Skype legal battle raises its head

As a telecommunications company, Skype faces a number of legal obligations

Internet call operator's flotation on US stock exchange resurrects row over whether it is legal in France

INTERNET call service Skype could find itself in renewed legal difficulties with the French telecoms authority.

Skype, which since 2007 has been subject to a legal complaint from the French telecoms authority Arcep, has flouted a number of French laws from its European base in Luxembourg.

However, as the company prepares to float itself on the US stock market later this year, such background legal rows could affect the value of the firm unless dealt with.

Arcep claims that as the Skype network not only allows computer-to-computer calls but also computer-to-phone calls, it is a telephone operator, not a software company.

According to journalist Emmanuel Paquette, writing on the Tic et Net blog of L'Express magazine, Arcep has demanded that Skype, like other phone operators, must contribute to the maintenance of the telephone network in France and conform to French laws.

These include allowing calls to be intercepted for security purposes, allowing calls to the emergency services, and allowing users to take their number with them when they leave.

Arcep says bosses at Skype face prison of up to one year and a fine of €75,000 for providing a commercial or public communications system without making the necessary legal declarations.

Furthermore the company is obliged to contribute toward national communications services by paying charges to finance the upkeep of public telephone boxes and directories.

The legal dispute could be resurrected as Skype looks to float itself on the US stock exchange where questions over its legality in certain countries could affect the valuation of the company.

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