Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Radio reports

Some affairs and events I covered in recent weeks for Radio 1 in the Netherlands.

Bin Surfing - also known as dumpster diving or bin raiding - is an upcoming phenomenon in the UK. Click HERE for my item - Starts at 00:57:04 - in Dutch

Ever heard of the London Smog Disaster, December 1952? Click HERE for my radio report about a foggy month in history - Starts at 00:38:08 - in Dutch

Click HERE for my update on the Leveson Inquiry into phonehacking and unethical journalism - Starts at 01:02:25 - in Dutch

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Make up your mind

Ever since the US Department of Justice cracked down on a number of gambling operators back in April, it seems clear what should happen with businesses that attempt to offer online gambling services to US citizens: arrest and prosecution.

However, a few months down the line, the US landscape seems more fragmented than ever. While the Irish operator PaddyPower is in the final stages of obtaining a licence to start offering gaming services to mobile phone users in the State of Nevada, on the other side of the country one-time Australian internet gambling high-flyer Daniel Tzvetkoff is still in the FBI's witness protection programme in order to testify against the indicted operators. Further south, in Florida to be precise, there are plans to introduce an online gambling Bill as pro-gambling lawmakers felt hugely encouraged after an appeals court in the Sunny State ruled on 5 October that lawmakers can authorise slot machines anywhere in Florida, a decision that, many experts think, could open the door for a further liberalisation of gambling activities - online as well as offline - in Florida.

There is a similar initiative in Illinois, and with the financial climate in the back of their minds, many legislators are more than willing to explore any possibility for new sources of income. And over in New York, entrepreneur and billionaire Donald Trump, who briefly considered running for the 2012 Presidency only a few months ago, said he would launch a poker room in partnership with hedge fund manager Marc Lasry if the US decides to regulate.

So, with pro-gambling initiatives taking place all over the country and the debate on regulation far from over, many feel the three indicted operators are receiving a harsh treatment. Many lawmakers as well as lawyers, feel uncomfortable with the 'Black Friday' arrests and current proceedings.

For an outsider, it is almost impossible to get a clear picture of what the American gambling market currently entails, or in fact, what it does not. It seems the US can not seem to make up its mind. Therefore, the current situation is far from stable: although there is a federal ban on online gambling activities, many Americans continue to gamble online and individual states are aggressively pursuing their own policies.

The full article was published previously in World Online Gambling Law Report, CPP, London 2011. Copyrights apply.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Two Radio 1 reports from last week - in Dutch

Laura Merts, or Laura van Egmond? A Dutch 'unarmed combat' spy in the UK is exposed.
Click HERE - starts at 00:06:14.

The latest developments in the phone hacking scandal: the James Murdoch Commons' Hearing.
Click HERE - starts at 01:01:11

Monday, 14 November 2011

Hollow Words

The USA, Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Morocco, New Zealand and Singapore recently signed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). The agreement should be 'a major tool in the battle against infringements of IP rights', the representatives of the signing countries explained, in particular against counterfeiting practices around the world. It contains mechanisms to improve cooperation in the enforcement of IP rights, including on how to combat infringements in a digital environment and how these measures should be enforced.

Shortly after the signing ceremony, on 3 October, the US Chamber of Commerce released a statement applauding ACTA as 'a big victory for the American business community'. Although ACTA should undoubtedly be considered as (another) step in the right direction by creating a more concrete and efficient level of IP enforcement, and is based on the standards of the World Trade Organisation Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, it does make you wonder: 'a big victory for the American business community'? Really? This statement seems to lack any substance.

Firstly, representatives from the EU, Mexico and Switzerland did attend the ceremony and confirmed their 'continuing strong support' but they did not sign. Why not sign if you support the agreement? Secondly, the agreement was not discussed with the World Intellectual Property Organisation, public interest groups or the tech industry, and was not subject to a public debate. 

ACTA also no longer supports elements of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which came into force in 1998 and made it a crime to unlock a DVD to copy it. ACTA contains a loosely worded ban on tools used to unlock 'digital rights management' (DRM) technologies, and, in a footnote, the signing countries agreed that manufacturers and developers won't be required to ship products with DRM restrictions. 

If this was not enough, ACTA does not require countries to hold an ISP responsible for copyright infringements committed by its users. Perhaps that explains why some EU countries, like the UK where the Digital Economy Act proposes such a regime, did not sign. 

But the real flaw of the ACTA is the fact the main actors are not on board. It might be a bold attempt to create a global copyright system, but without the world's main infringers being involved, such as China, India, Russia and Brazil, it makes you wonder what the real value of ACTA is: just hollow words and political show seems the appropriate answer.

Published previously in the October issue of E-Commerce Law & Policy magazine © 2011 Cecile Park Publishing Ltd, London, UK. Copyrights apply at all times. Pics: and

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

'Frustrated' EC launches anti-trust enquiry into EPC

The announcement by the European Commission (EC) to open an anti-trust investigation into whether the European Payments Council (EPC) has been blocking new, mostly non-bank, players from entering the European online payments market has not taken the industry by surprise.

"The fact the Commission has opened an investigation indicates that there is reasonable evidence to suggest that the standards may be distorting competition in the market", said Louisa Penny, Senior Associate at Taylor Wessing.

Suzanne McDonald, Partner at TLT, said she understands some of the concerns because "while delivering many benefits, any standardisation process involves competition risks. One common concern is that where industry standards are developed by a limited group of powerful market players, the results may not be suited to everyone in that market and may subsequently hinder their ability to compete".

The EC announced on 26 September that, following a complaint, it is going to investigate whether the EPC has developed such a standardisation process for the online payments industry in Europe that it has become very difficult, if not impossible, for new players to enter the market. The EC said in a statement its investigation is to make sure 'competition is not unduly restricted, for example through the exclusion of new entrants and payment providers who are not controlled by a bank'. The EC believes such restrictions would lead to higher prices for merchants and consumers.

Published previously in the October issue of E-Finance & Payments Law Policy © 2011 Cecile Park Publishing Ltd. Picture: EU

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Radio 1 reports

Some recent reports I did for Radio 1 in the Netherlands:
·      New charges brought against Vincent Tabak, click HERE
·      Vincent Tabak convicted to 20 years in Bristol, click HERE
·      The iconic Travel Bookshop in Notting Hill to close, click HERE
·      Funderal of the riots' hero, click HERE 

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Online banking fraud losses in UK fall again

LONDON - Online banking fraud losses have fallen for the second year in a row, according to new figures by the UK Cards Association. Total fraud losses on UK cards fell to £169.8 million between January and June 2011, 9% less compared with losses in the first six months of 2010.

Although card fraud and online banking fraud both fell, cheque fraud and phone fraud losses are on the rise. Fraudsters increasingly turn to low-tech scams 'as [high-tech] initiatives continue to drive down fraud', the UK Cards Association said. However, the number of phishing websites targeting UK users has increased.

"While these numbers look encouraging it is important to recognise the price customers have to pay for safe online banking", said William Beer, a Director at Pricewaterhouse Coopers. "Two-factor authentication has now become common, with customers having to carry a keyfob or other device in order to log into their bank accounts. While this has lessened the risk of fraud, it has introduced an element of inflexibility into the system and should not be seen as a silver bullet."

Published previously in E-Finance & Payments Law & Policy, October issue, London, 2011. Copyrights apply at all times.