Saturday, September 27, 2008

SCL POlicy Forum transcripts

The Society for Computers and Law organised for the third year running its blue-skies policy forum earlier this week in London, on Legislating for Web 2.0. This year, Chris Marsden was ably in charge, and as ever Herbert Smith hosted and wined and dined us most pleasantly. The conference was broadly on the policy and legislative agenda opening up in the next few years as we see the legal reform of the information society from both the content and carrier ends. viz

• The Audiovisual Media Services Directive was enacted on 18 December 2007 and is currentky being implemented;
• The new review of the Electronic Communications Services Framework (5 Directives and a Regulation) is taking place in the course of 2008;
• The Electronic Commerce Directive remains under constant review and is in tension with several national laws;
• The Consumer Acquis (8 Directives) is currently being reviewed.

I personally found day 1 of the conference a real learning curve as I struggled with the economics of broadband next gen networks roll out, and the politics of spectrum. Funny how eerily cosy and familiar it suddently felt, as we eased onto content issues like protection of minors, and media issues like public sector broadcasting, and then downright freewheeled down to the familiar battles of regulating web 2.0 services, intermediary hosting immunities, and copyright enforcement online on day 2. Old e-commerce and IT law hands like me need days like this to teach us that infrastructure issues are just as basic as contracts and copyright to making the Internet work.

The diferent attitudes of telecoms and e-commerce academics were fascinating; at root the former seemed to reply 90% on economic justification for policies, the latter 90% on normative issues (fairness, equality, human rights). Similar rooted differences as to the worth of market and regulatory forces showed up between the American and US attendees, especially in the data privacy arena. It made it very plain just how difficult international legal harmonisation of any kind is. The most heated session as a result was on whether Google, as the dominant player in the European search market, should be more explicitly regulated, whether by competition law or other means. Just about all the US, UK and European academics could agree on was that they were all sure they weren't as keen on regulation as Germans. (the speaker himself, Nico van Eijk of IVIR , was proudly Dutch.) Pangloss was amused at the idea of the new US:EU data "safe harbor" wars that seemed potentially on the horizon, and may be driven to write her own paper on Google-regulation yet.

MP3s etc of all the presentations, including the heated ISP immunities session Pangloss chaired , and her own presentation on music copyright enforcement, "3 strikes" and the new UK MoU, can be found on the SCL website

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