06 May

Senate passes Internet sales tax in final vote, 69-27

The US Senate passed an online sales tax in a vote this afternoon after a heated final round of debate. A small group of anti-tax Republicans, as well as Democratic Senators from states without sales tax like Montana and Oregon, argued vociferously against the bill—but to no avail.

The final vote was 69-27, not much different than the 74-20 procedural vote that took place two weeks ago. The proposal has hardly changed at all in two weeks. The Marketplace Fairness Act, S.743, would allow states and localities to make Internet retailers collect sales tax from their customers if they do more than $1 million per year in out-of-state online sales.

The bill would allow states to write laws that would force e-commerce businesses to collect sales taxes. Right now consumers are supposed to keep track of any online sales and then report them to their state government and pay sales tax on the purchase. It still has to go through the House where passage is a little more rough but don’t be too shocked if in a few months you have to start investigating adding sales tax to any e-commerce software.

19 Jan

Electronic Frontier Foundation – The Internet at its Best

Today, we watch in awe as the Internet rallies to fight dangerous blacklist legislation, the PROTECT-IP Act in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House. The originality, creativity, and magnitude of action we’re seeing represents exactly what these bills would harm most: the value of a vibrant and open Internet that fosters these activities.

As the day goes on, we will continue to update you on Twitter (@EFF) and in this space. In the meantime, here are some of today’s #SOPAblackout highlights. Thank these organizations for their participation and go here to make your voice heard!

via Electronic Frontier Foundation – The Internet at its Best. EFF highlights some of the largest sites that participated in the SOPA/PIPA blackout.

16 Jan

O’Reilly Radar – The President’s challenge

All I can think is: we gave you the Internet. We gave you the Web. We gave you MP3 and MP4. We gave you e-commerce, micropayments, PayPal, Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, the iPad, the iPhone, the laptop, 3G, wifi–hell, you can even get online while you’re on an AIRPLANE. What the hell more do you want from us?

Take the truck, the boat, the helicopter, that we’ve sent you. Don’t wait for the time machine, because we’re never going to invent something that returns you to 1965 when copying was hard and you could treat the customer’s convenience with contempt.

via O’Reilly Radar – The President’s challenge. Cory Doctorow has a wonderful saying “Copying is never going to get harder than it is now.” The idea that we’ll be able to go back in time and make it harder for people to get digital information/media/anything is just wrong. Businesses (hello entertainment industry) seems to ignore that fact time and time again. Businesses can either accept that getting media via the internet is getting easier and easier and try to make it simpler for consumers to get it legally or they will fail.

16 Jan

ArsTechnica – Wikipedia to join reddit in SOPA blackout Wednesday

Seeking to “send Washington a BIG message,” Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has announced that the English version of Wikipedia will go dark on Wednesday to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act, anti-piracy bills now being considered by Congress.

“Student warning!” Wales tweeted on Monday. “Do your homework early. Wikipedia protesting bad law on Wednesday!”

He said the blackout, which is expected to last 24 hours, was a decision of the Wikipedia community.

via ArsTechnica – Wikipedia to join reddit in SOPA blackout Wednesday. I’ll also be posting a message to protest and inform people about PIPA and SOPA, though I imagine Wikipedia will have a much larger influence. Stop American Censorship is your one stop information portal to find out more about SOPA and PIPA and how these bills hurt the internet.

10 Nov

American Civil Liberties Union – It Was Close, But We Won: Viva Net Neutrality!

Today in the Senate there was a major win for freedom of speech and the Internet. In a largely partisan vote Senate Democrats defeated a resolution introduced by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) which would have overturned the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) open Internet rules that are set to go into effect this month.

Though the FCC’s rules are not great, they do offer some protections for net neutrality on the wired Internet and overturning them would have been a huge setback for free speech on the web. During debate on the Senate floor yesterday supporters of the resolution railed against government regulation while opponents defended the rules saying they were necessary to maintain the openness and innovation that has allowed the Internet to thrive.

via American Civil Liberties Union – It Was Close, But We Won: Viva Net Neutrality!. Yeah for Net Neutrality, boo for my State Senator being the one who introduced this resolution.

29 Oct

GeekWire – Gates to students: Don’t try to be a billionaire, it’s overrated

Bill Gates made a rare appearance at the University of Washington this afternoon, talking about how qualitative and measurable advances in technology are coming together for major advances in the areas he cares most about these days, including education and efforts to help the poor people of the world.

But the appearance in the UW Computer Science & Engineering Department was most memorable for the question-and-answer session with students at the end — including one student who asked Gates for advice on how she could become rich like him.

“I can understand wanting to have millions of dollars, there’s a certain freedom, meaningful freedom, that comes with that. But once you get much beyond that, I have to tell you, it’s the same hamburger. Dick’s has not raised their prices enough,” he said, referring to the Seattle-area fast-food chain. “But being ambitious is good. You just have to pick what you enjoy doing.”

Here are notes from the presentation and the Q&A session with students, not verbatim quotes but a shorthand summary to convey what was said as accurately as possible on the fly. You’ll find lots of little gems sprinkled throughout, particularly in the Q&A session.

via GeekWire – Gates to students: Don’t try to be a billionaire, it’s overrated. Some really interesting stuff in here.

27 Sep

Ars Technica – Three Senators condemn OnStar for tracking former customers

Three Senators have raised concerns about an announcement by GM’s OnStar’s subsidiary that it would continue collecting data from customers’ cars even after they cancelled their OnStar service. In a Wednesday letter to the company, Al Franken (D-MN) and Chris Coons (D-DE) warned that "OnStar’s actions appear to violate basic principles of privacy and fairness."

On Sunday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) raised objections of his own. He released a letter he has written to the Federal Trade Commission seeking an investigation of OnStar’s privacy practices. Schumer described OnStar’s new policy as "one of the most brazen invasions of privacy in recent memory."

via Ars Technica – Three Senators condemn OnStar for tracking former customers. Glad I don’t own a vehicle with OnStar installed. It’s more than a little sleazy to collect and sell information from former customers.

24 Sep

The White House – Direct the Patent Office to Cease Issuing Software Patents

The patent office’s original interpretation of software as language and therefor patentable is much closer to reality and more productive for innovation than it’s current practice of issuing software patents with no understanding of the patents being issued.

Under the patent office’s current activity, patents have been come a way to stifle innovation and prevent competition rather than supporting innovation and competitive markets. They’ve become a tool of antitrust employed by large companies against small ones.

To return sanity to the software industry – one of the few industries still going strong in America – direct the patent office to cease issuing software patents and to void all previously issued software patents.

via The White House – Direct the Patent Office to Cease Issuing Software Patents. Why haven’t you signed this petition?

28 Aug

Universal Hub – Court says state law used to ban recording of police officers in public is unconstitutional

A Boston lawyer suing the city and police officers who arrested him for using his cell phone to record a drug arrest on the Common won a victory today when a federal appeals court said the officers could not claim "qualified immunity" because they were performing their job when they arrested him under a state law that bars audio recordings without the consent of both parties.

In its ruling, which lets Simon Glik continue his lawsuit, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston said the way Glik was arrested and his phone seized under a state wiretapping law violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights:

via Universal Hub – Court says state law used to ban recording of police officers in public is unconstitutional. I could not be happier with this ruling.

02 Aug

This American Life – When Patents Attack!

Why would a company rent an office in a tiny town in East Texas, put a nameplate on the door, and leave it completely empty for a year? The answer involves a controversial billionaire physicist in Seattle, a 40 pound cookbook, and a war waging right now, all across the software and tech industries.

via This American Life – When Patents Attack!. Not upset enough about patents, spend an hour and you’ll get even more upset.