Hatch to Napster Judges: Not So Fast

U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, sent a letter (Reuters) to the federal appeals court hearing the Napster case after the Clinton administration said the government believed Napster Inc. was violating the copyright law.

“I thought it important that the court be under no misapprehension that the (DOJ) brief necessarily expresses the view of Congress in this matter,” Hatch said.

Wow. Maybe there’s hope yet.

“Death Taxes” and Lies

The forces who want to kill off estate taxes haven’t succeeded in getting the law changed, but their PR campaign to call these levies “death taxes” has succeeded. And partly as a result, they’re getting close to an outright repeal. The fact that it would further widen the divisions between the ultra-wealthy and the rest of society is, apparently, irrelevant to policy makers.

Let’s remember what an estate tax actually is. It’s not a tax on the person who died. It’s a tax on a gift to the survivor. That is, it taxes income to the survivor. We tax income in this country, as we should.

The rich and powerful don’t think they should pay any taxes, of course. And they particularly loathe taxes on unearned income, the money created by appreciation of assets, for example. In a society that gave a damn about justice unearned income would be the most heavily taxed of all, because people who actually work for a living deserve the most breaks.

Raise the level at which the inheritance tax kicks in. But don’t repeal it.

Silicon Valley Still Cooking

The Silicon Valley 150 kept roaring ahead during the first half of the year. Everyone knows it can’t last forever, but this is one amazing ride.

AT&T and BT

Wall Street Journal: AT&T to consider link ups with British Telecom units. While the two sides haven’t ruled out a complete merger, AT&T will now focus on merging specific operations, such as AT&T’s business-services division with BT’s business-customer unit.

Peculiar deal, if it’s happening. Two of the oldest and, apparently, clumsiest of the old guard don’t seem likely to put together anything that leverages their strengths. As David Isenberg has said, this deal sounds like one plus one equals one, value subtracted.

Domain Name System Follies, Part 11,434

Wired News: Internet Land Rush at Trademark Office. Individuals and companies are filing trademark applications for trademarks that include domain names in yet-to-be-created top-level domains (TLD) like .web,.firm and .sex.

Since the World Intellectual Property Organization tends to hand over domain names to people holding trademarks, these moves are designed to preserve names when or if new top-level domains actually happen.

In other words, people are thinking way ahead. By the time ICANN does its job (ha) it will be too late. The real answer to this problem is an unlimited number of TLDs, but that would annoy powerful people and corporations. We can’t have that, can we?

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