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ACM TechNews is published every week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
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Volume 2, Issue 90: Monday, August 7, 2000
- "The Pentagon Worries That Spies Can See Its Computer Screens"
Wall Street Journal (08/07/00) P. A1; McCarthy, Michael J.
The Pentagon and other government agencies are taking steps to counter technology that could enable spies to intercept the images displayed on computer monitors. Although details of these efforts are classified, military sources have confirmed that the Department of Defense along with several branches of the armed forces have purchased equipment from private contractors to detect and prevent such spying. The threat exists because of the radio waves broadcast by computer monitors. These waves behave much like a television transmission. In theory, anyone who was equipped with a "directional" antenna and got close enough to a certain monitor could intercept those radio waves and reproduce them line-by-line on a TV screen. Many security experts doubt the practicality of this method of espionage, arguing that there is too much interference in the airwaves for a spy to focus only on one computer monitor. Still, the government has employed counter-measures including rooms built with protective copper screening and alert systems. Often the government requires contractors to agree not to sell their products to anyone but the military, and since 1992 federal law has prevented the export of related technology.
- "FBI to Lead World E-Commerce Forum"
E-Commerce Times (08/04/00); Hampton, Jennifer M.
The FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) will oversee a three-day conference on global Internet security being held in London on Oct. 18. Approximately 600 delegates are expected to attend the World E-Commerce Forum, including permanent forum members from the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, the United Nations Committee for International Trade Law, the World Intellectual Property Organization, and the World Trade Organization. The U.K. Cabinet Office, the government of Ontario, Jupiter Communications Europe, and Lands' End will also be represented at the forum. The FBI will lead discussions on Internet fraud, although it will refrain from voting on a forum motion asking whether "a single, global e-security agency" should be created. NIPC Director Michael Vatis says that one of the forum's aims is to determine ways international law can be used to defend against viruses and other forms of cybercrime. Presentations at the forum include "Preparing a Population for an Information Economy," "How a Mature Economy Is Embracing E-Commerce," "The Impact of Global ISP/Media Mergers," and the "Democratization of E-Commerce."
For information regarding ACM's activities related to security, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/crypto.
- "PC Buyers Demanding More High-End Products"
Baltimore Sun (08/06/00) P. 3D; Dorsey, Pat
The PC sector is moving toward high-end systems, forcing manufacturers to distinguish their products or enter new markets to succeed. Apple Computer, for example, is trying to differentiate itself from rivals by offering unique products, while Gateway is working to bring in higher margin non-PC revenues. For its part, Dell is moving into other hardware markets, such as storage and servers. Meanwhile, the telecom equipment and networking market continues to face strong demand and component shortages, with Corning and Juniper announcing quarterly results that far surpassed analysts' expectations. In the chip market, the flash memory used in cell-phone handsets and other devices showed strong growth. Advanced Micro Devices and Silicon Storage are among the major players in flash memory. In the storage market, EMC continues to reign, with Sun and IBM working hard to compete.
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- "Is .Biz the .Com of the Future?"
Wired News (08/02/00); Cisneros, Oscar S.
ICANN's request for a "measured and responsible" implementation of new top level domains is complemented by a mandate to consider intellectual property issues. The International Trademark Association thinks these intellectual property rights mandates are a good move, and the organization says it will work on the intellectual property protection aspects of proposals submitted by potential TLD operators, says INTA's Internet committee staff liaison, Michael Heltzer. Preventative measures similar to a "daybreak" provision, which permits trademark owners the first chance to register domain names, are favored by INTA, says Heltzer. However, such a provision could be damaging because it would permit various companies to possess an identical trademark in different commerce categories, depriving non-commercial entities and individuals the possibility of utilizing those terms, says Hancock, Rothert & Bunshoft attorney Bret Fausett. One possible solution to this dilemma might be to utilize a noncommercial TLD, says Heltzer. Looking at each TLD intellectual property case individually is the most suitable method, says Fausett. The proposal guidelines will be released on Wednesday, although the application form will not be available until next week, says ICANN spokeswoman Pam Brewster.
For information regarding ACM's work in the area of intellectual property, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/copyright.
- "Read Bush's Lips: No Net Taxes"
Wired News (08/03/00); McCullagh, Declan
Rep. John Kasich (R-Ohio) told the Republican National Convention August 2 that presidential nominee George W. Bush will follow through on the GOP's pledge to employ a largely hands-off policy for the Internet, primarily to attract support from technology organizations. The Bush campaign promises to include more H-1B visas, opposition to greedy trial lawyers, and to continue a temporary suspension on Internet taxes. The Republican platform wants to raise federal child pornography and obscenity law prosecutions, especially online crimes, to bar the Occupational Safety and Health Administration from regulating the workplaces of telecommuters, and to repeal the phone tax originally created in order to fund the Spanish-American war. The Republican platform calls for a ban on Internet access taxes, although a stand is not taken on online sales taxes. The Republican platform wants to give $20 billion to the Defense Department for research and development, to force schools and public libraries to install blocking software to impede bugs, opposes a national ID card, which is backed by the Clinton administration, and wants to prevent other nations from restricting U.S. bioengineered crops importation. The Republican Party is split over the issue of security, with law-and-order conservatives wanting increased federal action against crackers and child pornography, while the anti-Washington wing believes state governments should handle those issues. The Democratic Party's draft platform calls for more federally funded research in science and technology. Bush had hinted in February that he was skeptical of the federal antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft.
- "Giving Online Audiences News They Want"
New York Times (08/07/00) P. C14; Rutenberg, Jim
FeedRoom, a Web site set to debut this month, will provide video news coverage customized to its users' tastes, an approach its investors believe represents the future of journalism. Jonathan Klein, a former executive with CBS News who has put $35 million into the new site, says, "It's putting the clicker in the viewer's hand and saying, 'You decide.'" As of now, FeedRoom has formed partnerships with 32 local TV stations to provide video reports, and expects to reach agreements soon with several more stations. FeedRoom will display banner ads as its main source of revenue and will tailor these ads to each user's preferences. However, because of its reliance on video rather than text, the site requires a broadband connection to work properly, and many observers believe this could be its major shortcoming. The majority of Internet users do not yet have broadband connections. However, even with a high-speed connection, Internet video still does not have the high quality of a television broadcast, leading some observers to question whether there will be a compelling enough reason for users to visit the site. Furthermore, veteran journalists worry that FeedRoom will prevent users from seeing news reports that are important but might not attract their interests.
- "Europe Phone Companies to Beat Cable for Fast Web, Study Says"
A report by Forrester Research says that the number of Europeans with fast online services will rise to 18 percent by 2005, from less than 1 percent last year, an approximate total of 27 million people. Phone companies will beat out cable companies for fast-access customers, says Forrester. The installation of ADSL lines is expected to give phone companies control over 53 percent of all fast Internet access lines in Western Europe by 2005, compared with 27 percent of cable companies. ISPs like Dutch-based World Online International will lose out, says Forrester analyst Lars Godell. The report expects other companies to be crushed by ADSL implementation, including Chello Broadband and Freeserve. In 10 of 17 European cities, access charges will drop below 30 euros a month from as much as 90 a month, says Forrester. Europe's top service provider is Deutsche Telekom's T-Online, and as if in anticipation of telecom superiority, Telekom is shedding its cable assets. Already phone companies dominate, with Forrester pegging telecom access at 95 percent of Western European homes and cable access at only 36 percent.
- "Standards Bodies Struggle to Stay Current"
Electronic News (07/31/00) Vol. 46, No. 31, P. 16; Zuckerman, Amy
The rapid convergence of technologies such as the Internet, cellular, broadcasting, and intelligent transportation systems has standards bodies struggling to keep pace with the advances. In addition to creating a standard for the technology that is the ultimate winner, international standards groups must also choose the best processes for developing open, transparent standards. The European Union appears to have a head start on addressing such tech issues, while there is a heavy demand for action on the international level. The European Commission (EC) is considering whether to help develop a high-tech consortium to address quick procedures, open workshops, and time-to-market agreements. In Europe, there are major projects for promoting e-commerce such as ProcatGen and B2B-Ecom, which the EC is backing, and there are projects for promoting electronic and mobile commerce, such as the European Telecommunications Standards Institute. Standards groups are also facing challenges from the rise of IT consortia, which emerged in the 1980s when the former staff members of downsizing companies sought to make a living as consultants. Nevertheless, the IT industry has embraced consortia and has spent large amounts of money backing such organizations. The International Organization for Standardization in Geneva, Switzerland, has struggled to attract IT members, but the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) has had some success due to its international technical agreement (ITA) process. Meanwhile, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is focusing on interoperability and mobility, as it finds a solution for compatible software systems for converging IT, telecom, and broadcast technologies. Officials would like the interoperability system in Europe to be implemented across the globe.
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- "The Licensing Game"
InfoWorld (07/31/00) Vol. 22, No. 31, P. 20; Davis, Jessica
As the Internet grows, companies are striving to protect their business models and capitalize on the digital economy by pushing for laws that change software licensing and protect intellectual property. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which became a federal law in 1998, aims to prevent the piracy of copyrighted content such as movies and music. One controversial provision of the DMCA penalizes users for trying to circumvent technological barriers meant to protect copyrights. The circumvention issue heated up when the Motion Picture Association of America and the DVD Copy Control Association brought lawsuits against Web sites that offered DeCSS, a tool that breaks encryption codes in DVDs. The lawsuits angered First Amendment advocates, who argued that DeCSS postings qualify as free speech. Critics also say the anti-circumvention provision harms legitimate uses of technology, noting that DeCSS was created not for piracy purposes, but to make DVDs compatible with Linux. Libraries and universities are also concerned that the DMCA infringes on fair use by prohibiting the use of certain content for educational purposes. Another law, the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA), defines software as intellectual property rather than as a product, threatening to significantly change the way consumers and companies buy and use software. Under UCITA, vendors can establish leases that tell users how the software may be used, how long it can be used, and whether it can be given to another user. UCITA allows vendors to remotely turn off a user's software without permission, enforce the terms of shrink-wrapped licenses, disclaim warranties, and essentially prohibit reverse-engineering. Attorneys suggest that corporate users negotiate software licensing agreements carefully, stating that UCITA does not apply to a specific contract. Finally, database legislation now being debated in Congress would allow database owners to protect their compilations under copyright law. Critics, including a large number of Internet companies that base their business on aggregating data from other Web sites, say the bill would essentially allow database owners to copyright facts, despite the legal precedent that facts are not copyrightable.
For information about ACM's UCITA activities, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/copyright.
- "Don't Give a Damn About Politics? Maybe You Should"
Washington Techway (07/24/00) P. 27; Clift, Eleanor
The federal government's antitrust case against Microsoft has served as a wake-up call to the high-tech industry that people in Washington are really relevant, and that executives will have to court politicians if tech companies expect to have a business-friendly environment. Now that the tech industry is coming under more government scrutiny, tech firms are showing up more often in Washington. Microsoft, for example, has quadrupled its lobbying presence in the Nation's Capital. Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), who represents the San Francisco metropolitan area high-tech corridor, says high-tech companies are checking out politicians as they do their stock portfolios. "Washington, D.C., will be setting to a great extent the ground rules for this industry, and if [tech companies] sit out this debate, somebody else will fill the vacuum and decide what happens on immigration visas, tax issues, and Internet content," says Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who co-wrote the Internet Tax Freedom bill and is considered one of the 10 most Net-friendly members of Congress. Like Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), the former high-tech executive who was elected to the House in 1994, Wyden believes that the high-tech industry will be at the mercy of politicians who will use the old-line paradigm to address such issues if it does not build relationships with lawmakers. AOL executive Kathy Bushkin says tech firms have to acknowledge Washington's legitimate role in policing the industry. Her boss, Steve Case, has come to the realization that over the next five years policy decisions will be as important or more important to the growth of the industry than technological breakthroughs.
- "It Ain't Over Till It's Over"
Industry Standard (08/07/00) Vol. 3, No. 29, P. 61; Lee, Hane C.
Legal experts do not view last week's ruling against Napster as a sign that the online piracy issue has been settled. In fact, with a likely appeal from Napster, and lawsuits pending against the multimedia file exchange site Scour.net and MP3 search engine MP3Board.com, the battle appears to be just getting underway. And legal experts do not think litigation will be the answer to the digital copyright issue. Walter McDonough, an intellectual property lawyer and a director of the Future of Music Coalition, an organization that brings together artists and technologists, says the Recording Industry Association of America does not have a digital distribution strategy so the injunction against Napster is not necessarily a victory. Unlike Napster, which invoked the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 in its defense, MP3Board says it is a search engine that is protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, which exempts ISPs and search engines from liability of copyright infringement. Scour says it is also protected by the DMCA. However, it makes use of software that has infringement uses. Still, the more pressing issue is the emergence of decentralized, noncommercial file-sharing systems such as Gnutella or Freenet, which do not even offer an easily identifiable entity to target. Although some observers believe decentralized file-sharing systems could change copyright laws altogether, prohibiting their use would be the most obvious move. For Eric Bergner, an intellectual-property and new-media attorney, the issue is ultimately about enforcing the law, which could mean going after individual users.
For information regarding ACM's work in the area of intellectual property, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/copyright.
- "Congress Weighs E-Mail, Net Monitoring Legislation"
Computerworld (07/31/00) Vol. 34, No. 31, P. 30; DiSabatino, Jennifer
The Notice of Electronic Monitoring Act is being introduced in both houses of Congress. The proposed bill mandates companies to alert workers to the fact that their email, phone, and Internet transactions are under surveillance by management. Critics of the legislation contend that companies currently have the legal right to open up regular mail without getting an employee's permission, and also point out that the Electronic Communications Privacy Act specifically permits employers to monitor workers' emails. The bill comes at a time when companies are weighing the privacy rights of workers against potential lawsuits based upon the content of employee emails or Internet Web sites accessed on the job. However, the law does have a provision allowing covert electronic surveillance of employees if management has sufficient evidence that an employee's actions could hurt the company or a fellow worker. Some analysts say the bill could have a positive effect by forcing firms to establish monitoring policies.
For information regarding ACM's activiites on behalf of privacy matters, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy.
- "Whoever Is Next President, IT Industry Expects Open Ear"
Washington Technology (08/01/00) Vol. 15, No. 9, P. 1; Repsher, Gail
Presidential candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush are both offering initiatives to increase high-tech training for U.S. workers and to increase the number of H-1B visas, and the high-tech industry is hoping that the IT labor shortage will let up regardless of who is elected. Gore is proposing several education tax credits for companies and their workers. The vice president says he would raise the tax credit for post-secondary education and training for private citizens from $5,000 to $10,000 a year. Furthermore, Gore would create 401(j) accounts for workers to save $2,500 a year tax-free for education for themselves or their families. Another tax credit Gore supports would give employers a credit for as much as 25 percent of the cost of IT training for each employee, with a limit of $6,000 a year per employee. Meanwhile, Bush supports a $1 billion alliance that would pair university professors with grade school teachers to help improve math and science education. Bush also favors offering an extra $1,000 in Pell grants to high school students who excel in math and science. Furthermore, Bush says he would increase funding for college loan forgiveness from $5,000 to $17,500 for engineering, math, science, and technology students. Bush also supports a plan to offer $80 million in federal grants to help build high-tech training centers around the nation. In terms of H-1B visas, Gore supports raising the cap from 115,000 to 200,000 a year. Bush has not yet specified how many visas he supports, but he does favor increasing the limit, says a spokesman for the Republican candidate.
- "E-Marketplace Aims to Chop Recycling Costs"
InternetWeek (07/31/00) No. 823, P. 1; Mullen, Theo
Online used paper marketplace Fibermarket.com opens this week with the goal of superseding more traditional, offline processes. The exchange will connect buyers and sellers of used paper and oversee the process of transforming the used paper back into fresh pulp. Cost reductions of up to 20 percent on the purchase of recycled products might convince more paper mills to recycle, as currently it costs mills twice as much to purchase recycled materials in comparison to new materials. However, Fibermarket.com has a long road ahead, primarily because of the paper industry's unwillingness to change, say analysts. In September, systems integrator Sierra Atlantic will assist Fibermarket.com in linking customers' back end systems with the new exchange. Because integration will reduce the amount of manual data entry that the customer would be required to do when placing an order, it is considered a significant concern in determining the site's worth. "No one wants another layer of information to deal with," says International Cellulose executive vice president Dan Kirk. Although the site may streamline operations in the paper industry, the exchange may not alter market prices, says Kirk. The marketplace will permit buyers to increase supplier base sizes without introducing more buyers employed and enables sellers to broaden their customer bases without the addition of extra sales staff, says Kirk. Some leading paper makers have initiated exchanges of their own, but these exchanges are meant to reduce prices and only encompass deals in which the company is directly involved.
- "The Chips Are Down. Way Down"
Business Week (08/07/00) No. 3693, P. 58; Keliher, Macabe; Ihlwan, Moon
A severe shortage in microchip capacity is hurting companies such as Taiwan's Silicon Integrated Systems (SIS), which suffered a loss of nearly half its profits in the first quarter. Taiwanese foundries that handle packaging for SIS and other companies are overbooked due to high demand for chips, and products such as SIS semiconductors have a tough time getting to market. SIS chips are installed in PCs sold by Dell and IBM. In March, SIS opened a $340 million silicon-wafer plant, and two more are under construction. This solution carries its own set of problems, including huge losses if chip demand slows down and companies are stuck with excess capacity and inefficiently run operations. Furthermore, the foundries that plant owners once contracted with could go into business with other design houses, shutting their former partners out. The major foundries themselves are taking action: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing and United Microelectronics are both constructing new wafer fabrication plants to offset the overload. Still, most Taiwanese shops will have to find their own solutions for the rest of this year. The shops may have to look to smaller foundries outside of Taiwan, such as Sunplus Technologies, to fulfill their orders. Still others may have to wait it out because the microchip market's stability is uncertain. The Taiwan Semiconductor Industrial Association believes that demand for semiconductors produced on the island will slow from 35 percent annual growth to single digits after 2003.
- "Just Sign Here"
tele.com (07/31/00) Vol. 5, No. 15, P. 20; Gerwig, Kate
Digital signatures, once valid after October 1, will be utilized differently by different ASPs and marketplaces. Authentication service providers such as VeriSign and other managed security providers think digital certificates will require public or private key encryption and a secured online envelope to be transmitted properly on the Internet. And the technology is set to go, says Anil Pereira, vice president of Internet services at VeriSign. The primary concern is coordinating the practices and policies to ensure digital signatures are legally binding. Service providers will have to determine whether to utilize and share revenues with companies such as VeriSign or construct digital signature services through vendors. B2B marketplaces will be the first to utilize online contracts, and ASPs that work with vertical markets where signatures are vital will also be able to utilize the electronic signature's new legal standing, say analysts. Although VeriSign and others, such as DCH Health, are sure the legality of electronic signatures will help their businesses, a majority of service providers are intent on building out their networks before the anticipated increase in e-commerce.