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Telecommunications, Internet, and Media - Fall Conference in Berlin

AmCham Germany’s Telecommunications, Internet, and Media Committee (TIM) held its third annual Fall Membership Conference with federal representation from Saarland in Berlin on November 10, 2004.

Dr. Gunnar Bender from Time Warner, Chairman of the TIM Committee, welcomed the group and reported on TIM’s activities over the past year. One event in particular was the recent committee meeting in September with Dr. Georg Starke from the Federal Ministry of Consumer Protection, Food, and Agriculture.

The conference participants not only comprised of AmCham Germany members, but also telecommunications and media experts from the Federal Ministry of Economics and Labor, as well as representatives from major parliamentary parties and numerous NGOs. This year’s conference was made possible through generous support from AOL, Nortel Networks, QSC, Microsoft and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr.

At the heart of the meeting were two panel discussions. In the morning, Dr. Elmar Hucko from the German Ministry of Justice, Dr. Regina Wollersheim from the Ministry of Consumer Protection, Dr. Günter Krings, Member of Parliament, and Johannes Klingsporn, General Manager of the German Association of Film Distributors, discussed the implications of a drafted second basket of copyright regulations for consumers. TIM was more than up-to-date on this topic, as officials from both ministries stressed: The discussion at the conference anticipated the internal coordination between their authorities. The provision whereby opinions differed most widely, was the so-called “bagatelle clause” exempting illegal copying from prosecution when copies are limited in number and made available for private use only. Naturally, the panelists’ wishes for changes in the draft varied widely. As Dr. Hucko stressed, the current proposal is a compromise trying to accommodate very diverse interests, and he expects that a lot has yet to be changed before the proposed copy right regulation is written into law.

The afternoon discussion focused on “Voice over Internet Protocol” (VoIP), particularly its innovative potential on the one hand and the necessary amount of government regulation on the other. The panel included Dr. Cara Schwarz-Schilling (RegTP), Gerd Eickers (QSC), Dr. Holger Hegemann (Nortel Networks) and Dr. Natalie Lübben (Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr). Having already been used by computer enthusiasts for several years, VoIP currently looms large as a topic, as it is on the verge of becoming a substitute for regular telephone service. Besides several positive effects with regard to telephone numbers, Gerd Eickers considers the tremendous cost reduction, as soon as VoIP is applicable to mobile phones via W-LAN access, to be its biggest advantage. The company representatives on the panel stressed a need for regulation to maintain fairness on the playing field, but also asked for as little government interference into the market as possible in technical areas in order not to endanger the huge innovative potential inherent in VoIP. Dr. Schwarz-Schilling announced that the requirement for companies to enable emergency calls would not become too restrictive. Currently, it is not yet technically feasible to locate a VoIP user in the case of an emergency if the individual gains access from different places. With regard to numbers, two options, namely geographical as well as non-geographical telephone numbers, will be offered. However, the use of a local number by a person not residing in the corresponding area should be prevented.

Finally, another key element of the program was the so-called “Berliner Showcase.” In the early afternoon, participants enjoyed presentations on a project testing broadcast reception via mobile phone, on globally leading visualization software developed in Berlin as well as the making of Hollywood style movies in the German capital

Thanks to our sponsors AOL,QSC, Nortel Networks, Microsoft, ad Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP.