Network: Bytes

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The Independent Culture
THE CONTRACT of Network Solutions Inc (NSI), the administrator for the past five years of the most popular Internet domain registries, was temporarily extended last week by the US government. The contract was due to expire on 30 September, but talks on moving control of the addressing and registration system were not completed.

A variety of companies and interest groups have been trying to reach a consensus on reform since June. Earlier this month it was agreed that the system should be overseen by a new, non-profit corporation based in California and run by a board of 19 people from around the world. Some technical and legal details remain unresolved, but government and industry officials said they were confident that the Internet's stability and security would not be compromised during continuing discussions.

TWO US newspapers jointly filed a copyright-infringement suit last week against a conservative online news discussion forum. The Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post allege that FreeRepublic is copying and archiving their articles without permission. An attorney for the newspapers said that the FreeRepublic site has been doing this "on a very large scale for a very long time" and is eating into the newspapers' online revenue by diverting traffic from their sites and affecting ad revenue.

"We are not complaining about having a link to our site, as long as he uses a trademark logo," Rex Heinke, a partner with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, which represents the newspapers, said. "We object to the copying and archiving."

Jim Robinson, who runs FreeRepublic, says the issue is not about copyright protection. "They are suing because they don't like our opinions," he said, claiming his use of the material is allowed under law as "fair use".

"It's a very important lawsuit because it's a question that needs to be settled," John Shepard Wiley Jnr, a law professor at UCLA, said. "The Net is one giant copying machine, and producers, authors and content providers have been worried that the Net would threaten their basic economic incentives."

SALES OF books and CDs over the Internet are increasing as more people get on to the Internet in the UK, according to BMRB International's Internet Monitor for May-September 1998. Nearly 7.5 million people (16 per cent of the UK's adult population) used the Internet in the last six months, a 29 per cent increase over the previous six months. Home use now accounts for more than business use - 42 per cent compared with 38 per cent. Although 25- to 44-year-olds are the main Net users, the proportion of under-25s and over-55s is increasing the fastest.

Nearly one million UK users engaged in e-commerce in the last six months, spending an average of pounds 195 each. Home users accounted for 85 per cent of the total. For the first time, books were the most popular online purchase, supplanting computer software with 30 per cent against 29 per cent. This compares with 27 per cent and 43 per cent respectively in the previous six months.

MICROSOFT'S ENCARTA brand name will be on the spine of a dictionary published in print as well as electronically next year. For three years, Microsoft have been working with Bloomsbury in the UK, St Martin's Press in the US and Pan Macmillan in Australia on the text of more than three million words.

Describing English as "the first global language since Latin", the companies said that the collaboration will be the first time that dictionaries for native speakers of American and British English will be produced from a single database. The Encarta World English Language dictionary will have UK and US editions. Other print/electronic reference works will follow.