Tax, liability and encryption on the Internet were just some of the issues addressed at a meeting of high-ranking European ministers in Bonn, Germany. Though unlikely to be enshrined in law, the Bonn Declaration covered 69 key points relating to legal grey areas on the Net and is seen as a tentative step in providing a framework for international co-operation.
A Department of Trade and Industry representative said: "It's important that countries get together and agree the basic principles of how the Internet can move forward. It needs international co-operation to maximise the benefits of a medium that offers enormous potential."
On the issue of liability, ministers broadly agreed that what is illegal "offline" should also be illegal "online".
Internet service providers can breathe easier, following a decision to limit their liability in the event of users posting illegal material on their networks. In addition, the declaration states that it supports the idea of non-discriminatory taxes on the Internet but stops short of declaring it a tax-free zone.
VAT and other sales taxes that apply to goods bought in shops should apply to products and services ordered and delivered over the Internet. With regard to encryption, the US and Europe still have differences over the export of strong encryption technology.
The UK delegation was led by John Battle, Minister for Science and Technology, who said that progress could only be achieved through "increased dialogue and sharpening of common policies".
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