Government regulation is a fact of life for many Canadian industries. New media are not among them, and that's generally a good thing.But absent regulation, industries have both an incentive and a responsibility to act on their own. They should not wait to be told to do something - whether on privacy protection or objectionable content or dispute resolution or other issues. Start work in those areas now. Government expects it. First, I should qualify my comment about the lack of regulation. Various laws of the land do apply even in cyberspace and, according to a recent decision of the Canadian Industrial Relations Board, Internet service providers fit the definition of telecommunications providers and as such come under federal jurisdiction, with its myriad of laws. The strongest form of such regulation, the new federal privacy law, will apply to all companies handling personal data, with phased-in compliance starting January 1, 2001. Although companies will be forced to comply with it, at least the law incorporates a piece of self-regulation: a code of privacy protection that was developed in consultation with business and consumer groups. Second, the industry should count itself fortunate that the CRTC decided not to regulate new media services on the Internet (CNM, May 20/99). That does not mean, in the commission's view, that it cannot or should not regulate the Internet in the future. But I recall that about two and a half years ago, during a private conference I helped organize for government officials in Ottawa, a cross-industry working group advocated strenuously for alternatives to Internet regulation. There were some compelling examples of successful Canadian new media - without regulation to ensure Canadian content online. The industry has now reached a point where complacency could set in. Sure, there are concerns about security, viruses and other attacks on the Internet. But in terms of where regulation might apply, and preferably should not, new media companies have to act quickly. Consumer protection is doubtless one of the lynchpins to e-commerce's success. Dispute resolution is also garnering some attention vis-à-vis the online environment. The Canadian Association of Internet Providers, the Information Technology Association of Canada, and e-Team Canada (hatched from the Canadian E-Business Opportunities Roundtable), among other groups, are taking important steps to show how industry players can self-regulate. These groups seem to recognize that Canada has a very supportive policy environment for new media and e-commerce, as long as companies step up to the plate. Last September, an international ‘who's who' of new economy CEOs met in Paris at the Global Business Dialogue on Electronic Commerce. Canada's Industry Minister, John Manley, closed his speech with a warning: "if voluntary guidelines and self-regulation do not keep up with the explosion of cyberbusiness, be assured that governments worldwide will of necessity, respond to the needs and expectations of consumers, not to mention the demands of organizations that represent consumers." Point taken. Sarah Anson-Cartwright is a senior consultant at Global Public Affairs, a government relations and policy development company, with offices in Ottawa and Victoria BC.