Before today, we’ve never selected a state’s entire legislative agenda as the top item on our iAWFUL list of bad Internet laws, because no single state had ever made such a concerted effort to regulate, restrict and repress e-commerce.
California has always had a reputation for being pioneering.
Over the past six months, the Sacramento statehouse has unleashed a torrent of misguided, regressive bills targeted at the heart of the innovation industry that is at the heart of the economic recovery – not only in California, but across the nation.
Individually, none of these bills poses as much threat as the second item on our list – the federal Internet sales tax that topped the last iAWFUL – but taken together they not only represent a disturbing new trend of regulatory interventionism, but also a serious threat to the Internet economy.Read More
The Marketplace Fairness Act is a like a bad impressionist painting – it’s appealing at first glance, but the longer you stare the worse it looks. The Senate got around that problem today by making sure nobody had a chance to look too closely at this legislation. Thankfully for businesses and consumers, the House of Representatives won’t be so accommodating.
Today’s vote to limit debate on the ironically named Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA) effectively ends any chance that the Senate will fix the measure’s many crippling flaws before they pass it over to the House.
Cash-strapped state executives and big-box-store lobbyists finally got what they have been working for, a measure that adds tax burdens on small and midsized businesses around the country, without forcing states to go through with the vexing task of actually simplifying their Byzantine tax codes. The MFA contains none of the simplifications identified by the True Simplification of Taxation coalition and is actually worse for consumers than the bad bill that failed to move last year.Read More
Mandarin is a tricky language, but ICANN may want to learn the expression chóngfù before leaving the Beijing meeting. Chóngfù means “do-over” and that’s what ICANN needs to forestall an entirely preventable disaster in the delegation of new top-level domains (TLDs).
The issue of “string similarity” seems straightforward. Nobody inside ICANN or out there in the real world wants Internet users to be confused by new TLDs that are confusingly similar. Imagine hearing an ad offering low rates at car.loans but you encounter something completely different at car.loan instead? And what would stop somebody from launching a new TLD by just tacking an “s” onto popular domains like .com or .org?
The Government Advisory Committee (GAC) is catching a lot of flack for it’s Beijing Communiqué, but one thing the GAC got right was its advice that singular/plural strings are confusingly similar.
So how did we get to a point where ICANN inexplicably failed to find confusing similarity for 24 pairs of singular and plural forms of the same words, including .web /.webs, .game/.games, and .hotel/.hotels? More important, how do we fix this?Read More
Some things are tough work. Like becoming an astronaut, finding the Higgs boson, or running a marathon. It’s also tough work to design an entirely new tax regime for the Internet.
Tackling tough jobs requires discipline, training and patience. Shortcuts may feel good, but they often lead to failure, embarrassment or can even get you hurt. Last week’s Senate vote on a non-binding resolution supporting a new Internet sales tax is a shortcut something akin to …rollerblading in a marathon. A finish line was ultimately crossed, but some folks looked pretty silly doing it and the victory cheer rings hollow.
Fortunately, last week’s debate included wisdom from Senators who understand that short-circuiting debate on such an important issue is bad policy. Senator Max Baucus reminded his colleagues that they were voting on a “revolutionary” proposal that raised more questions than it answered.Read More
It’s Valentines Day, so Senator Durbin (D-IL) presented a box of chocolates to his colleagues in Congress – in the form of his latest iteration of the Marketplace Fairness Act. But bite into any of the chocolates in this legislation, and you’ll taste only stale rhetoric that fails to deliver on promised simplifications.
The main thing you need to know about the new Marketplace Fairness Act is that it is the same as the old Marketplace Fairness Act — including the same false promises and flaws. In the few weeks since the last Congress wisely declined to enact new Internet sales taxes, supporters have done nothing to make their scheme more appealing to businesses and consumers who’ll have to pay the taxes.
The legislation introduced today sweeps aside the decade-long “Streamlined Sales Tax” project that sought to simplify thousands of conflicting state and local tax systems. Instead, this bill would create an expensive and onerous new tax regime for any business that uses the Internet or catalogs to reach customers around the country.Read More
Have you ever wondered what happens to your Facebook or online email account when you die? Should your heirs get control of your digital assets?
Email services and social networks have default policies in place for handling accounts of deceased members. They are also experimenting with new ways to help users choose the fate of their accounts after they die.
For example, Facebook has a “memorialize” feature that respects a user’s privacy while letting friends and family post messages and memories. Hotmail allows next of kin to receive a DVD with the contents of the account. Some online services are attracting users because of their strong privacy protections and default data deletion policies.
So with all this innovation and choice, why do legislators think they still need to act?Read More
Today is Cyber Monday, where analysts are busy predicting online sales growth and political types use the day to advance policy remedies for the so-called “unfair” advantage held by online retailers like Amazon.
Advocates for new Internet sales taxes will cite Cyber Monday sales when claiming to defend Main Street small businesses, or to plug the massive budget holes facing states (see Michelle Quinn’s piece in POLITICO today). Like most complex policy issues, the truth is far more nuanced and the “fix” won’t be anywhere as beneficial as advocates promise.
Take for example California’s recent deal with Amazon to begin collecting sales taxes for online sales. Amazon has physical facilities in California and is therefore required to collect taxes under existing law, but tax advocates heralded the deal as a big win for small businesses losing out to online retailers.Read More
The latter half of 2012 is one of the heaviest periods of Internet governance activity ever, with three critical events that could change the course of the next decade. So it’s important to take a step back from the catchall phrase “Internet governance,” and ask what it even means… and why it really matters.
It started earlier this month in Toronto with the 45th meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), and continues through the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Baku, Azerbaijan in November. (NetChoice was a prominent actor at the ICANN meetings and will attend the IGF next week, too.) Then, December brings us the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai. Taken together, these events present a series of critical decision points for the Internet’s future.Read More