francisco political operative named Andy Hasse, and his registration of a slew of domain names including williebrown.com. In October, Mr. Hasse emailed me to complain that the item was libelous and "completely untrue," and referred me to a rebuttal he had posted at http://williebrown.com/hasse. I posted the link to Mr. Hasse's site as an update here, and heard nothing further for nearly nine years. I don't know what happened to reignite Mr. Hasse's interest, but he just sent me a new letter. You can read Mr. Hasse's demand letter HERE; it quotes the allegedly libelous item in its entirety.
8/9/99 -- Amazon.com and the New York Times have settled their lawsuit. After Amazon.com started discounting New York Times bestsellers, and posting a copy of the best seller list, the Times sent a bigfoot letter. Amazon.com filed suit seeking a decalration that it was doing nothing illegal. The terms of the settlement oblige Amazon.com to list the bestsellers in alphabetical rather than numerical order. Read Troy Wolverton's story for c|net.
8/4/99 -- The Recording Industry Association of America and Diamond Multimedia have settled their lawsuit over the Rio portable MP3 player. The RIAA filed suit last fall, alleging that the Rio violated the Audio Home Recording Act. Diamond counterclaimed for antitrust and unfair business practices, accusing the RIAA of filing the lawsuit as part of a conspiracy to restrain trade in MP3 players. In June, the 9th Circuit held that the Rio was not subject to the Audio Home Recording Act. Meanwhile, the RIAA and Diamond had collaborated in developing SDMI, a set of specifications for encrypted copy-protected music. SDMI appears to have some potential patent problems (along with some PR problems), but Diamond plans to ship an SDMI-compliant Rio shortly. Read Mo Krochmal's story for Techweb.
For more MP3 news, click here.
8/3/99 -- WIRED's Oscar Cisneros reports that two Canadian ISPs were hacked this weekend by Chinese government officials in retaliation for the ISPs' hosting a website for members of the Falundafa Gong religion, which is outlawed in China.
8/2/99 -- In 1997, the FCC established the e-rate program, extending the universal service subsidy to support Internet and computer network connections in libraries and schools. On July 30, the Fifith Circuit upheld the e-rate against a variety of challenges brought on both statutory and constitutional grounds. Tech Law Journal has posted a story.
7/30/99 -- The House Commerce Committee held an oversight hearing on Internet Drugstores. The Federal Trade Commission testified about its investigation of online prescription sales. The FTC found that some online pharmacy sites were using the Internet to skirt state regulation, and suggested that federal legislation would be in order. Christine Behrens, a reporter with WWMT-TV in Kalamazoo, testified that she had obtained a prescription for Viagra from an online physician on behalf of her cat. The physician was apparently unconcerned about the medical problems that might arise from prescribing Viagra to a 15 pound neutered male. Read Joe Wilcox's story for C|net.
7/30/99 -- WWMT-TV on the web reports that the Michigan Sex Offender Registry, which posts the name, address, physical description, and crimes of convicted sex defenders in your neighborhood (by zipcode), has an estimated accuracy rate of 50% (!). The Michigan chapter of the ACLU has filed suit in Akella v. Michigan, challenging the posting of the Registry on the Internet on behalf of a plaintiff who claims that a listing of his address is one of the other 50%.
7/29/99 -- The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws voted overwhelmingly to adopt the controversial Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act. UCITA originated as a proposed amendment to the Uniform Commercial Code. When the American Law Institute (which has joint jurisidiction with NCCUSL over the UCC) declined to approve the proposed article 2B on the ground that it was badly drafted, confusingly written, and seemed to be heavily biased against consumer interests, the drafters of the proposed law repositioned it as a stand-alone uniform law in order to remove it from ALI jurisdiction. The draft was more warmly received by NCCUSL, which earlier this week rejected a proposed amendment to UCC article 2 on the ground that it was too pro-consumer. Cem Kaner was at the NCCUSL meeting and has been posting blow-by-blow accounts. Carol Kunze's 2B Guide contains a wealth of useful background material.
7/29/99 -- On June 9, Governor Engler signed Michigan's Library Privacy Act into law. The Act, which takes effect August 1, permits public library boards to require their libraries to filter access to the Internet to block sexually explict material, so long as a single unfiltered terminal is provided for restricted use by adults and minors who are accompanied by their parents or guardians. Todd Carter of the Detroit Free Press reports that the citizens of Georgetown Township, MI, are unhappy about the law. All Internet terminals in the Georgetown public library are filtered, and Georgetown officials have decided that, rather than permit unrestricted access to the Internet on even one library terminal, the library should cut off Internet access altogether.
8/4/99 update --The township decided not to unplug its library from the Internet after all. Instead, the Free Press reports, the library has set a fee of $100/hour for use of an unfiltered Internet connection. Township officials are sufficiently confident that nobody will seek an unrestricted Internet connection at that price that they have not actually disabled blocking software on any machine or even designated an unrestricted terminal. In the unlikely event that someone actually asks to use the $100/hour terminal, a township official said, she would probably be permitted to use an unfiltered computer reserved for library staff.
8/6/99 update -- Perhaps somebody walked in and plunked down $100. In any event, CyberTimes's Pamela Mendel reports that the Georgetown public library has returned to its old policy, under which nobody can use an unfiltered Internet terminal for any amount of money. The Michigan ACLU says it will be taking a look.
7/29/99 -- In an unrelated story, Reuters reports that U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Tarnow has preliminarily enjoined the Public Act 33, also scheduled to take effect August 1. Public Act 33 seeks to criminalize the dissemination of sexually explict material to minors. On June 23, the ACLU filed suit in federal court on behalf of Cyberspace Communications (lead plaintiff, one would assume, because of its name) and nine other plaintiffs. Judge Tarnow agreed with the ACLU that the law would violate both the First Amendment and the Commerce Clause. Plaintiffs have posted an archive of material related to the lawsuit, including a copy of Judge Tarnow's decision.
7/29/99 -- In an article by John Markoff, the New York Times reports that the Clinton Administration has drafted a plan to protect the nation's data system from intruders and terrorists through an extensive computer monitoring system. The system will employ widespread, constant monitoring of data flow over computer networks to enable the FBI to detect indications of illegal acts and to use "packet sniffing" technology to reconstruct computer users' activities. The Times characterizes the documents it reviewed as:
"...vague on several crucial points, including the kinds of data to be collected and the specific Federal and corporate computer networks to be monitored. The report also lacks details about the ways information collected in non-Governmental agencies would be maintained and under what conditions it would be made available to law enforcement personnel. "The Center for Democracy and Technology has posted a copy of the government report along with its analysis of some of the more troubling aspects of the plan.
7/28/99 -- The UK Department of Trade and Industry has released draft legislation giving effect to electronic signatures and setting up a framework to accredit certification authorities. The bill also incorporates decryption key recovery for law enforcement, security and intelligence authorities.
7/27/99 -- Jean-Pierre Bazinet has for two years operated the movie-list website, on which he lists coming attractions and posts hyperlinklinks to movie trailers on the web. Universal Studios decided to flex its legal muscles, and sent Mr. Bazinet a letter complaining that his linking to trailers for Universal Studios (posted by Universal Studios on the web) was itself a copyright violation, and demanding that he remove all links to any sites (including the official Universal Studios site) containing Universal Studios trailers. At least for now, Bazinet has removed links to trailers for American Pie, Bowfinger and other hot ticket items. Fans will have to look elsewhere to find links to trailers of such upcoming masterpieces as Dudley Do-Right and For the Love of the Game. Read Oscar Cisneros's story for WIRED. Carl Kaplan's Cyberlaw column reports that another studio's lawyer read Cisneros's story in WIRED, and promptly got in touch with Bazinet to protest his links to that studio's trailers.
7/26/99 -- New York Law Journal's Michael Riccardi reports that New York's Attorney General has secured a state court injunction banning an Internet Casino from accepting bets from New York residents.
7/26/99 -- Polly Sprenger reports for WIRED that the search engine GoTo.com, which encourages websites to purchase the top slots in search results by "buying" search terms, will respond to searches for unsold pornographic terms by displaying the URLs for competing search engines (Infoseek, Excite, Yahoo) high up on the list.
7/15/99 -- Last fall, Playboy sued Excite.com over its sales of targeted banner ads, complaining that Excite sold companies the opportunity to target individuals searching for "playboy" or "playmate." When a user entered the word "playboy" into Excite.com's search engine, a banner ad for some pornographic site not Playboy's would appear above the list of sites yielded by the search. (This isn't unique to Excite or to Playboy. Try it with other marks and other search engines.) InternetNews.com's Brian McWilliams reports that on June 24, federal district court judge Alice Marie Stoetler denied Playboy's motion for a preliminary injunction, ruling that Excite's sale of the key words "playboy" and "playmate" to companies placing targeted banner ads was neither trademark infringement nor trademark dilution. See 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9638.
7/14/99 -- The Federal Trade Commission has issued a report examining whether industry self-regulation has substantially enhanced the protection of data privacy online. The Report concludes that it has not, at least yet, and therefore recommends that Congress avoid passing any privacy legislation in order to give self-regulation a chance to do so. On July 13, the House Telecommunications Subcommittee on held an Oversignt Hearing on Online Privacy, and invited FTC commissioners to testify. To balance the panel, the committee invited representatives of four organizations that favor self-regulation over legislation, who obligingly testified that self-regulation showed some promise. Tech Law Journal has posted a report.
In a related story, witnesses at the Hearing agreed that negotiations between the US and the EU over US business's compliance with the EU privacy directive had reached an impasse. The US negotiating strategy appears to be to encourage Europe to agree that whatever it is that US businesses are doing is okay with Europe. Unaccountably, EU negotiators have not yet seen the wisdom of such a proposal.
7/8/99 -- Sanford Wallace says he's a reformed man. Once the "spam king" of the Internet, Wallace has renounced unsolicited commercial email, and is now in the business of once-solicited commercial e-mail. Wallace owns Smartbot, a commercial auto-responder that sends periodic commercial solicitations on behalf of businesses to prospective customers who have at some time in the past clicked on a "tell me more" box or filled out a "smart form." The names and email addresses of these folks are assembled into what Wallace calls an "opt-in" database.
Mark Welch was once a T&E lawyer. Today, he owns a business named Adbility, an advertising-supported guide for Internet advertisers. Somehow, Welch's name and email address landed in Smartbot's opt-in database. Wallace says that Welch must have signed up, and that he received 94 Smartbot commercial emails over a six month period without complaint. When Smartbot sent Welch number 95, however, Welch acted. According to Wallace, Welch telephoned an executive at Smartbot's ISP and urged him to pull Smartbot's plug. In the course of that conversation, Welch is said to have accused Wallace of sending spam. The ISP terminated Smartbot's service. Wallace's complaint also accuses Welch of calling him a "pathological liar" and "unquestionably the most evil, dishonest, and disreputable person on the Internet."
All of this really hurt Wallace's feelings, not to mention tarnishing his reputation as "a responsible e-commerce entrepreneur". Accordingly, Wallace sued Welch for libel. Welch insists that the suit is part of Wallace's ongoing harrassment campaign. Read Deborah Scoblionkov's story for WIRED.
7/6/99 -- Kansas Attorney General Carla Stovall filed suit in Kansas State Court against ten Internet pharmacies, alleging that the pharmacies are dispensing prescription drugs to Kansans in violation of Kansas law. Reuters posted this news report.
6/30/99 -- In January, Yahoo bought Geocities, and on June 28, Yahoo relaunched its Geocities site, along with a new draft of the "Terms of Service" which included the following language:
By submitting Content to any Yahoo property, you automatically grant, or warrant that the owner of such Content has expressly granted, Yahoo the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully sublicensable right and license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such Content (in whole or part) worldwide and/or to incorporate it in other works in any form, media, or technology now known or later developed. You acknowledge that Yahoo does not pre-screen Content, but that Yahoo and its designees shall have the right (but not the obligation) in their sole discretion to refuse, edit, move or remove any Content that is publicly available via the Service.
By midnight (EST), WIRED's Declan McCullagh had posted a story on the new policy, the Consumer Project of Technology had denounced it, and Geocities subscribers had organized a boycott of the new service. On June 30, Yahoo backed down. Read Declan McCullagh's follow-up for WIRED.
6/30/99 -- The Australian legislature has enacted the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Online Services) Act. The law gives the Australian Broadcasting Authority new powers to regulate online content, including the power to order ISPs to take down offensive or indecent content on their own servers and to block access to content originating on other servers. Electronic Frontiers Australia is running a media and Internet protest. Read Stewart Taggart's story for WIRED.
6/24/99 -- If you're a politician, E-Commerce seems to be where you want to be at. Both the Clinton administration and the Republican House majority have recently released documents praising e-commerce as the key to a bright American future. On June 22, the U.S. Commerce Department released The Emerging Digital Economy II, the second in what is now projected to be an annual series of reports, praising the Internet's effects on the US economy. The following day, the House Republican Leadership released its "e-contract with High Tech America." The e-Contract itself is short, but the House leadership has also posted a video allowing you to "view the e-Contract unveiled, live on the web!" Neither document has much actual content.
6/23/99 -- The fellows at cybermultimedia.com have moxie. They have registered a host of domain names they figure someone might want to buy, and advertise them for sale at their website. Prices range from $10,000 to $500,000. Barry Diller (owner of the USA cable network) was apparently miffed that Cybermultimedia was advertising barrydiller.com for sale at the bargain price of ten thousand dollars. Bloomberg News reports that Diller has sued the fellows for ten million dollars.
6/23/99 -- The World Wide Web Consortium has been at work for several years on P3P, or "Platform for Privacy Preferences." P3P is a technology that will enable individuals to program their browsers to compare the user's individual privacy preferences to the privacy policies of any websites the user visits, and to transmit information only to websites with privacy policies that satisfy the preset preferences. (Like any consensus proposal, P3P incorporates signficant compromises. Jeri Clausing's story for Cybertimes reports that online privacy organizations are unhappy with P3P.) The consortium planned to make P3P available for incorpation into Netscape, Internet Explorer and other web browsers as an open standard. Intermind, one of the companies that had been collaborating on P3P, however, secured a patent on the idea and technology underlying P3P this past January. Intermind has announced its willingness to license P3P for a substantial annual royalty. The World Wide Web Consortium vowed to contest the patent, and issued an appeal to the Internet community to send it examples of prior art. BNA's Electronic Commerce & Law reports that hundreds of individuals have responded with examples.
6/22/99 -- Neal Horsely is the guy who maintained the antiabortion "Nuremberg Files" website, which listed names, addresses and other personal information about doctors who performed abortions. When particular doctors were unlucky enough to be killed by antiabortion activists, Horsely's site drew a thick black line through their names. In February, a federal jury found him liable for inciting violence and awarded $100 million in damages. At that point, Mindspring.com, Horsely's ISP, took his site offline. (The federal court later issued a permanent injunction prohibiting the distribution of "wanted posters" containing abortion doctors' personal information.) Now, CBS reports, Horsely has sued Mindspring for $250 million, arguing that its removal of his site was "an evil act to intentionally injure, deter, and damage plaintiff in his Christian antiabortion efforts," in breach of contract and in violation of his first amendment rights. Mindspring claims that Horsely's site violated its appropriate use policy (the part that says "Threats of bodily harm or destruction of property are always prohibited. "). Read Dan Goodin's story for c|net.
6/23/99 -- The Anti-Defamation League has released its new report on Internet bigotry.
6/22/99 -- The Institute for Justice, a conservative civil rights organization committed to the protection of "individual liberty, free market solutions, and limited government," brought suit against the Commodity Futures Trading Commission on behalf of online publishers, claiming that the CFTC's regulations requiring publishers of information and advice about the commodities and futures market to register as commodity trading advisors violated the first amendment. On June 21, federal district court Judge Ricardo Urbina agreed. The Institute for Justice has issued a press release and posted a (slow loading) .pdf version of Judge Urbina's decision.
6/18/99 -- The National Gambling Impact Study Commission has released its Final Report. Chapter 5 of the Report recommends the enactment of federal legislation to prohibit Internet gambling, and the enforcement of anti-gambling laws against "Internet service providers, credit card providers, money transfer agencies, makers of wireless communications systems, and others who intentionally or unintentionally faciliate Internet gambling transactions." Read Declan McCullagh's story for WIRED.
6/18/99 -- AP reports that Doubleclick, the banner ad company, has announced its merger with Abacus Direct, a company that tracks consumers' catalog buying behavior, and it plans to use the Abacus database to target web banner ads to specific consumers based on their individual catalog buying habits as well as the type of websites the consumers view.
6/18/99 -- The House has attached a provision requiring schools and libraries to filter "harmful" Internet content as a condition of receiving federal "e-rate" funds to H.R. 1501, the Juvenile Justice Bill. Read Tech Law Journal's report. The Senate version does not contain this particular provision, although it does include language obliging Internet service providers to supply filtering software to their subscribers. Courtney Macavinta's story for c|net concludes that a school and library filtering law is likely to be enacted one way or the other.
6/9/99 -- Bloomberg News reports that Carnegie International has filed a one billion dollar defamation suit against three individual Internet users who posted allegedly false allegations that Carnegie officials had engaged in insider trading. The suit claims that defendant Allen, a Texas businessman, posted the following message to an Internet mailing list: "Does it seem a little coincidental that these guys sold all their shares two days before a halt of trading?" Defendant Higbee, a Maine lawyer, allegedly responded on list, posting this message: "Has anyone heard when this will be resolved? No doubt the price will plunge if it ever reopens. Time to consider a major class-action suit." The Bloomberg News report doesn't say what it is that "Indianhead" is alleged to have posted.
6/9/99 -- Michael Calomiris appears to be a run-of-the-mill photographer who posts his only mildly interesting pictures, and some inspirational words worthy of Jack Handy, on his gallery's website. Here's a sample:
6/8/99 -- AT&T is rolling out integrated telephone, Internet and cable television service to the home over cable modems, and in pursuit of that plan, it acquired TCI cable company last year. Under the terms of TCI's cable franchise agreement with the City of Portland, the City has the authority to approve transfers of control, and the City decided to impose a condition: AT&T/TCI would be required to give competing ISPs access to the AT&T/TCI cable network, so that competing ISPs could offer Internet service using AT&T/TCI's high-speed cable modems. AT&T refused; the City accordingly declined to approve the transfer, and AT&T sued. On June 4, U.S. District Court Judge Owen Panner ruled the City's way. Read Tech Law Journal's story. AT&T has to appealed.
6/16/99 -- The FCC's Chairman, Bill Kennard, says that he's unhappy with Judge Panner's decision: if every local cable franchising authority behaved the way that Portland has, "the market would be rocked with uncertainty; investment would be stymied; consumers would be hurt."
6/23/99 -- San Francisco's Board of Supervisors is considering following Portland's lead, according to c|net's Corey Grice. Internetnews.com's Patricia Fusco reports that Los Angeles is leaning the other way. The National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors is keeping track.
7/8/99 -- The cable interests have launched an Internet site arguing that all this threatens free speech on the Internet. Hands Off The Internet urges consumers "A war is being waged over the Internet and how you as a consumer will access it. The battle lines are drawn and you have to decide which side you’re on. The side that limits or the side that innovates. Tell the government to get its hands off the Internet! " TV commercials to the same effect are now running on TV stations in California, where both San Francisco and Los Angeles are considering whether to follow Portland's lead. Read Corey Grice's story for c|net.
7/14/99 -- 7/14/99 -- C|net's John Borland and Corey Grice report that Broward County, Florida, has voted to require local cable operators to open their high speed networks to competing ISPs. C|net has posted a special feature on the growing broadband access controversy. Reuters reports that AT&T is planning a court challenge to the Broward County decision.
7/27/99 -- WIRED reports that San Francisco has decided for now to allow AT&T to take over TCI's cable franchise without imposing open access conditions. Meanwhile, the FCC has announced that it will file an amicus brief on AT&T's behalf in the Portland appeal. C|net has posted a round-up.
6/4/99 -- On May 17, Amazon.com announced it would offer a 50% discount on all New York Times bestsellers. On May 28, Amazon.com received a letter from the New York Times complaining that its use of the New York Times bestseller list infringed the Times's trademarks and copyrights. On June 4, Amazon.com announced that it had filed suit against the Times in federal district court, seeking a declaration that it may continue to use the Times bestseller list in its promotions. In its announcement, Amazon noted that the Times has a booksales partnership with Barnesandnoble.com. Read the WIRED news report. The Times has posted its own account of the dispute. The Times quotes its own lawyer as having this to say: "Amazon . . . just dissed us. Their view is that they don't need the license."
6/4/99 -- The Church of Scientology is trying once again to make copyright history, by rushing to be the first litigant to test a provision of the DMCA. The Church has served ATT's Worldnet with a subpoena under section 512(h), demanding that it identify the person who, using the handle "Safe", has posted allegedly infringing material critical of the church. Read Dan Goodin's story for c|net. Safe denies that his or her posts are infringing, and claims that the Church is misusing the subpoena procedure to discover the identity of one of its critics.
6/8/99 update -- On June 7, AT&T complied with the subpoena and released information about Safe's identity to the church. Read Polly Sprenger's story for WIRED.
6/3/99 -- The Australian Senate passed legislation on May 26, to amend its broadcasting law to permit comprehensive content control of material on the Internet. The Bill has not yet passed the House of Representatives. Read Chris Oakes's story for WIRED. For continuing updates, visit the Electronic Frontiers Australia home page.
6/2/99 -- The Register of Copyrights has released her Report on Copyright and Digital Distance Education
6/2/99 -- The EU Data Privacy Directive, which took effect on October 25, prohibits the sort of buying and selling of personal data that is the bread and butter of the US marketing and information industries. The Directive also forbids the transfer of personal data from the EU to any jurisdiction that fails to offer comparable privacy protection. If seriously enforced, the directive would prevent any personal data from flowing from Europe into the United States.
The EU has agreed to delay any data cutoff while negotiations continue on ways the United States might be able to assure that it provides adequate protection for personal data privacy (without its actually having to adopt any laws or regulations that would prevent US companies from collecting, aggregating and selling valuable personal data). The U.S. Department of Commerce has insisted that the EU accept an approach predicated on voluntary compliance with "safe-harbor" principles, that would be phased in over a lengthy transition period. The EU is uncomfortable with the length of the proposed transition, and has in addition insisted that compliance include measures for enforcing consumers' data privacy rights. Negotiators had hoped to reach an accord in time for a June 21 summit, but each side appears to have proceeded on the assumption that the other side would blink first. Jeri Clausing reports, in a story for New York Times Cybertimes, that negotiators met throughout the weekend but were unable to reach agreement.
The House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property held an oversight hearing on Internet privacy issues on May 27. Read the testimony for an appreciation of why EU negotiators might be unenthusiastic about the US proposal.
6/2/99 -- The Microsoft antitrust trial resumed on June 1 after a three-month recess. Joel Brinkley reports for the New York Times on the first day's events. The Times, WIRED, and c|net all have ongoing coverage of the trial.
6/1/99 -- America, a small brazilian Internet service provider, operates a web page at www.aol.com.br. (The ".br" top level domain is one of 243 two letter country-code domains.) America Online, the largest U.S. Internet service provider, operates a web site at www.aol.com and owns a number of service mark registrations for "AOL". America Online filed suit against America in Brazil, seeking to enjoin it from using the aol.com.br domain. In a story for WIRED, Joanna Glasner reports that a Brazilian federal appeals court has resolved the suit in favor of America. Since America was the first to register aol.com.br, the court ruled, it was entitled to keep it.
5/25/99 -- The Associated Press reports that two former America Online volunteer "community leaders" have filed a class action lawsuit, seeking to recover millions of dollars in hourly wages for 10,000 volunteers. The lawsuit alleges that America Online violated federal labor laws by failing to pay them minimum wage. Janelle Brown's story for Salon gives the background.
5-23-99 -- The European Commission has presented an amended proposal for a Directive on Copyright and Related Rights in the Information Society. Notably, despite intense lobbying from representatives of the music industry, the Commission rejected the recommendation of the European Parliament to make Internet service providers fully liable for unauthorized cache copies and other technical reproductions. Instead, the amended proposal requires EU members to provide a copyright exemption for technical, transient copies.
5/22/99 -- The most popular U.S. government site on the Internet, according to Representative Matt Salmon of Arizona, is the NASA web page. Thus, it seemed only logical to Representative Salmon to add a new section to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act, which passed the House of Representatives on May 19, requiring NASA to post anti-drug messages on its website. A majority of the House of Representatives agreed. The amended bill now moves on to the Senate.
(In an unrelated story, Nando Times reports that "[a] government investigation into NASA's computer security found it so vulnerable to attack that hackers could easily disrupt command and control operations, including the tracking of earth-orbiting spacecraft.")
5/21/99 -- George W. Bush has campaign operatives with foresight. They made sure that his campaign had not only sewed up the rights to the georgewbush.com domain, and several domains combining George W's name with that of potential running mates, but preemptively registered bushsucks.com (as well as bushsucks.net and bushsucks.org) and bushblows.com. They missed gwbush.com. A fellow named Zack Exley snapped the domain up and used it to launch a site parodying George W.'s campaign. Bush has complained to the Federal Election Commision. Read Heidi Kriz's story for WIRED.
5/21/99 -- Dr. Laura Schlessinger made news last fall when the radio advice personality sued an adult Internet site for posting nude Dr. Laura photos. Now Dr. Laura is determined to protect the American public from exposure to youthful indiscretions like hers. According to Leander Kahney's story for WIRED, Dr. Laura used her radio show to lobby her listeners in favor of California State Senate Bill 238, a bill requiring libraries to use Internet Filtering Software. She is now apparently claiming credit for reviving the bill's political prospects.
5/20/99 -- The popularity of online auctions has inspired at least one start-up to offer mediation services on the online auction model. Defendants and plaintiffs desiring assistance in reaching a settlement submit sealed electronic bids to a service dubbed cyber$ettle.com®. If the bids are within a given range of each other, the site software settles the case. Can a patent application be far behind?
5/17/99 -- The US Department of Commerce has repeatedly signalled its unbounded enthusiasm for the Internet as a means of conducting electronic commerce. In its most recent demonstration, the Department has announced the debut of gov.search, a paid subscription service for searching goverment documents. For $30/month or $15/day, you too can locate federal websites and the documents they display. Read Jeri Clausing's story for the New York Times. The URL for govsearch, appropriately enough, is www.usgovsearch.com.
5/18/99 update -- A few hours into gov.search's debut, the Commerce Department announced it was suspending the service in order to determine whether it conflicts with the Clinton Administration's policy on access to information. Jeri Clausing posted a follow-up story for the New York Times. The Department later announced that govsearch would be free of charge for the time being. The site puts it this way: "SEARCHING ON GOV.SEARCH IS FREE UNTIL JUNE 1, 1999!" (punctuation govsearch.com's).
6/16/99 -- The Commerce Department resolved its conflict between wanting to ensure that gov.search earned a profit and feeling embarrassed that the government was charging taxpayers for access to government information by officially disaffiliating itself with the search service, Jeri Clausing reports for Cybertimes. This way, people who want to use the service will still need to pay for it, but the government won't get any of the money. Accordingly, gov.search has discontinued free searches.
5-21-99 -- On May 20, the Senate passed S. 254, The Violent and Repeat Juvenile Offender Accountability and Rehabilitation Act of 1999, a bill intended "to reform Federal juvenile justice programs and policies in order to promote the emergence of juvenile justice systems in which the paramount concerns are providing for the safety of the public and holding juvenile wrongdoers accountable for their actions, while providing the wrongdoer a genuine opportunity for self-reform." Two amendments are especially noteworthy. The Senate adopted an amendment to the bill, offered by Senators Hatch and Leahy to require that:
Each Internet service provider shall at the time of entering an agreement with a residential customer for the provision of Internet access services, provide to such customer, either at no fee or at a fee not in excess of [actual cost], computer software or another filtering or blocking system that allows the customer to prevent the access of minors to material on the Internet.
By a vote of 85-13 the Senate adopted another amendment, sponsored jointly by Senators Feinstein and Hatch, which Senator Feinstein explained would respond to the easy availability over the Internet of information on how to make weaponds of mass destruction by criminalizing the dissemination of such information with the intent that it be used to commit a Federal violent crime. This bill now moves to the House.
(To find out how to disable any blocking software provided to you at cost by your Internet Service Provider, visit peacefire.org.)
5/6/99 -- On May 6, the 9th Circuit issued its opinion in Bernstein v. USDOJ. Daniel Bernstein had brought the suit to challenge the constitutionality of the government's Export Administration Regulations, restricting the distribution of encryption software. Judge Fletcher's majority opinion held:
"We find that the EAR regulations (1) operate as a prepublication licensing scheme that burdens scientific expression, (2) vest boundless discretion in government officials, and (3) lack adequate procedural safeguards. Consequently, we hold that the challenged regulations constitute a prior restraint on speech that offends the First Amendment."
5/9/99 -- WIPO has issued a Final Report of the WIPO Internet Domain Name Process, outlining recommendations to solve the trademark problems raised by the domain name system. The Report recommends modifications in the registration system and a new administrative dispute resolution process. It also endorses the idea that owners of "famous" marks should be able to preclude the use of those marks as domain names across all TLDs. Professor Michael Froomkin, a member of the WIPO panel of Experts who posted a harsh critique of an earlier Interim Report, thinks that the final Report is a big improvement.
5/8/99 -- Intel's Pentium III processor incorporates a Processor Serial Number, unique to each chip, that can be read remotely by websites and software, essentially functioning as a computer identifier. Privacy organizations responded by calling for a boycott of Pentium III computers. Now EPIC, Junkbusters, and Privacy international have registered bigbrotherinside.com, and designed a nifty logo and banner ad that you can put on your own web page to signal your support.
(In order to illustrate the problems the WIPO report sought to respond to, EPIC, et.al. have also registered bigbrotherinside.org. Bigbrotherinside.net, however, remains available.)
8/22/99 -- ICANN has temporarily solved its cash flow problems, by taking out large loans from MCI and Cisco. Read Jeri Clausing's story for CyberTimes. ICANN has also posted the agenda for its August 24-26 board meeting in Santiago. Unlike earlier meetings, the Santiago Board meeting will be open to the public.
8/10/99 -- The last of the original five testbed registrars, AOL, is now online. Five down, 52 more to go. Read Dan Goodin's story for c|net.
8/11/99 -- Make that 59 more to go. ICANN named seven new registrars, all of whom are now eligible to join the testbed queue.
8/6/99 -- To nobody's surprise, the Commerce Department and NSI agreed to yet another extension of the shared registration testbed in which NSI agrees in principle to let other registrars compete with it in the .com, .net and .org registries, but then pulls every trick it can think of to keep its putative competitors from posing any actual competitive threat. This time, the remaining 52 potential domain name registrars that have been accredited by ICANN, and have waited impatiently to join the shared registration system, will be permitted to participate in the testbed, at least in theory. Only 4 of the 5 accredited registrars invited to join the testbed back in April have managed to get up and running. Besides, NSI insists it lacks the resources to add more than a few new registrars each week. The government and NSI have thus far failed to resolve their outstanding disputes. NSI has agreed, temporarily and without prejudice to its outrageous intellectual property claims, to lift the restrictions it had imposed on access to and use of the "whois?" database for the duration of the extended testbed. Read Dan Goodin's story for c|net.
8/5/99 --The negotiations between NSI and NTIA to further extend the registration testbed went on in the shadow of a flurry of Congressional correspondence sparked by last month's hearings. House Commerce Committee Chairman Tom Bliley fired off letters to ICANN and to Janet Reno complaining about internal ICANN email indicating that ICANN's general counsel had communicated with the Justice Department about the antitrust investigation of NSI. On August 4, ICANN responded to Chariman Bliley, with a letter that insisted that ICANN was simply exercising its consitutional right to petition the government. Also on August 4, Chairman Bliley sent off another letter, this time to White House Counsel Charles Ruff, inquiring about two June email messages alluding to a promise by the White House to support ICANN's private fundraising efforts. Bliley suggests that such support would have been illegal. Read Maura Ginty's story for Internet.com. Meanwhile, Senators Dewine and Kohl of the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee sent off their own letters to NSI, ICANN and NTIA, chiding them for carrying on their feud to the point where it threatened the stability of the Internet. (ICANN will presumably respond that the right to feud is constitutionally secured by the first amendment's freedom of association.)
8/2/99 -- NSI, apparently eager to exploit its monopoly before someone finally loses patience and takes it all away, has been sending unsolicited commercial email -- that is, spam -- to its entire customer list, which is to say the more than 5,000,000 domain name holders in the .com, .net and .org top level domains. This brought it to the attention of the Mail Abuse Prevention System, a volunteer anti-spam group that maintains a "realtime blackhole list", which MAPS describes as "system for creating intentional network outages for the purpose of limiting the transport of known-to-be-unwanted mass e-mail." The RBL is a list of allegedly spam-friendly networks. Internet service providers that want to protect susbscribers from spam may, if they want to, refer to the RBL list and block all incoming mail from listed networks. This protects subscribers from receiving spam originating or relayed through those networks, and also prevents them from receiving legitimate email originating from or relayed through listed networks. After repeated unsuccessful requests to NSI to stop spamming domain name holders, Paul Vixie, the founder of MAPS, suggested that perhaps it was time to add Network Solutions to the RBL. NSI has threatened to sue if Vixie should try any such thing. Read Dan Goodin's story for c|net.
7/29/99 --The House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property held its own oversight hearing (again pitting NSI against ICANN) to "ensure Network Solutions and ICANN are aware of the Subcommittee's interest in maintaining an accessible, accurate 'Whois' database in order to protect American intellectual property interests." The House Judiciary Committee does not webcast its hearings, but the witnesses' written statements are online. The New York Times's Jeri Clausing reports that the Hearing quickly degenerated into a spirited discussion of the registration of vulgar and obscene domain names. MSNBC's Brock Meeks suggests that the government and NSI are
"headed toward a messy divorce. The custody fight for the “children,” some 5.2 million registered domain names, will likely make the gunfight at the OK Corral look like children playing with pop guns..."
7/28/99 -- The European Union announced that it had stepped up its antitrust investigation of NSI. ( You can read the European Commission press release on the Europa web site by entering the username "guest" and the password "guest".) WIRED posted a Report.
7/28/99 -- After NSI stunned members of the House Commerce Committee by claiming that its cooperative agreement with the government entitled it to claim the "whois" database of .com registrants as its sole intellectual property, it compounded the error by persisting in its plan to make a commercial version of the database available this week; meanwhile, it was denying access to the full database to everyone else. In the wake of the the July 22 oversight hearing, the US Department of Commerce sent a letter to NSI insisting that its claim to own the "whois" database was spurious. The Reuters news report quotes the government's letter: "nothing in the cooperative agreement, nor in existing law gives, NSI the right to restrict access to this information."
7/23/99 -- The ongoing dispute between NSI and ICANN over which one is really the boss of the Internet seems to get a little uglier with each passing day. The House Commerce Committee held a July 22 Hearing titled The domain name system: Is ICANN out of control?
On the eve of the House Hearing, ICANN released a letter to the Commerce Department responding to various criticisms. In response to complaints that ICANN insisted on making its decisions behind closed doors, the letter insisted that there was no global consensus that it should open its Board meetings to the public, that all of its decisions have in fact been made in full view of the public, and that private decisional meetings are indispensable to the Board's decisionmaking process. (Nonetheless, ICANN has agreed to open its next board meeting to the public.) Even more persuasive was ICANN's response to charges that ICANN has been overstepping its authority: the letter suggests that such a thing is simply impossible:
ICANN is nothing more than the reflection of community consensus. It is, of course, theoretically possible that such a consensus could develop around some proposed ICANN position that others would regard as overly regulatory, but the presumption in such a circumstance should be, we would imagine, that the community consensus was by definition not "overly" regulatory.Take that, Chairman Tom Bliley!
At the Hearing itself, NSI's new CEO was eager to demonstrate that NSI could best ICANN in both the hubris and inconsistent pleading departments. Insisting repeatedly that NSI had no monopoly advantage but was merely one player in a fiercely competitive market for domain name registration, Jim Rutt claimed that NSI owned the .com, .org and .net databases, and could take off with them if it chooses. He also suggested that NSI could manage the job of running the domain name system just fine without any interference from either ICANN or the United States Department of Commerce. Read Brock Meeks's story for MSNBC.
7/14/99 -- On June 22, Representative Tom Bliley, Chair of the House Commerce Committee, egged on by NSI and its friends, sent a confrontational letter to ICANN and Commerce Secretary Daly. Bliley's letter suggested that ICANN had improperly levied an unreasonable Internet tax and was bullying poor NSI, and demanded to know just what the Department of Commerce was going to do about it.
7/2/99 -- Someone seems to have lost patience with the hair pulling contest going on between ICANN and NSI. On Friday, person or persons unknown hacked into NSI's website and redirected surfers to ICANN or CORE. Overwhelmed with traffic, ICANN's site was temporarily inaccessible. NSI claims that it has identified the culprit, a company named SoftAware, which has its offices in the same building as ICANN. The FBI is said to be on the case. Read Courtney Macavinta's story for c|net.
6/30/99 -- C|net reports that ICANN is planning to take over the "A" root server and move it to a computer at the University of Southern California. NSI professed to be puzzled about why ICANN might want to do such a thing.
All of this may soon be academic, however. C|net's Courtney Macavinta reports that ICANN is rapidly running out of money. NSI doesn't have that problem.
6/25/99 -- The upshot of all this conflict is that the "competitive testbed registry" experiment, in which five carefully selected registrars entered the registry business in competition with NSI, is running way behind schedule. The test was initially scheduled to begin on April 26 and continue until June 24. NSI, however, refused to supply the necessary software to its designated competitors until they agreed to its terms, and dragged its feet about giving its prospective compteitors the technical certification it said that they needed in order to gain access to its database. The first registrar, register.com (home of cybersquatters the world over) didn't come online until early June. The other four were not yet in business when the testbed period expired on June 24. The Department of Commerce responded swiftly and heroically; on June 25, it announced that it had extended the deadline for the testbed until July 16. Read Courtney Macavinta's story for c|net. (On July 16, the Department announced that it had again extended the testbed, this time until August 6. )
6/1/99 -- The ICANN board of directors met last week in Berlin to consider the WIPO domain name report and hammer out the structure of the advisory "Domain Name Supporting Organization," which is supposed to represent the interests of a wide variety of constituencies likely to have strong views on the domain name system. ICANN endorsed the WIPO Report, but delayed adopting its recommendations until the DNSO had the opportunity to review it. Unfortunately, ICANN had some difficulty in identifying appropriate respresentatives of noncommercial interests to appoint to the DNSO, so it referred the WIPO proposal to the other DNSO constituencies to make recommendations by mid-summer. Read Jeri Clausing's coverage for the New York Times CyberTimes or Courtney Macavinta's story for c|net. (This may not make as much difference as one might think. The ICANN Board had requested and received voluminous comments on the WIPO Proposal in advance of its Berlin meeting, but reports from Berlin indicate that none of the Board members actually read any of the comments submitted before making their decision.)
5/21/99 -- Pamela Mendel's Cyberlaw Journal column for New York Times CyberTimes discusses two lawsuits recently filed against NSI challenging its refusal to register vulgar words as domain names, at least some of the time. (Here's an exercise for folks with too much time on their hands: find some of the exceptions.)
5/14/99 -- The DC Circuit has issued an opinion in Thomas v. Network Solutions, dismissing an antitrust action against NSI (and NSF) based on the fees charged for domain name registration.
5/8/99 -- On April 21, ICANN announced that five companies had been selected as domain registrars to compete with NSI in a test of the notion of a competitive shared registry system. Phase I of the test was scheduled to begin on April 26. So far, none of the five new registrars is open for business.
For those of you who like to watch ugly fights from up close, here are some other items to check out:
How can we be assured that ICANN will be able to resist the pressure that will be brought to bear upon it? Where are the checks on the new corporation's exercise of its powers? How can all of those with a stake in the Internet's future i.e., all of us be assured that ICANN will exercise its powers in the best interests of the Internet community as a whole, rather than on behalf of one particular faction or another?
To boil a frog alive, the parable tells us, you need just to turn up the heat by increments so small that the frog never notices the rising temperature until it is too late to do anything about it (like jump out of the pot). Well, the temperature on the Internet is starting to rise, and if we do not start paying close attention to these events, we fully deserve the fate that awaits us.
7/14/99 -- On July 13, The RIAA released the specifications for devices that comply with the Secure Digital Music Initiative. (The specs leave a number of controversial issues unresolved. Read Matt Richtel's story for the New York Times, and Chris Oakes's very different report for WIRED.) The following day, a company doing business as Audiohighway.com issued a press release claiming that the PTO had granted it a patent covering all portable digital audio devices that play downloaded music, such as the popular Rio. Audiohighway insists that it is entitled to license fees from the 30 or so consumer equipment firms that now market or plan to market a portable MP3 player or SDMI-compliant device. Read Oscar Cisneros's story for WIRED. (I am not making this up ...)
6/16/99 -- The Ninth Circuit has issued a decision in RIAA v. Diamond Multimedia, the recording industry's suit against the Rio MP3 portable player. Judge O'Scannlain's opinion is worth reading; it holds that the Rio is not a "digital audio recording device" and that it therefore is not subject to any of the prescriptions or proscriptions of the Audio Home Recording Act.
5/14/99 -- The RIAA and participating manufacturers have been conducting negotiations on the SDMI specification in secret, with tantalizing but incomplete reports leaking out of the meetings. The most stunning of the recent reports is a story by Christopher Jones for WIRED recounting what happened at the Secure Digital Music Initiative meeting in London in early May. According to Jones, the RIAA is insisting that hardware and software manufacturers design their products so that they play encrypted SDMI music files but not uncrypted MP3 files. Jones reports:
SDMI backers want manufacturers to build a time-bomb trigger into their products that, when activated at a later date, would prevent users from downloading or playing non-SDMI-compliant music. The hardware would initially support MP3 and other compressed file formats, but a signal from the RIAA would activate the blocking trigger.The hardware and software industry representatives at the meeting were reported to be unenthusiastic about the RIAA proposal. On May 14, in a possibly related development, MP3.com filed with the SEC for an initial public offering. MP3.com will trade on the Nasdaq under the symbol "MPPP."
There are more than 200 bills pending in Congress that make specific reference to the Internet. Here is a sampling:
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