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The Legal Issues of the Information Society

The Legal Issues of the Information Society

Source: Statement by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson in Paris, December 12, 2000. (excerpts).

The seminar on "the legal issues of the information society" is being held in Paris on December 14 and 15 under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Foundation of Political Sciences. It is being held for two reasons:

  • To illustrate what Europe has done in regard to the information society during the French presidency. Through an innovative, forward-looking process, the Europeans have established a framework that reflects the new issues: directive on electronic signature and electronic commerce, the new telecommunications framework, the protection of personnel data and e-Europe initiatives. This reflects a general approach based on co-regulation which is behind the French démarche.
  • To develop dialogue on these issues with the emerging countries since international discussions still focus too often on relations between the developed countries. It is appropriate to broaden these debates to Asia, Latin America, eastern Europe and Africa so as to prepare an answer to the main question posed by the development of electronic networks: How to guarantee the security and confidence necessary to the development of the information society? This goal requires increased international cooperation.

Generally speaking, Europe's approach focuses on four main areas:

  • a flexible and coherent regulatory framework: harmonized approaches have to be defined which avoid market fragmentation and set guidelines without getting locked into still emerging economic and technical models.
  • a balance has to be struck between encouraging private initiative and compliance with public policy; the information society can only truly develop if it is based on confidence and security. In the European countries and elsewhere, public policies play a regulatory role (competition, consumer protection) which is more necessary than ever in the digital world where there is a need for rules.
  • a regulatory world that takes into account the specificity of networks and dialogue with operators, co-regulation. While "conventional" regulatory modes can be applied to the Internet only with difficulty, our goal is to reaffirm existing laws (content, sector-based regulation) by finding new ways of applying these laws.
  • giving certain subjects priority in terms of use. The e-Europe initiative is a response to this need, focusing on three components that are the basis for making the information society widespread:
  • secure, rapid and cheap Internet access;
  • training adapted for the information society (school, universities, research);
  • uses that meet needs (trade, public administration, cultural content);

So the seminar will be looking at the following:

  • legal aspects of electronic commerce;
  • public freedoms and protection of personal data;
  • protection of intellectual property;
  • regulatory framework for telecommunications.

French and Europeans will be participating in the seminar and there will be significant participation by the European Commission. Attending with these figures and officials will be representatives of private enterprises and the academic world.

The foreign participants--there are about 60--have been invited because of their interest in issues affecting the information society. In addition to their geographic diversity (Asia, Latin America, western Europe, Africa), they come from various walks of life--politicians, jurists, executives with regulatory authorities and so on.

The goal is to establish not only dialogue among all the participants but also to forge ties that will meet participants' future needs. It's intended that the seminar will be followed up by a network of exchanges after the meeting.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).