Tim Wu’s excellent new book, The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires, chronicles a history of communications policy and the long-term behaviour of firms in information industries. His basic thesis is that such firms acquire market power by a combination of network effects and industry consolidation, then exert a form of regulatory capture that allows them to alter the rules of the game so as to drive out competitors and extract rents from their monopoly infrastructure.
A recent piece published in The Wall Street Journal provides a neat summary of these ideas and serves as a kind of postscript to the book itself:
Today’s Internet borders will probably change eventually, especially as new markets appear. But it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that we are living in an age of large information monopolies. Could it be that the free market on the Internet actually tends toward monopolies? Could it even be that demand, of all things, is actually winnowing the online free market — that Americans, so diverse and individualistic, actually love these monopolies?
The article goes on to examine how information monopolies develop. Wu’s basic method is historical, examining how similar patterns emerged in the telegraphy and telephony industries during the late 19th century: Read more »
The quantity of mobile phone spam never ceases to amaze me. Considering that the medium isn’t free like email, conversion rates must be particularly high given the number of commercial text messages, SMS bait schemes and pre-recorded VoIP calls that seem to be plaguing Australian mobile networks.
Now it looks as if the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is finally doing something about it, today announcing that it has commenced proceedings under the Spam Act 2003 (Cth) (Spam Act) against three Australian companies who used unsolicited text messages to promote online dating services. When a hapless (or dateless) victim replied, they were charged up to $5 per message — presumably with an unsubscribe policy worse than the United States army. Interestingly, the complaint also alleges the criminal charge that the respondents obtained a financial advantage by deception, in the form of paid signups to the online dating sites procured by fake dating website profiles. By virtue of the deception, ACMA also alleges a contravention of the Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth) (TPA).
The case is noteworthy for at least three reasons. First, if successsful, it would represent ACMA’s largest (but not, as has been reported, its first) prosecution for spam text messages (which fall within the definition of ‘electronic message’ in s 5 of the Act, which includes messages sent ‘to an electronic address in connection with … a telephone account’). Second, it shows how the Spam Act and Trade Practices Act can work together to enjoin misleading scams propagated by electronic means. Third, some serious penalties are likely to flow — given that the penalties are $1.1m per day per contravention, perhaps even higher than those ordered by Nicholson J against Clarity1 Pty Ltd in 2006 (AUD $4.5m). Of course, the significance of the action can easily be overstated — remember that the vast majority of mobile phone spammers are (a) not incorporated entities with convenient bundles of ASIC reports in their name; and (b) based overseas, well beyond the reach of ACMA’s penalty notices and the Spam Act. Read more »
If you received an email marketing Indian herbal pharmaceuticals last year, chances are it came from Mr Lance Atkinson of Pelican Waters, Queensland. This New Zealand man, living in Australia, has agreed to pay fines of $92 715 to the New Zealand Internal Affairs Anti-Spam Compliance Unit. According to media reports, Mr Atkinson admitted participating in an international spam email operation that sent out more than 2 million unsolicited electronic messages to New Zealand computers in late 2007.
Originally by Wired News: DAT's Entertainment, 10:54 AM
The High Court in Manchester has ruled that an email cannot be recognised as a legal written offer if it does not contain a signature or name within the body of the mail. The inclusion of a user name in the message header is not enough.…
Originally by The Register - Internet and Law: Digital Rights/Digital Wrongs, 10:50 AM Read more »
In the first prosecution of its kind under the Spam Act 2003 (Cth) (‘Spam Act’), Nicholson J of the Federal Court of Australia yesterday found Clarity1 Pty Ltd and its managing director to have contravened provisions of the Act. Read more »
A company accused of using unauthorized personal data “mined” by other firms from about six million e-mail addresses across the US has agreed to reform its practices under a $1.1 million settlement. New York Attorney-General Eliot Spitzer said Datran Media used e-mail addresses and other personal data it obtained from several companies.