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Newsletter Section 3

Around Europe

ICT Plenary

(Mick Farmer)

The ICT Round Table's plenary meeting was held in Brussels on Thursday, 30 January, and I attended on behalf of the UKUUG and Round Table #8. Over twenty representatives of other user and professional groups attended, together with an impressive collection of bureaucrats and other officials from the EU, mainly from DG 13 (concerned with IT).

The Internet

Speakers from DG 13 outlined the latest decisions that have been made. They intend to become actively involved in the next generation of the (European) Internet. They want this to be open to all potential users (I think this is a reference to the USA saying that their next generation Internet will be for academic and research users). They also intend to take a lead with domain name registration (whatever that means) and the use and protection of trademarks. They also stated that they believed that a faster standardisation process, together with copyright protection (see below), would lead to an increase in the use of open architectures.

We are about to embark on the fifth round of EU-funded research and development, namely the V Framework. It was interesting to hear one speaker state that the III Framework was concerned with new technology, the IV Framework (budget currently in excess of 900 million ECUs) was concerned with User Requirements, and that the new V Framework was concentrating on a “User-friendly Information Society”! Interestingly, one stated aim is to improve public sector services.

Intellectual Property Rights

It was announced that two treaties had recently been agreed that update, and presumably replace, the Berne Convention. Of particular interest to our IT community were the agreements that computer programs are deemed to be creative works and that creative databases are subject to copyright (my italics). The agreement that the temporary storage of a copyright work is treated as a reproduction of that work is obviously going to cause headaches for the Telephone Companies and the ISPs.

Round Tables

A number of these reported on their activities over the previous year. For example, RT #2 announced that they are organising a user conference to be held in May or June this year. RT #3 produced a draft report on their investigation into the Quality of Service provided by different e- mail systems (I hope to report on this in the near future). We described the work that we had done in providing multi-lingual web pages for the ICT partnership.

And Finally

I often feel overwhelmed by the statistics thrown around at meetings such as this, leaving just a hazy recollection. However, one statistic did stick, namely that the EU expect that in Europe by the year 2005 there will be more mobile phone lines than fixed terrestial lines. What a ghastly thought!

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