New Year, New Slate of “AWFUL” Internet Laws

by on February 18, 2010 · 0 comments

It was an awfully bad snowfall that paralyzed Washington, DC last week. And though we may curse Old Man Winter, ‘tis still the season for snow.  Unfortunately, it’s also the season for a flurry of bad legislation – and we’re already trying to dig-out the Internet from a pile of bad proposed state and federal laws.

So far this year there have been hundreds of bills introduced nationwide, many that impact the Internet. That’s why today NetChoice released its first iAWFUL list of 2010, taking stock of the most serious legislative threats facing the global Internet.

The Internet Advocates’ Watchlist for Ugly Laws (iAWFUL) is our top ten – or more accurately, “bottom ten” – list of the worst proposed Internet laws in America. We have Congress and 16 states represented on our list (the same bad bills often spread to multiple states).

Our #1 iAWFUL bill is a Congressional bill (HR4173) that would expand the FTC’s rulemaking power. Buried in the 1700 pages plus of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009 is a four page amendment to the FTC Act that would dramatically increase the FTC’s rulemaking authority. This expansion would mean the removal of significant procedural safeguards that have existed for the past thirty-five years. Given the aggressively pro-regulatory statements made by FTC officials on privacy and online media, expanded powers could do serious damage to online services and Internet innovation. Reporter Grant Gross wrote a good article recapping the issue here.

#2 on the iAWFUL list are the advertising nexus bills in Colorado (SB 1193), Illinois (SB 3353), Maryland (SB 824), New Mexico (HB 50), Virginia (SB 660) and Vermont (HB 661). These bills declare that some forms of Internet advertising are equivalent to having sales agents in their states.  All these states want to force out-of-state advertisers to collect and remit sales tax on sales to their residents. These nexus bills are popping up everywhere, whack-a-mole style.

Check out #3 – #10. Hopefully DC is done for the year with snow. Regardless, I’ll still need my snow shovel to help dig the Internet out from a blizzard of bad legislation.

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