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Tech at Night: FCC Budget battle ahead, Marketplace Fairness sales tax compact, Boo on Rick Santorum’s censorship

Tech at Night

The FCC may yet get what’s coming to it. It’s been going out of its way to get headlines as it tries to pick winners and losers in industry, but now the attention is coming from the House as the Appropriations Committee will discuss the FCC’s budget. Prepare for hysterical shouting on the order of the SimCity 2000 Transportation advisor if the Republicans threaten to cut funding.

Also, we’re back to discussing the Marketplace Fairness Act. As we’ve discussed before, this is a bill that would give Congressional approval to an interstate compact between the states to collect sales tax across state lines, requires member states to harmonize their tax rules to fit in with the interstate system. The bill is gaining Congressional support this time around. In theory I’m fine with this. It’s Constitutional and it’s reasonable. I disagree with Overstock.com’s complaints of complexity, because the compact imposes restrictions on the way the states can tax items, and also creates mechanisms to ease collection of the taxes.

All I would ask is that we get some safeguards in that make it impossible to include any sort of national sales tax in the system. We don’t want Canada-style taxation through the back door.

Also, Tech at Night is sending a raspberry to Rick Santorum for his Internet censorship plans. Are there legitimate social reasons to restrict pornography? Yes, just like there are legitimate social reasons to restrict alcohol. But regulating vice is not a Constitutional role of the national government. Keep it local, I say. If we can have dry counties then we can have clean counties. But the last thing we want is to empower the next Eric Holder to regulate Internet content, thank you very much.

The aftershocks of the end of the copyright infringement haven Megaupload continue to hit the Internet. The courts are pressing Rapidshare to take precautions, and a group of ISPs is preparing proactive steps to prevent abuse of their resources. Note that BGR refers to this as affecting ‘downloaders,’ but it’s likely that in truth his is going after copyright infringers, including BitTorrent users who are uploading and downloading.

More on copyright: Copyright troll Righthaven is being put completely out of business, as the courts are stripping it of its copyrights in order to pay off its bills. Game over.

Funny note: While Sprint’s given up on Lightsquared (though the firm itself has little choice but to fight on) and Chuck Grassley is demanding transparently about the relationship between Lightsquared and the FCC, Alan Nunnelee is sticking up for them. Look, in concept I agree with him. But I think we need to know more about what Grassley is investigating before we defend them. Too much smoke not to check for a fire.

PATENT WARS: A previous Apple win in Germany is rolled back.

You know how I keep saying Anonymous is not the mass, anonymous, nebulous movement it claims to be? They seem to have admitted it themselves by claiming that Anonymous OS is ‘fake’. It can only be fake if there’s a specific, defined group that makes up Anonymous.

Does Google’s envelope-pushing innovation, and the risks that innovation entails, run the further risk drawing justified government action? I sure hope not, and I disagree with those who would say that they deserve it. If you find them ‘creepy,’ then use somebody else.

Iran attacks the BBC online. Here, again, is a case where domestic regulation wouldn’t really help. We need aggressive action against the bad guys, though of course that’s hard to do when the attackers are abroad. But trying to regulate the victims at home is not a legitimate substitute just because it’s easier.

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