A host of Government consultations on the shape of new laws governing the internet are underway, according to Birmingham expert Andrew Sparrow.

He says the latest activity shows the process of regulating the internet is far from complete.

The laws cover clarifying whether downloads such as music, ebooks and mobile ringtones are "services", to setting the extent of legal liability for those providing search engine location tools.

Mr Sparrow, founder and principal lawyer with Lecote Solicitors, the Birmingham-based internet, IT and new media law firm, says those involved with internet business should be prepared for even greater legal control.

"This month sees the end of a consultation period instigated by the Department of Trade and Industry upon reform of the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations which first became law in 2002," he said.

"Two months later the Office of Fair Trading and the DTI want to conclude their dialogue with industry players on the revisions to the Distance Selling Regulations, which came into force five years ago

"Add to the above, further consultation efforts by the European Commission on the future of audiovisual content services over the internet by the so-called Television Without Frontiers Directive - which also ends in September - and one begins to grasp how the law is still never far from the online experience."

He added: "In addition to foreground legislative review there has also been hasty work undertaken by the mobile phone operators in revising their rules for ringtone subscription services following the much publicised Crazy Frog issue.

"The company behind the annoying animated motor cycle amphibian was reported to the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services (ICSTIS) by people who thought they had bought the ringtone for £3, only to find they had also unwittingly signed up for a subscription service costing £3 per week.

"Many of them were children and teenagers. The case has led to most of the mobile phone operators revising their code of conduct to avoid similar problems. The changes to the code have only just been made."

Amplifying some of the areas of law being updated, he continued: "The Distance Selling Regulations are being clarified on a range of issues.

"For example, sellers of downloads whether they be music, ringtones or screen savers will not be deemed to be selling goods.

"Such activity is a service and the consumer's right to cancel the contract can be avoided by the business selling these items online if the customer has agreed to the business starting the service before the end of the seven-day cancellation period.

"The business must provide the customer with necessary information and tell them that their cancellation rights will end once the service is started.

"This represents a significant development, as it clears up a point which has caused some confusion since download sales began.

"At the same time the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 are being updated.

"One aspect of the revision is to remove possible liability on the part of a content aggregator for providing a link to copyright material.

"The DTI wants to examine whether the current law is creating problems for providers of these services and if so, whether an amendment to the regulations is needed.

"The link from a content aggregator to a site containing, for example, music, potentially helps people copy that material.

"As one can infringe copyright by authorising another to do an act without the permission of the copyright owner the DTI feels it is arguable that the provision of the hyperlink may itself be copyright infringement.

"The Television Without Frontiers Directive is a review of the broadcast environment to accommodate the reality of broadband and 3G.

"Rather than purely TV, the proposals include what are being termed audiovisual content services to include the internet."