cr> netizen’s Lambda Bulletin 2.05


Sender: •••@••.••• (Jerome Thorel)

netizen's --> Lambda Bulletin 2.05 <-- contents

+ Belgium discovers strong encryption rules; France will adopt electronic
+ France experiences its first online censorship trail
+ French Minitel (foolish) war on the Internet
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==+== Belgium discovers strong encryption rules; France will adopt
electronic locksmiths ==+==

After reports in two Belgian newspapers (De Standaart and Le Soir), it
turned out that Belgium had passed a law in late 1994 that positively bans
"non approved" encryption systems. This means that France is not alone to
block domestic use and distribution of strong encryption systems, since a
December 1990 law which came into effect in France in early 1993.

In its March 13 edition, French-speaking newspaper Le Soir ran a whole page
survey about the fact that a 21 December, 1994 law requires the telecom
state-own company Belgacom that any wiretap be possible for law enforcement
purposes. But little-known sections of the law state that no cryptographic
systems aimed at protecting privacy must block these wiretaps. Crypto
systems have to be "agreed" by the government's Institut Belge des postes
et telecommunications (IBPT). The author of Le Soir  article, Alain
Guillaume, speculates that this "agreement" means that encryption keys must
be kept by IBPT.

"The idea is neither new nor surprising," Guillaume writes. "To stop
criminals from hiding. (...) But does anyone believe that mafia gangs,
crooks or terrorists will leave their keys into IBPT hands?"

=+= France enthrone key escrow =+=

At the same time, France is keen to give up its isolationist position.
French telecom Minister François Fillon has prepared a sort of Telco Act "à
la francaise" -- new regulations to prepare the end of France Telecom
monopoly in 1998 -- in which encryption would be freed to allow the
emergence of "efficient electronic commerce". Under the new rules, special
"authorization" will no more be needed to use PGP-like tools, but every
user would be obliged to leave their keys in custody of so-called "trusted
third parties" (TTPs) agencies, a sort of "electronic locksmith", or
sollicitor, alternative. The option smells quite the same as Sen. Leahy
bill (Encrypted Communications Privacy Act of 1996, archived at, in which escrow agents
would hold keys.

In France no one knows who will play the role of "key escrow agent", but
sources said it may be some independent agencies. Independent? The
governement will anyway have to approve them, and Mr Fillon said France
will enthrone its first TTP "before the end of this year".

This bulletin and the British weekly Nature discovered last November that a
group of 18 European nations were soon to adopt this alternative
( /nature-eurottp.html). The UK and
Germany have declared themselves ready for such an alternative (see lambda
bulletin 1.06). Belgium, with its new iron bullet, would be keen to follow.

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==+== France experiences its first online censorship trail ==+==

On March 15, 1996 a French Jewish Student organization (UEJF) issued a writ
against 9 Internet Access Providers for "complicity" of Holocaust Denial
propaganda. The lawsuit (called "le référé") is a weapon well suited for
banning TV shows or books (Le Grand Secret, a book about the health of the
late President Mitterrand was banned that way a couple of months ago).

This was the first time a French Judge had to face the Internet content.
The UEJF didn't seem to know a lot about what they were trying to block,
but their lawyer argued that" the IAP are responsible for what's happening
behind the door of which they give the key". "The Internet must not become
the Latin america for neo-nazis", he said during the audience.

For additionnal news, see the report of the Lettre de l'Internet Juridique,
by Valérie Sedaillan, a French lawyer who was there during the trial

Excerpts :
        "The plaintiff asked the judge to give the defendants an injunction
with penalties in order to prevent their clients from connecting to
services that violate french law by allowing access to revisionist
information. Under French law revisionist speech is a criminal offense (loi

        "The law provides that those who contest publicly the existence of
various crimes against humanity ... will be punished by imprisonment of up
to one year or/and a fine of 300.000FF.

        "The Defendants have explained that they were providers of access,
not of content, and that the plaintiff's demand would force them to control
all messages content, information and access on all services, in real time
- which would be impossible to implement. They underlined the
discriminatory character of the proceedings since not all French Internet
Providers had been sued and [provided] the vague nature of the demand, with
no precise specifications about what messages and services were considered

        "Issues of International law and the fact that negationist messages
often come from persons located in the USA where they are protected by the
1st amendment of the American constitution have also been discussed.

        "Internet providers have pointed out that they were neither
administrators or managers of the Internet, which is a network built by the
users themselves.

        "A decision should be reached on April 12th 1996".

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==+== French Minitel (foolish) war on the Internet ==+==

Adminet, a French Web site created one year ago, was forced to change its
content because of "disturbing ressemblances"  with a (non existent)
official server of the French State. Christian Scherer, Adminet's
architect, is a civil servant in the French Ministry of Industry, but ran
Adminet as an unpaid and benevolent work.

You can find it now at -- there is an English version.
It's still alive, but the site has been partially purged of excerpts of Le
Journal Officiel, the 200-year old register which publishes every law,
decree or administrative document of the French Republic. But the "JO", as
we call it in France, has already its online release service : the Minitel.
People must pay around  FFr1,20 per minute to find JO references; other
similar services cost even  FFr9 per minute, around  US$2.

The minitel content provider, OR Telematique, is the only provider the JO
can afford for online communication, officials said. Even if there is no
copyright duty of any kind. Adminet is also providing a number of French
government official communiqués, and the "Marianne" logotype on the home
page was considered offensing by government officials, because this is not
an "official site" of the French Republic. But it succeeded to attract a
lot of foreign readers, even officials in French Ambassies abroad (from the
US, Canada, Japan, and also from African countries like Algeria, Zaire and
South Africa).

netizen's lambda bulletin (non-regular publication) is archived at

Jerome Thorel                           Planete Internet
Journaliste / carte n°72052             Tel : 64 68 04 04
Bureau perso:                           77420 Champs sur Marne
tel +331-40358010, fax-40370853

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