France refers Skype to prosecutors after failure to register

France refers Skype to prosecutors after failure to register

Summary: French authorities have referred the Microsoft-owned division to Paris prosecutors for failing to declare itself as an electronic communications operator.

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TOPICS: Microsoft
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France has referred Skype, the Internet calling service, to prosecutors for investigation after failing to register as an telecoms company in according with the country's laws.

Screen Shot 2013-03-12 at 09.53.35
(Credit: Skype)

First noted by The New York Times, the move stirs debate over what exactly constitutes as a phone company in the digitally connected age, and the rise of Internet calling voice-over-IP offerings. For instance, video-calling features — which Facebook also includes as part of its service — could force others into registering in the country. 

French regulator Autorité de Régulation des Communications Électroniques et des Postes (ARCEP), the electronic communications regulatory authority, said in a press release (French) that it had "on several occasions" asked Skype, which is based in neighboring Luxembourg, to "declare itself an electronic communications operator," but it had not done so.

ARCEP says that if Skype can offer voice communications from a smartphone or computer, "this service constitutes furnishing a telephone service to the public." 

Skype does not need to obtain an administrative authorization to offer phone services in the country, only a "prior declaration." In failing to do so, prosecutors will determine whether Skype has broken the law and committed criminal offence.

"ARCEP therefore asked repeatedly for Skype to declare it as an operator of electronic communications, which it has not to this day," the regulator said.

In doing so, Microsoft-owned Skype would be subject to certain obligations under French law, such as routing emergency calls. It would also force Skype to allow French authorities to legally wiretap calls should they be needed for a federal or European investigation.

Skype has in recent weeks come under pressure for its links to China, which some privacy groups believe could be used to spy on and censor its users. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), among others, wanted Microsoft to provide details on the relationship between Microsoft-owned Skype and China-based TOM Online, in order to understand the surveillance and censorship capabilities that users may be subject to. 

Topic: Microsoft

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9 comments
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  • Again!

    Oh wait, it is owned by Microsoft. It probably deserves a multi-million fine.
    TheCyberKnight
    • Meh

      Well Microsoft seems to have a hard time following and respecting the law, willingly or not, and like any other convict in probation every new breach and "error" to its legal duties should see it back to jail. What isn't clear for you?
      sensi3
  • Correction

    "French authorities to legally wiretap calls should they be needed for a federal or European investigation."

    Neither France nor Europe are "federal". A correct term in this context would have been "national".
    sensi3
    • Probably meant American

      as I would think the requests from the US would top the requests from the cheese-eater police.
      Little Old Man
  • Google woudl be next

    Google Hangouts.
    Google Voice.
    Azzras
  • I'm curious

    As to when these requests started. Did they start prior to Microsoft's purchase of Skype or after? We know that the EU has a hard on for Microsoft so it will be interesting to see if these requests are a result of that or just the government doing it's job.
    athynz
    • References?

      "We know that the EU has a hard on for Microsoft ..."

      Any proof/references? Beyond requiring them to conform to the same laws as everybody else, I mean?
      radleym
  • It would be nice for Skype to add 911 support.

    It would be nice for Skype to add 911 (or equivalent in other nations) support.

    "It would also force Skype to allow French authorities to legally wiretap calls should they be needed for a federal or European investigation."

    I'm sure with a warrant, they can do that regardless. Their laws would have to be pretty wonky if they required something to be called an "electronic communications operator" to wiretap it.

    But then again, this is France - they're known for some pretty wonky laws :/.
    CobraA1
  • [...] they're known for some pretty wonky laws

    But then again, this is - they're known for some pretty wonky laws :/.

    Or even better:
    But then again, this is humanity - we're known for some pretty wonky laws :/.

    :)
    mack.