Skype Could Face Penalties For Not Registering As A Telecom
March 12, 2013

Skype Could Face Penalties For Not Registering As A Telecom

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

For some, it may be hard to define Microsoft´s Skype business. The VoIP service works like a phone company by connecting one another via voice calls, yet it also uses the Internet, not traditional phone wire, to make these calls.

According to the New York Times, French regulators believe Skype works more like a telephone company and has now asked prosecutors to investigate the business after it refused to register the company as a telecommunications operator.

“The company Skype Communications SARL (hereinafter, the "Company Skype"), whose registered office is established in Luxembourg, offers French Internet services that allow phone calls, or from a terminal connected internet, for example a computer or smartphone, using the software provided by another group company Skype, Skype Software SARL company,” reads a translated press statement from France´s telecom regulator, known as ARCEP.

“If all services provided by the company Skype does not constitute electronic communications services, as seems to be the case, however, the service allows users located in France call from their computer or smartphone, landlines and mobile in France or elsewhere in the world. In fact, this service is to provide public telephone service,” continues the translated statement.

According to the Times, operating as a telecommunications company could be tricky for Skype. Under French law, any company registered as a telephone company must handle the routing of emergency calls as well as make accommodations for French officials to conduct “legal wiretapping.”

The issue of cooperating with law enforcement to use Skype for surveillance means has come under scrutiny in year´s past. According to Ars Technica, Skype has admitted to working with law enforcement whenever possible or when legally bound ordered to.

“As was true before the Microsoft acquisition, Skype cooperates with law enforcement agencies as is legally required and technically feasible,” explained Skype in a statement to the Washington Post last year.

The Microsoft-owned company has said that they´ve made text chats, user information and “more” available to the police in the past. They´ve also claimed that though real-time audio and video surveillance is “impractical” at present, they may be able to one day deliver these services once “Skype becomes one of the world´s most popular forms of telecommunication.”

According to French law, not declaring a company as a telecommunications outfit is a criminal offense. Therefore it is punishable as such, leading ARCEP to hand over this matter to French prosecutors. In a statement to the French authorities, Microsoft´s Skype said they are “not a provider of electronic communications services under French law,” though they have agreed to continue working with the prosecutors to reach an agreement.

The New York Times suggests this latest development is yet another way the French government has been working to gain control over Internet companies which have played a significant role in communication. President François Hollande proposed an Internet tax earlier this year which would be enforced on all Internet companies who collect personal data. French regulators have also recently asked Twitter to identify people behind user accounts who Tweet racist and insensitive comments.