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An edition of the Economist last November was uncharacteristically effusive about the blockchain. On the cover, it called it “The Trust Machine”, and said that it is a technology that “could change the world’.

In a lead article, it explains that the “blockchain lets people who have no particular confidence in each other collaborate without having to go through a neutral central authority. Simply put, it is a machine for creating trust. … it is a shared, trusted, public ledger that everyone can inspect, but which no single user controls.”

Then, in January, the UK Government’s Chief Scientist, Sir Mark Walport, published a report setting out how distributed ledgers could transform the delivery of public services.

The first industrial revolution, which began in the 1750s, lasted for between 80 to 100 years. The pace of technological change today encourages us to believe that the second industrial revolution (IR2) will be completed at much greater speed. So if we take the mid-1980s as a starting point, with the emergence of optical disk technologies into consumer markets, you would expect us to be well on the way to completion, 30 years into IR2.

Andrew Gray represents Conscious Solutions

New rules about the use of cookies came into effect in the UK on 26 May 2011. Many people have asked what impact the new rules will have on users of their websites and what they need to do to ensure compliance with the new law. This article answers those questions.

A key functionality of social networking services is the ability of the user to “import” the contact details of existing friends and acquaintances. This functionality is a simple technological solution that relies on the sharing of personal information – which is what online networking is all about – so it is essential to know how to make the most of it in a non-intrusive and responsible way.

The long-awaited European Court of Justice (ECJ) decision as to whether Google’s AdWords service constitutes trade mark infringement has been reached.

Internet cookies have been in the spotlight under EU data privacy law for quite some time. When the European Parliament was formally asked to consider the original draft of the e-privacy directive by the European Commission in August 2000, nobody knew what type of requirements would end up applying to one of the most frequently used tools on the web. However, when in October 2001, the Parliament issued a substantially revised version of the draft directive incorporating a prior consent requirement for the use of cookies, it became clear that this was a sensitive and controversial issue.

Following the article in the November/December 2009 issue on the Google Books settlement, here is an update.

Copyright, in various guises, has featured heavily in the media this year, being in the spotlight at both legislative and judicial level, with high profile decisions in UK and EU courts, and numerous papers, reports, consultations and reviews at UK and EU level. In addition, developments in consumer expectations, business models, and technological innovations have fuelled the international debate over whether copyright is fit for purpose in the digital age.

The Google Books settlement, if approved, will constitute a significant development in the area of copyright, particularly digital copyright, in both the US and the rest of the world.

One of the key elements of Web 2.0 is that content is created by the users and not the service provider (hence, “user-generated content” or “UGC”). This presents the risk that a service provider could be liable for content which it hosts but did not create. Liability could be for infringement of intellectual property, defamation or criminal liability for illegal content. For service providers (SPs) who supply Web 2.0 platforms, the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 provide considerable comfort.

“Law 2.0”, “digital media law”. Great tag lines but is it all “sound and fury”, signifying nothing new? After all, there are plenty of examples of how existing laws are being applied to the online world. Are the law and Web 2.0 an odd couple fated to be forever out of sync? Alternatively, are we moving slowly but inexorably to a position where the law will move seamlessly between the digital and physical worlds?

We do not generally cover books in the Newsletter but occasionally there are exceptions – and Internet Law and Regulation by Graham Smith and other lawyers at Bird & Bird, now published in its fourth edition, is an exception. Graham has been writing and editing editions of this book for 11 years and is one of the leading internet lawyers in the UK.