Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Back for a limited time - Get 15% off sitewide on Slashdot Deals with coupon code "BLACKFRIDAY" (some exclusions apply)". ×

Massachusetts Set To Repeal Controversial IT Services Tax 122

Nerval's Lobster writes "Massachusetts lawmakers have agreed to repeal a six-week-old tax on computer services that generated such outrage that even the governor who proposed the tax in January now opposes it. The 6.25 percent sales tax on 'computer system design services' was proposed by Gov. Deval Patrick in January, but got little notice before it was slipped in mid-July into a $500 million supplementary funding bill meant to pay for improvements in the state's public transportation system. It was passed by the legislature with almost no debate, was signed into law by the governor with little public outrage, and went into effect – theoretically – July 31. IT businesses in the state used social media, business associations and angry letters to both lawmakers and local media to describe problems with the tax and show their opposition. Confusion over what qualifies as a 'computer system design service' and how to actually implement the tax – which was supposed to generate $161 million in revenue for the state – has been such a challenge to implement that the state has yet to collect a dime. The main logistical problem is figuring out what is covered and what isn't: data access, data processing and 'information services,' for example, are not taxed, which exempts most hosting, cloud, outsourcing and remote-access monitoring or security services. Democratic leaders announced Sept. 12 they would support repeal of the tax, which could be completed within weeks. 'It is now evident that the impact of the tax is broader than any of us ever anticipated or intended,' according to Mass. Senate President Therese Murray at a press conference Sept. 12."
The Media

Is This the End of Righthaven? 71

New submitter Serpents writes "The new management of MediaNews Group (owner of the Denver Post) decided to terminate their contract with Righthaven. So far, the infamous copyright troll has lost all the infringement lawsuits they've filed (although it seems they've managed to settle out of court in a dozen cases or so). Is it possible this will finally spell Righthaven's doom?" The new CEO of MediaNews said that while the copyright issues are real, the involvement of Righthaven was "a dumb idea from the start."

US Senate Passes 'Libel Tourism' Bill 467

Hugh Pickens writes "AFP reports that the US Senate has passed (by a 'unanimous consent' voice vote) a bill that prevents US federal courts from recognizing or enforcing a foreign judgment for defamation that is inconsistent with the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech. If the bill becomes law it will shield US journalists, authors, and publishers from 'libel tourists' who file suit in countries where they expect to get the most favorable ruling. 'While we cannot legislate changes to foreign law that are chilling protected speech in our country, we can ensure that our courts do not become a tool to uphold foreign libel judgments that undermine American First Amendment or due process rights,' said Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy. Backers of the bill have cited England, Brazil, Australia, Indonesia, and Singapore as places where weak libel safeguards attract lawsuits that unfairly harm US journalists, writers, and publishers. The popular legislation is headed to the House of Representatives, which is expected to approve it. 'This bill is a needed first step to ensure that weak free-speech protections and abusive legal practices in foreign countries do not prevent Americans from fully exercising their constitutional right to speak and debate freely,' said Senator Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on Leahy's committee."

Judge Finds NSA Wiretapping Program Illegal 136

Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that a federal judge has ruled that the NSA's warrantless surveillance program was illegal, rejecting the Obama administration's effort to keep one of Bush's most disputed counterterrorism policies shrouded in secrecy. Judge Vaughn R. Walker ruled that the government had violated a 1978 federal statute requiring court approval for domestic surveillance when it intercepted phone calls of Al Haramain, a now-defunct Islamic charity in Oregon, and of two lawyers who were representing it in 2004. Declaring that the plaintiffs had been 'subjected to unlawful surveillance,' the judge said that the government was liable to pay them damages."

German Data Retention Law Ruled Unconstitutional 129

mseeger writes "The German Federal Constitutional Court has ruled the country's current data retention law unconstitutional. All stored telephone and email communication data, previously kept for six months in case it was needed by law enforcement, now must be deleted as soon as possible. The court criticized the lack of data security and insufficient restrictions for access to the data. The president of the court said continuing to retain the data would 'cause a diffusely threatening feeling of being under observation that can diminish an unprejudiced perception of one's basic rights in many areas.' While it doesn't disallow data retention in general, the imposed restriction demands a complete reworking of the law." An anonymous reader contributes the Court's press release and more information on the ruling, both in German.

Court Sets Rules For RIAA Hard Drive Inspection 470

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "In a Boston RIAA case, SONY BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum, the Court has issued a detailed protective order establishing strict protocols for the RIAA's requested inspection of the defendant's hard drive, in order to protect the defendant's privacy. The order (PDF) provides that the hard drive will be turned over to a computer forensics expert of the RIAA's choosing, for mirror imaging, but that only the forensics expert — and not the plaintiffs or their attorneys — will be able to examine the mirror image. The forensics expert will then issue a report which will describe (a) any music files found on the drive, (b) any file-sharing information associated with each file, and any other records of file-sharing activity, and (c) any evidence that the hard-drive has been 'wiped' or erased since the initiation of the litigation. The expert will be precluded from examining 'any non-relevant files or data, including ... emails, word-processing documents, PDF documents, spreadsheet documents, image files, video files, or stored web-pages.'"
The Courts

RIAA To Stop Prosecuting Individual File Sharers 619

debatem1 writes "According to the Wall Street Journal, the RIAA has decided to abandon its current tactic of suing individuals for sharing copyrighted music. Ongoing lawsuits will be pursued to completion, but no new ones will be filed. The RIAA is going to try working with the ISPs to limit file-sharing services and cut off repeated users. This very surprising development apparently comes as a result of public distaste for the campaign." An RIAA spokesman is quoted as saying that the litigation campaign has been "successful in raising the public's awareness that file-sharing is illegal."

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"