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[FYI] (Fwd) French Law Would Require Posters to Register

------- Forwarded message follows -------
Date sent:      	Tue, 23 May 2000 15:42:08 -0400
From:           	David Sobel <sobel@epic.org>
Subject:        	French Law Would Require Posters to Register
To:             	GILC Plan <gilc-plan@gilc.org>
Send reply to:  	gilc-plan@gilc.org


May 23, 2000

French Bill Has Web Ramifications

Filed at 2:57 p.m. EDT

By The Associated Press

PARIS (AP) -- It's called the Liberty of Communication Act, but
critics say the French government-sponsored legislation would
instead encourage the Internet's first mass emigration.

By requiring that the names of all who publish on the Internet
be registered with authorities, the bill could prompt an exodus
of French users to Net companies in other nations, opponents

The legislation, passed by the House and being debated in the
Senate this week, would apply to any company that hosts World
Wide Web pages viewable by the public.

It is apparently without precedent in Europe and the United

The bill arose in response to a case last year of a nude photo
of model Estelle Halliday being posted on a free Web site
without her permission. It seeks to place legal liability for
what is published on a Web site on the individual that creates
it rather than on Internet Web hosting companies.

Web hosting companies provide users on the Net with space on
networked computer servers. Some charge for the space; others
offer it for free. U.S.-based GeoCities, a division of Yahoo!,
is a leading example. It's popular for everything from personal
pages showcasing a family's photographs to pages created by
political advocacy groups.

While the French legislation would make it easy to track down
cybercriminals, its principle aim is to eradicate anonymity in
Web page publishing, said Philippe Chantepie, a technical
advisor for the French Culture Ministry.

``In a newspaper you can see the who the publisher is, the
editor is,'' Chantepie said. ``When you publish something,
you're participating in the public space and the public order
imposes a certain amount of responsibilities, and that is to
identify yourself.''

Libertysurf.com, France's largest free Web hosting company, says
the measure would cripple its business with additional
maintenance costs and send users elsewhere where registering
contact information is not a legal requirement. After all, the
Internet has no boundaries.

``It's clear that requiring us to validate users would make it
very difficult, quasi-impossible,'' said Nenad Cetkovic,
Libertysurf's marketing director.

The European Internet Service Providers Association is unaware
of any similar legislation on the continent. Spokesman Joe
McNamee says the industry group hasn't taken a position on the
bill but also hasn't been consulted and considers the measure

He said the bill, which would require Web users only to complete
an electronic form, has many loopholes.

``We don't know where it begins and where it ends, we don't know
how it will be enforced and we don't know who will be liable for
information that isn't correct,'' said McNamee.

Technically, experts note, it's very simply for users to lie
about themselves while registering.

Only through log files that register the unique Internet
addresses of computers on the Net can users be traced.
Technically sophisticated users, or hackers, can even mask their

Internet service providers also say the bill's wording is vague
by not specifying whether ``publishing'' on the Internet
includes postings to newsgroups or chat areas, which are
separate from the World Wide Web.

Chantepie said the law would apply only to Web pages.

          *** Please Note New Address and Phone Numbers ***
. David L. Sobel, General Counsel              *   +1 202 483 1140
(tel) Electronic Privacy Information Center        *   +1 202 483 1248
(fax) 1718 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Suite 200        *   sobel@epic.org
Washington, DC 20009   USA                   *   http://www.epic.org .

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