Bytes

IN WASHINGTON last week, Congress approved a bill updating copyright laws for the Internet that included a "fair use" provision, protecting the use of materials by libraries and schools. Earlier drafts of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act prohibited "circumvention" of encryption and other security measures that publishers might use to protect copyrighted works in digital form. Libraries and others feared that such technological safeguards would limit duplication for legitimate purposes. A compromise version of the bill will delay the anti-circumvention rule for two years while Commerce Department officials study the problem.

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BILL GATES, Microsoft's CEO, has replied to the consumer activist Ralph Nader (right), who challenged him last month to join financier Warren Buffett in leading a "conference of billionaires", on wealth disparities and how to resolve them. Gates, the world's richest man with an estimated worth of $52bn, said in a letter to Nader: "I think people should give because they want to give, and not because of pressure from a conference."

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IN THE reply to the US government's anti-trust case, due to be filed in court today, Microsoft will argue that the case should be dismissed because it is groundless. The US Department of Justice is accusing Microsoft of, among other things, illegal business practices intended to block competition from Netscape. Microsoft will argue that its Internet plans were already under way before Netscape was founded in April 1994 and that Netscape suffered only as a side-effect of Microsoft's intention to improve its products. A senior Justice Department official told the New York Times that Microsoft's defence is a "grand exercise in revisionist history".

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SUN MICROSYSTEMS and IBM last week announced the availability of their jointly- developed JavaOS for business, a Java-based operating system aimed at network computers and kiosks. Data and applications are stored on central servers and delivered to networked computers as and when needed. The companies said JavaOS can be used by businesses that need to access data on mainframes but also want to use desktop applications.

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THE FIRST update for Windows 98 will be posted on the Microsoft website a week tomorrow. Microsoft say the update is a "multimedia enhancement" rather than a service pack to fix bugs in a product that was marketed before it was ready for final release. Craig Bielenson, product manager for Windows, conceded that some of the newer versions of multimedia applications included in the update may have been upgraded not only to add functionality but also to fix reported problems.

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