FEDERAL CRIME? An electronic version of this magazine cover might fall afoul of any U.S. law barring 'Indecent' material from the Internet (courts have judged some nudes decent, others not). Local statutes forbidding computer dissemination of nudity are both more strict and less ambiguous.
More Rules of the Road
Scientific American Feb 96
You can listen to it on the radio or watch it on televivsion late at night, but you may not be allowed to read, see or hear "indecency" on the lnternet if congressional censors have their way. Recent U.S. House and Senate actions could impose a two-year jail sentence and a $100,000 fine on anyone who publishes, in electronic form, material that lawmakers deem indecent even though the Supreme Court has struck down attempts to ban indecent language (around which comedian George Carlin built his famous "Seven Words You Can't Say on TV" monologue) from broadcast and print media. Civil liberties organizations and lnternet companies (which, could be criminally liable if they do not monitor and censor their users) stand ready to challenge the federal legist tion. In the meantime, howey,, er, many states have already: leapt into the arena with even stricter legislation of their own. it is not clear whether federal law will preempt local rules, says Ann Beeson of the American Civil Liberties Union, so anyone who ventures into cyberspace should probably take notice. Illinois is one of several states hoping to protect minors. it is now a felony in that state to send an e-mail proposition to anyone under the age of 13, even if you reasonably believe them to be older; it is also a felony for 17 year-olds and their elders to proposition anyone younger than 17. In Kansas, meanwhile, it is illegal to possess or transmit any digital data that depicts or simulates sex involving teenagers under 16. In Oklahoma it may soon be illegal, depending on the con text, to allow unmarried per sons under the age of 18 ac cess to electronic depictions or descriptions of "nudity" definition of which includes "buttocks with less than a full opaque covering." Georgia sees a different danger: it has criminalized any instruction about explosives or other dangerous weapons if the speaker has reason to believe that someone somewhere in the audience might use the knowledge for illicit purposes. And if your e-mail, Usenet posting or World Wide Web page might be read by some one in Connecticut, be aware that it is a felony there to trans mit text that contains threats with the intent to harass, an noy or alarm. (Any civil liber tarians who send e-mail to the Connecticut legislature should probably avoid statements like "I would like to punch your face in for passing such a stupid law.") -Paul Wallach
The Judges of course subsequently threw the case out saying: "Just as the strength of the Internet is chaos, so the strength of our liberty depends upon the chaos and cacophony of the unfettered speech the First Amendment protects"
We don't Need no Regulation Scientific American Nov 97
Politicians will meddle as they have for generations. Now that the Internet is front-page news, what politician doesn't want to appear to be leading the leaders? The problem is, they don't know enough about technology to grasp which wave of public sentiment to get in front of. An example is the debate over the regulation of encryption. This issue has created a wildly vacillating Congress, judiciary and executive within the U.S. (and consternation among governing bodies worldwide). First, the U.S. adopted a heavy-handed, controlling attitude on encryption. Now it apparently prefers a laissez-faire policy. But maybe not: a plethora of regulatory bills is pending before Congress. This erratic course points out the folly of sluggish governments attempting to keep up with Internet Time. "T'he Internet should be a global freetrade zone," President Bill Clinton said in reversing his administration's stance on the export of encrypted computer products. That change led to "A Framework for Global Electronic Commerce" (www.iitf.nist.gov). The report aims to create a uniform code for electronic commerce, to delegate privacy regulation to industry and consumer groups, to let security standards and management be driven by market forces, to address Internet copyright protection issues, and to promise not to tax goods and services delivered by the Internet. Most dramatically, it takes a hands-off stance on content-no restrictions on pornography. The framework's primary author, Ira Magazines has been propelled into the limelight as a consequence of this enlightened policy. So far so good, but the battle is not over. Spanning all nations, the Internet is the biggest machine,in history. It is not clear that any single government can control it. Few politicians understand that. The Clinton administration may have shifted, but Congress still doesn't get it. This year no fewer than four bills regarding encryption either went or are scheduled to go before the legislature. The most liberal proposal went down this past spring. Called the Promotion of Commerce Online in the Digital Era, or ProCODE Act, it was killed by the Senate Commerce Committee, which believed Clinton would have vetoed it. The ProCODE Act was exactly what the civil cyberians wanted-absolutely no export ban on encryption software. A compromise of sorts is the Secure Public Networks Act, which passed the Senate Commerce Committee on june 19 (now it waits for a House vote and more committee meetings). It restricts export of strong encryption except when manufacturers require "key recovery." (Using more than 56 bits to encrypt a message is considered "strong," but in reality, 1,024 bits are needed to assure secrecy.) Think of an encoded message as a treasure chest with a lock that can be unlocked by only two keys: the one that the originator used to encode the message and the one that the receiver needs to decode it. This bill would force consumers to store their secret keys in a safe place-in a "key escrow account"-where the government can get the keys and unlock the messages. Of course, the government would need a court order to do that, but even so, the computer industry opposes the interference. Thus, the fight has centered on key recovery-what some have colorfully called the "back door." In the end, Congress may have to yield to the freewheelers, especially in light of the shenanigans of Phil Zimmerman. He's the cyberhero who a few years ago wrote PGP (for "Pretty Good Privacy"), a very strong encryption software that was posted on the Internet. Now it is all over the world producing strong encryption-up to 2,048 bits-for free. For a while, Zimmerman was accused of illegally exporting munitions. The feds eventually gave up on him: technically, Zimmermaq had not violated the law, because a friend posted the software on the Internet, not him. With similar legal finesse, Zimmerman's company, PGP, Inc., worked out a deal with a non-U.S. company that also sidestepped the embargo on strong encryption. The Clinton admiffistration's change of heart stems in part from Zimmerman's and PGPs end runs around the rules. Whether such tactics have similarly influenced Congress should become clear soon. A proposal is in the works: the Safety and Freedom through Encryption Act, or SAFE Act. Barring last-minute amendments, this bill may be the: best hope for individual freedom in cyberspace. It would lift controls on commercial and personal transactions a ' like., At press time, Congress was expected to vote on it this fall; it has 134 out of 218 votes needed to pass. This bill stands in stark contrast to the restrictive Encrypted Communitations Privacy Act of 1997, which"remains bottled up in committee and will probably die. So it seems that SAFE is the leading candidate for passage, and the battle tilts toward noninterfere'nce and freeenterprisers such as Zimmerman..Already PGP, Inc., has secured Conime rce Department permission to ship its 128 bit cryptography to a preapproved list of U.S. subsidiaries outside ihe country. Likewise, VeriFone got the g6-ahead to ship overseas its software for secure online credit-card transactions. If this trend continues, everyone will be able to export secure software. Not only will banks and credit-card companies enjoy security, but you and I will be able to send messages to friends and business associates without concern about invasion of privacy. Zimmerman's PGP has traveled from aw to pin-striped suit in Internet Time. Let's hope enlightened governments around the world keep up.
Saturday, 23 December, 2000, 01:57 GMT Yahoo fights French court
France, like Germany and Italy, has strict anti-Nazi laws Internet service provider Yahoo has started new legal moves in the US to try to block a French court's order that it keep computer users in France from accessing online auctions of Nazi memorabilia.
Yahoo France does not carry the auctions - banned under French law - but French internet users can access the company's US site at the click of a mouse.
Yahoo says it is technologically impossible to enforce last month's ruling that it block users in France from the site or face massive fines.
At the heart of the legal argument is the question of who owns the internet and whether it could or should be regulated.
In papers filed in US District Court in San Jose, California on Thursday, lawyers for Yahoo said the Paris court ruling, if allowed to stand, would have a "significant chilling effect" on internet users' freedom of expression.
The company also argued the French court did not have jurisdiction over content produced by a US business, and asked the court to reassure the internet industry that such orders were unenforceable.
In November Judge Jean-Jacques Gomez gave Yahoo three months to find a way to prevent French users from accessing auction pages with Nazi-related objects, and said the company would be fined $13,000 for each day after the deadline that it did not comply.
Yahoo's lawyer attorney Greg Wrenn said at the time that the company would ignore the ruling and refuse to pay the fines unless a US court enforced it.
Fears for democracy
Civil liberties organisations in the US have warned that if the French decision is allowed to stand, repressive governments could use the same tactic against websites run by democracy groups and human-rights activists.
Swastika-emblazoned flags and other Nazi collectibles are among the thousands of items for sale at Yahoo's auction site. They include items such as a swastika T-shirt, an SS recruitment poster, and a print of a watercolour painted by Adolf Hitler.
Some collectors have argued these are all legitimate historical artefacts worthy of preservation.
In April, two French groups - the Union of Jewish Students and the International Anti-Racism and Anti-Semitism League (Licra) - sued Yahoo for allegedly breaking French law barring the display or sale of racist material.
Online auction site eBay has dozens of Nazi collectibles for sale, but the site warns sellers not to accept bids on such items from people in France, Germany, Austria or Italy because of anti-Nazi laws in those countries.
Yahoo said it expects it will be at least a few months before the US court makes a ruling.
TED LEWIS is author of The Friction-Free Economy: Marketing Strategies for a Wired World, published in October by HarperCollins.
Chaffing and Winnowing beats Encryption New Scientist 4 Apr 98
A NEW technique for sending secret messages over the Net could undermine the US government's attempts to limit the spread of communication methods that can't be deciphered by its security forces. Ronald Rivest, a computer scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has posted a paper on the lnternet describing a technique he calls "chaffing and winnowing". It does not encrypt messages, but instead exploits digital authentication. In encryption, messages are converted into a form that cannot be read without the right mathematical key. Some techniques are for practical purposes unbreakable. The US government, fearing spies and terrorists might use this "strong" encryption, has banned its export. But federal officials have endorsed authentication, in which people send a "digital signature" along with a document to prove that it is from them. To create a signature, a numerical key known only to the sender is combined with data in the document to produce a unique value. Anyone who has been given a related key can use it to authenticate the signature, but not to reproduce it. In Rivest's method, no part of the message is actually encrypted. Instead, it is split into tiny pieces. Each of these is labelled with a number and digitally signed. The message is then interspersed with nonsense data that are also numbered and appear to be signed-but not with the sender's true signature. Anyone with the correct authentication key can separate, or winnow, the "wheat" of the message from the "chaff". But no one else can put the pieces together. Chaffing and winnowing is less efficient than conventional encryption, because it increases the size of the message. But experts say that it should be very effective, and makes a nonsense of the ban on exporting strong encryption. "This shows some of the built-in absurdities of export control," says Michael Froomkin of the University of Miami School of Law in Coral Gables, Florida. Kurt Kleiner
Women's organization NOW becomes target for anti-porn filter
New Scientist 4 Jan 97
'Software firms will not provide a list of the sites they block'
Anti-porn firm silences Net critic A COMPANY that sells a computer program to parents who want to prevent their children stumbling on pornographic Internet sites last month added another address to its list of blocked sites. This site, however, is run not by a pornographer but by a teenage critic who has mounted a campaign against the company, arguing that it blocks many sites that are not obscene. Solid Oak Software, based in Santa Barbara, California, distributes a program called Cybersitter, used by about a million people around the world. Cybersitter maintains a list of Web sites and Intemet newsgroups which it prevents access to, most dealing with pornography. During the debate last year in the US about whether the government should censor the Internet, free-speech activists backed the software companies which offer filtering. Both argued that such products meant that there was no need for the government to get involved. But the free-speech lobby has begun to question the blocking criteria used by some software firms. Most will not provide a list of the sites that they block, arguing that this is proprietary information. Bennett Haselton, a tudent at Vanderbilt suniversity in Nashville, says Solid Oak blocks sites that deal with Iminist or gay issues, such as the Web page of the National Organization for Women. Solid Oak maintains that these sites provide access to material with a sexual content. Soon after Haselton posted his criticisms on an anti-censorship Web site he runs at http://www.peacefire.org, this site was added to Cybersitter's censored list. The action, says Haselton, is a perfect example of what he objects to. "This is crazy," he says. Solid Oak, however, says that the company blocked Haselton's site because it contains information that could help children to evade Cybersitter's controls-a charge that Haselton denies. Solid Oak also claims that Haselton has breached its copyright. "This has nothing to do with him expressing his views," says Marc Kanter, director of marketing. Both allegations relate to a link provided from Haselton's site to an article called "Keys to the Kingdom", which was originally published by the online newsletter CyberWire Dispatch. The article includes a list of words and phrases Cybersitter blocks out. Kurt Kleiner, Washington DC
Publish on the Net and be damned New Scientist 6 Dec 97
A LAW designed to crack down on software pirates in the US could backfire, making it harder for scientists to make their papers available to colleagues over the lnternet. The US Association for Computing (USACM) wrote to President Bill Clinton last week urging him not to sign the No Electronic Theft Act, passed by both houses of Congress the week before. "The law is so wide ranging in its language that it's very likely to cause a lot of other collateral damage in the scientific community," says Rob Kling, professor of information science at Indiana University Bloomington, and a USACM member. In 1994, MIT student David LaMacchia was found not guilty of criminal copyright violation after he made dozens of copyrighted programs available from electronic bulletin boards. LaMacchia escaped conviction because he had given the programs away. The new law states that it is a criminal violation if material worth $1000 or more is copied, regardless of whether any mo'Rey is charged. The Software Publishers Association welcomes the law, saying that it is necessary to close the LaMacchia loophole.
But the USACM complains that the bill could apply to any copyrighted material, including scientific papers. Kling points out that scientists increasingly post their papers on the lnternet, even though once they have been published the copyright actually belongs to the publishing journal. That could be interpreted as a criminal violation under the new law, says Kling, Even if a paper is only a dollar per copy, a scientist with a dozen papers which are each downloaded a hundred times might be charged with providing $1200 worth of material. And some sites have much more material than that. Los Alamos National Laboratory, for example, maintains a site filled with about 50 000 physics papers, many of which have been published in journals. Not everyone shares the USACM's concern, however. Adam Eisgrau, a lawyer with the American Library Association, thinks the principle of "fair use", which allows limited academic use of copyrighted material, would make scientific papers exempt. But Kling says that this is not clear in the law as it stands. Kurt Klainer
Rights and wrongs NS 24 Oct 98 5
The US Congress has passed a law extending copyright to electronically stored information. Earlier drafts of the law had alarmed scientists because they would have allowed databases to be copyrighted, even if they contained public information. This provision has been removed. Researchers can also break encryption schemes as part of projects to investigate computer security-another practice that previous drafts would have banned. However, Adam Eisgrow of the American Library Association says he is still worried that the electronic copyright law could exclude "fair use" exemptions allowing people to copy documents for research purposes.
Are hypertext links copyright? New Scientist 16 Nov 96 p5
A court case between the Shetland Times and the Shetland News could undermine the capacity of search engines like Alta Vista to catalogue the net. The News provided a direct link to the Times newspage. The News editor has had compensation for being sacked as a previous Times editor.
Online Privacy Alliance June 98
WASHINGTON - Thirty-nine American companies and 12 Business corporations have announced the creation of a new group to protect privacy in cyberspace. Members of the. Online Privacy Alliance say they will "respond to concern about privacy on-line" and work to protect consumers from unethical business practices and to stop companies from pitching products to children. -The privacy practices of these companies and associations-... will influence the way all business is' conducted on the Internet," a former Federal Trade Commission member of the group Christine Varney said. Members come from the computer industry, advadvertising, financial services, database providers, tele-communications, retail, marketing, entertainment and online Internet service providers. ', The group's formation comes As fears of personal privacy and use of infomiation gathered on-line are increasing. Alliance members include America Online, Apple Computer, AT and T, Bell Atlantic, US Chamber of Commerce, Direct Marketing Assn., Eastman Kodak, Equifax, Ford, Ernst & Young, European-American Business Council, IBM, Lexis-Nexus, Netscape, Time-Warner, American Advertising Federation, Price Waterhouse, and Sun Microsystems.
Marked out as the bad guy? Microsoft and Market Dominance
New Scientist 6 Dec 97
IF SMALL is beautiful, then big must be truly ugly. The executives of Microsoft, the American software giant, could be forgiven for suspecting that this axiom was now the mantra of regulatory authorities and consumer groups across the US. The company is fighting a host of lawsuits, including one brought by the US Department of Justice (Doj), and is being investigated by the Senate, six state attorney generals, the European Commission and the Japanese Fair Trade Commission. In short, it has become the bad boy of American business. At the heart of each of these cases lies the accusation that Microsoft is cornering the market and stifling competition. The Doj, for instance, has charged the company with violating a 1995 court order preventing it from taking unfair advantage of the fact that over 80 per cent of the world's desktop computers have a Microsoft operating system. The Doj is worried that Microsoft can effectively guarantee the success of new products-in particular its Web browser Internet Explorer-by integrating them into its operating system. For instance, any computer sold with Microsoft's new Windows 98 software will also come with the Internet Explorer browser. The Doj is asking the court to impose fines of $1 million per day on Microsoft and force it to change its business practices to make it compete more fairly. Whether or not the case proceeds will be decided this week by Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson. Many industry analysts believe the Doj has some solid evidence on its side. Testimony filed by Compaq, Gateway 2000 and Micron Electronics, which make PCs, reveal that Microsoft threatened to withdraw their licences for the Windows 95 operating system unless they continued putting Internet Explorer on all their new computers. The companies had been planning to install only Netscape's browser. John Robb, senior analyst at Gomez Advisors in Boston, says the Doj waited until the release of market figures in September before moving against Microsoft because up to then there had been little evidence that Microsoft's tactics were working. The September figures showed that the company's share of the Internet browser market had risen to nearly 30 per cent. Netscape's share had been cut from 80 per cent to around 64 per cent. Scott Winkler, a vice-president and research director at computer consultants Gartner Group, agrees that the Doj has good evidence, but adds that the wording of the court order gives Microsoft plenty of room for manoeuvre. Microsoft says a clause allows it to integrate its products and tie them closer together-and that the DoJ has known about its plans to do this since be fore the order was signed. Even if the DoJ's case against Microsoft is thrown out, it will not be the end of the company's legal woes. The DoJ is widely rumoured to be preparing more cases.
Some believe that it has deliberately picked a narrow, clear-cut issue as a first case to show others that Microsoft can be taken on successfully in the courts. It hopes that if it wins, private companies will come forward with more evidence. The European Commission is pursuing at least half a dozen inquiries into Microsoft's conduct in Europe. In particular, it is examining a possible breach of a 1994 agreement to change licensing arrangements that the Commission thought too restrictive. The US Senate is also interested in Microsoft's business practices. Last month, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch scheduled a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss "competition, innovation and public policy in the digital age", saying he was responding to numerous complaints about Microsoft's "predatory practices".
Microsoft also faces legal challenges from several private companies. Sun Microsystems is suing Microsoft over its plans for Java, a programming language developed by Sun. Sun accuses it of watering down Java to make it work better with Microsoft's Windows than with other software. And the Utah-based company Caldera is suing Microsoft for damages, claiming its version of DOS has been frozen out by the Seattle software giant. The first round of the legal battle has gone to attempt to have the trial moved to the US District Court in Washington DC. When the trial goes ahead late next year it will be held in Caldera's home town. The company is under fire from consumers, too. Last month consumer rights activist Ralph Nader organised the "Appraising Microsoft" conference in Washington DC to assess whether Microsoft was throwing its weight about rather too much. Microsoft president Bill Gates was invited, but declined. Bob Herbold, executive vice-president and chief operating officer of Microsoft, wrote to Nader explaining why. He said the conference was making no effort to present a balanced view of the issues and was little more than a "conclave of critics". He wrote: "This conference makes one wonder whether your speakers travelled by Qantas, because it has all the hallmarks of a kangaroo court." Gates has denounced all these attacks on his company as a "witch-hunt". He says the criticisms and lawsuits are merely attempts to curb Microsoft's ability to compete, rather than gen uine challenges to any questionable business practices. Indeed, some analysts have ques tioned why Microsoft has been picked out as the "bad guy". It is not even the biggest earner in the soft ware market. That honour goes to IBM, whose software sales earned $12.7 billion in 1996, compared with Microsoft's $8.7 billion. The com pany is dominant in the market for PC operating systems, but it is sec ond to Novell in selling software for networks used by offices. Nor does Microsoft dominate the Intemet: Netscape's browser still has over 60 per cent of the market for interface software. However, the Doj regards the issue of Microsoft's browser as important because the software industry now revolves around the Intemet rather than the PC. Previously, software developers used to write for the PC first and everything else later. "All exciting products are being developed for the Internet first," says Robb. It is ironic that just as Microsoft won its dominance for PC operating systems, newer technologies came along that may make them irrele vant. Java and the Web could mean that having all programmes and applications on an expensive computer on your desk makes less sense. The Doj believes that, unfettered, Microsoft has a real chance of cornering the market in browsers. The company has already succeeded-perfectly legally-in shutting out its competitors in the spreadsheet and word processing markets. Software companies really only flourish now if they do not compete directly with Microsoft. The Doj is concemed that if Microsoft were also to dominate the browser market, innovation would be stifled and development of the Internet slowed. Microsoft is already investing heavily in media companies, so much so that even Rupert Murdoch is worried. Some people fear that eventually they will only be able to see what Microsoft wants them to. The Doj, however, says it wants to ensure that people see the bigger picture. Mark Ward
Netcape Opens Communicator source code to free distribution Jan 27 98
Netscape facing falling profits and increasing competition has decided to make Netscape a flagship of freedom by releasing its source code to all internet users to promote cooperative development of the browser by the entire internet community. One really hopes this approach will be a winner!
New Yorker Encores 15 Dec 97
Microsoft Practices Face Further Scrutiny
Subsequent to its skirmish with the justice department over forcing the bundling of Internet Explorer with PC windows operating systems, and then binding resellers to cripple the machines to frustrate the directive not do bundle, further investigations are pending. Netscape replied by offering a Net button to constructively decouple explorer from windows exposing the fact that Microsoft's crippling action was unnecessary.
WASHINGTON - The United States Justice Department is examining several Microsoft Corp business practices that could lead to new anti-trust charges against the software giant. Any of these charges would be entirely separate from current allegations - now moving through both a US District Court and an appellate court in Washington - that Microsoft is in violation of a 1995 consent decree. But anti-trust experts say the Justice Department will have to be cautious in filing any new charges, which would be much tougher to prove than the violation of a consent decree. Microsoft has shown itself to be a tough opponent in court, winning a preliminary but significant victory earlier this week in the US Court of Appeals. A fresh anti-trust case would require meeting a series of far more rigorous tests in court. The Justice Department has looked at a wide variety of practices by Microsoft. The list includes:
14 Apr 98 Fradulent Grassroots Campaign
Microsoft, according to the LA Times, has been secretly planning a massive media campaign to look like a grassroots effort supporting the company in its anti-trust fight with the Justice Dept. The plan estimated to cost millions of dollars included planting articles, letters to the editor and opinion pieces in newspapers around the country piad for by Microsoft. The plan as discussed at a meeting in Chicago with about a dozen public relations agencies.
Nov 98 The Justice Department's case opens with video footage of Bill Gates in testimony contradicting the evidence of executives from Apple, Adobe and other firms illustrating manipulative corporate practices including, endeavouring to wipe out Adobe when it refused to give its proprietory fints free to Windows 'for the honour', and 'knifing the baby' of Apple's Quicktime because it competed with Microsoft's player. The bundling of Explorer was described as a non-improvement designed simply to put Netscape out of business, of no advantage to the user over the freedom to choose operating system and browser independently..
Nov 98 Sun finally secures an injunction to stop Microsoft bundling an 'upgraded' version of Java which is crippled so that it won't run on non-Windows machines. By bundling this, Microsoft violates the machine-independent standard Sun Java established to be compatabile with any machine on the internet, thus using its market monopoly to make "Java' written on the majority of internet-capable machines unreadable by non-windows platforms. Microsoft has 90 days to comply.
Writers asked to steer clear of Murdoch firm Mar 98
This situation has since become a whole raft of disclosures of managerial tampering, including the fact that The Times has censored its coverage of China and that an interview by the Times editor with the Chinese leadership was cancelled because it wasn't favourable enough to China. It puts Tony Blair in an invidious position because he was electorally supported by Murdoch's media machine.
While the current Times editor denies editorial interference by Murdoch, the Times former East Asia editor Jonathan Minsky has said the newspaper has decided not to cover China in a serious way, because of Mr. Murdoch's interests.
LONDON - The fallout over Rupert Murdoch's stance on China continued yesterday when a leading literary agent said he would ask his 100 writers to boycott the media magnate's British publishing arm, and two more authors pulled out of deals with the company, according to several reports. Michael Sissons, one of London's leading agents who acted for former Hong Kong Govemor Chris Patten, told the Daily Telegraph: "While of course I will not advise anyone to break their ciintracts, I cannot contemplate submitting any new material to HarperCoRins until a number of matters are resolved. "This will be my advice to my own clients." . Last week, Murdoch-owned HarperCollins abandoned Mr Patten's account of his five years in office - East and West - after paying him a £125,000 (NZ$355,000) advance because the book criticised the Chinese regime. Mr Murdoch denied censoring Mr Patten's book but said he had made clear to HarperCollins' management that it had negative aspects and should be dropped. Mr Murdoch has extensive media interests in China and was accused of being worried about how criticism of Bejing might affect his other businesses. Mr Patten is suing for breach of contract and his editor, Stuart Proffitt, who left HarperCollins over the row, is doing likewise for constructive dismissal. The foreign affairs writer Jonathan Power, who will edit a book marking the 40th anniversary of the human rights pressure group Amnesty Intemational in 2001, was also quoted as saying he did not want "to be associated with a company that has treated Chris Patten in the way it has." "It seems that free speech and Mr Murdoch are now in total contradiction." Timothy Garton Ash, a leading Eastern European specialist also announced that he had instructed his agent, Gill Coleridge, to cancel two books to be published later this year. Mr Coleridge called HarperCollins' actions over the Patten book "disgraceful," adding: "I am not in- clined to take any new authors there for some time". - AFP
Mar 98 Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair has come under fire over Murdoch after a report from Intaly that he asked the Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi to ask whether Italy would block Murdoch's (unsuccessful) takeover of Silvio Berlusconi's television group. Blair is under scrutiny for his links with Murdoch, who controlls 40% of daioly and weekly newspaper circulation and dominates satellite TV with Sky. His media instruments strongly supported Labour in the last election.