A bipartisan offender: The Internet Radio Fairness Act

We are stunned by how little attention has been paid to the treacherous parts of the so-called Internet Radio Fairness Act — the parts that have nothing to do with the royalty rates paid to artists and everything to do with shutting down speech and agency capture.
Among other things the bill would stand antitrust law on its head, and would permit dominant players like Sirius XM and Clear Channel to sue any group of sound recording owners — any — if they “impede” the efforts of these two behemoths to make direct licensing deals with record companies.


Unfair taxes burden online holiday shoppers

In the past decade, the holiday shopping has become easier, as many consumers are forgoing packed malls and purchasing their gifts online instead. This means a holiday shopper in a small town can access many of the same goods and services once available only to those in big cities. However, greater consumer choice has its disadvantages, especially unfair tax burdens associated with the sale of digital goods and services.
Why are these particular taxes so high? Basically it is because there is no regulation governing which jurisdiction has the right to tax digital commerce, meaning that there can be multiple taxes levied on a single purchase.


Electronic privacy deserves a bipartisan upgrade

Today, if the police want to come into your house and take your personal letters, they need a warrant. If they want to read those same letters saved on Google or Yahoo they don’t. The Fourth Amendment has eroded online.

Americans for Tax Reform and the American Civil Liberties Union are members of the Digital Due Process Coalition, a wide-ranging group of privacy advocates, think tanks and businesses, like Microsoft, Google, Apple, AT&T, that often disagree on different issues. However, we can agree on consistent privacy protection for digital documents. 


Spectrum uncertainty hurting investment on digital highway

Uncertainty: One of the greatest challenges facing today’s innovators, entrepreneurs and investors. Businesses have roughly $2 trillion idled on their balance sheets, capable of more productive immediate and long-term investment, but they lack visibility into future consumer demand and global growth. Given Europe’s ongoing sovereign debt crisis, China’s slowing growth, increasing protectionism in the developing world and immediate risks that the American economy will go “off the fiscal cliff,” potential employers are understandably reluctant to hire. Absent greater investment and new jobs, consumers are more cautious. A vicious economic cycle churns. Growth stalls.


Internet Radio Fairness Act undermines value of music and copyright

It is expected that the House Judiciary Committee will soon hold a hearing on H.R. 6480, the Internet Radio Fairness Act, introduced by Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), and there will be a lot of talk about fairness and music royalty rates. Arguments will be made for Congress to change the rate standard under which Internet radio pays record labels and artists in such a way that allows Internet radio to pay far less in royalties. 

But the proposals being discussed are far from fair.


Sandy a wake up call for voting contingency planning

The complications of Hurricane Sandy should prompt state and federal governments to adopt contingency plans for general elections.

Officially, the Atlantic Hurricane season lasts from June 1 to November 30. Every two years, Election Day occurs on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November and therefore takes place during hurricane season. Recent events have demonstrated how unpredictable and devastating weather patterns can be and will be in the future.


First lesson of Superstorm Sandy: Improve communication

As the recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy continues, questions are being raised about our nation’s preparedness for emergencies. On Friday, November 9, 2012, it was reported that two Congressmen, U.S. Representatives Peter King and Steve Israel, were requesting that the military assume control of Long Island Power Authority in an effort to restore electricity to more than 150,000 homes and businesses. I was one of the affected residents, who struggled to provide heat and some semblance of normality to my wife and four children.

In the aftermath of a hurricane, or other disaster, communications are a challenge but municipal executives are charged with contingency planning. Cellphone communications were often scant but information eventually flowed through and residents became aware about school closings and other community events because there was an alert system. To my knowledge, LIPA had no such system in place, which should be a requirement of all utility companies.


Public investments helped pave the information superhighway

In our national discourse, Americans often express concern over "big government" and offer a steady stream of admiration for "small business." As a small business owner, though, I often have to wonder if we're really thinking about what we're saying.


What consumers want in FTC v. Google

The press is on fire with dozens of stories that the FTC appears poised to sue Google for alleged anticompetitive conduct in search (and the possibility that any case may be settled). There certainly is no lack of well-paid advocates for aggrieved rivals ready to spin claims that Google is the next Microsoft and that FTC action is necessary to open the market to competition. But while these advocates are making a lot of noise, consumers are almost entirely silent. Indeed, unlike almost all of the recent antitrust wars such as the AT&T/T-Mobile and Ticketmaster/LiveNation mergers, or even the DOJ case against Microsoft, in which there was a groundswell of consumer opposition that spurred the antitrust cops, when it comes to search, consumers are entirely silent.

For good reason.


Google's data-collecting habits drawing more scrutiny

Earlier this month, European Union regulators informed Google that they’re unhappy with Google’s new privacy policy and that it will need to make changes to better protect the privacy of its users. The concern arises over how Google is collecting users' data and what they’re doing with it, and in turn how they’re informing their users on how they’re collecting and what they’re using it for. The EU would like clearer language, in a more understandable less legalese format, so that the average user can clearly understand what’s taking place when the use Google products.