Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Flat Tax Revolution Continues in Eastern Europe-Free-market government in Macedonia to adopt flat tax in 2007
WASHINGTON, DC – The flat tax revolution taking place in eastern Europe has spread to Macedonia: The new free -market government, led by 36 year-old Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, has adapted a flat 12 percent personal income tax rate for 2007. In 2008 the rate will drop to 10 percent, making it the lowest in the world along with the nations of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. A government statement said: “This step should decrease tax evasion and r of eastern European countries, many of them former Communist nations, moving tstimulate taxpayers to meet their obligations to the state. It would also encourage foreign investors to put their money in Macedonian business, knowing that taxes are low.”

While most advanced nations in the West had flat tax rates prior to the influence of Marxism, the modern flat tax movement in Europe began in 1994 -- with Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania leading the way. Earning their distinction as the “Baltic Tigers”, the three countries experienced an influx of foreign investment, a drop in unemployment rates, and staggering growth in GDP. Such positive results did not go unnoticed by the neighbours, as the resulting wave of “tax competition” has now spread to ten eastern European countries, with the Macedonia's being the most recent to adopt the flat tax and compete for foreign investment. To protect the flat tax, a new taxpayer group has formed by the name of “Macedonia Citizens for Tax Reform”.

“In a global economy, capital naturally flows to areas of least resistance, which is why we are seeing such explosive growth in flat-tax countries,” said Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform. “It is ironic to witness the numbeo tax simplification,” continued Norquist, “while the American system of taxation is moving in the opposite direction.”

Monday, August 21, 2006

Unmasking Bloggers

An interesting recently-filed lawsuit raises the issue of whether a company can file a lawsuit just to find out the identity of an anonymous blogger in order to fire him.
The case involves an employee of Allegheny Energy Service who posted an anonymous comment to a Yahoo! message board devoted to his company. He made the posting from his home computer. In the post, he attacked the company's management as well as the company's diversity program, using a racial slur in the process.
The company filed a "John Doe" lawsuit against the anonymous blogger for a tort claim of "breach of fiduciary duty and breach of duty of loyalty." The employee was completely unaware that a lawsuit had been filed against him.
Three months after filing the lawsuit, the company filed an emergency motion to prevent "John Doe" from posting more messages. It claimed that Doe's posting violated the company's anti-harassment policy. The company obtained a subpoena and served it on Yahoo. Yahoo sent an email to the employee that Yahoo would respond within 15 days unless the employee filed a motion to quash. The employee claimed he never received the email. Yahoo subsequently turned over the employee's identity to Allegheny Energy. Afterwards, Allegheny Energy filed papers to discountinue its civil action against the employee. The employee was then fired for making the racial slur.
The employee has now sued, claiming: (1) abuse of process; (2) wrongful use of civil proceedings; (3) intrusion upon seclusion; (4) public disclosure of private facts; and (5) wrongful discharge.
Had the subpoena been challenged, many courts would have been reluctant to enforce the subpoena for the employee's identity. The First Amendment protects the anonymity of speakers. As a result, to obtain an anonymous speaker's identity, the company would have to establish that it had a bona fide case that could withstand a motion to dismiss -- and even, as one court held in a recent case, a motion for summary judgment. I don't know much about the merits of the cause of action that the company brought its case under, but I'm dubious about it given that the case was devised solely to unmask the employee's identity.
The filing of the lawsuit with the primary motive of obtaining the employee's identity strikes me as an improper use of the legal process. This cause of action is outside my expertise, so I really can't assess how strong a case the employee has.
The employee may have a strong claim for intrusion upon seclusion. The company deliberately sought to ferret out information about the employee that was private. The key issue will be whether the method of filing a lawsuit to obtain the information is highly offensive to a reasonable person, which it must be in order for the employee to prevail on this claim.
The claim for public disclosure, however, is weaker, in that the disclosure of the employee's identity was only done to other company employees. The tort requires widespread disclosure, and this disclosure may not be widespread enough. There are, however, a minority of jurisdictions that will allow for a case where the disclosure is to a more limited audience.
I also wonder about the employment law issues. I'm not an expert here, but can a person create a hostile work environment by posting something on the Internet while at home and not at work? Was the termination of the employee against public policy? If it was based on the wrongful obtaining of his identity, then it very well might be.
The case also raises larger policy issues about employee speech and privacy outside of the workplace. The comment made by the blogger was quite offensive. He wrote: "[W]e were force fed ‘love thy n*****’ with [Allegheny Energy’s] DIVERSITY program." Should a company have any business in finding out which employee made this comment and disciplining him even though he made the comment at his home?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

"KАZAA" со лисици

Kazaa Settles Copyright Action
Kazaa settles its copyright infringement action brought against it by various music and video trade entities for over $100 million dollars in penalties. Kazaa had been found liable by Australian courts for copyright infringement through its file sharing arrangement. Kazaa says they will block members from sharing infringing files and will seek to become a partner in legitimate digital file distribution.
Kazaa said that once the transition is complete, it looks forward to being marginalized as an exciting new legal distribution service since it is neither Apple nor Microsoft as a content provider or market leader. Sorry, made that last one up. One question, however. Will Kazaa legal downloads still come with spyware? If so, they can potentially partner with Sony BMG.

The company that runs Kazaa, the immensely popular peer-to-peer sharing network, agreed today in an out-of-court settlement to pay compensation to music and movie companies and also to introduce filtering technologies that deter consumers from infringing on copyright rules.
The far-reaching settlement announced by Sharman Networks seeks to regulate the vast digital marketplace for music and ensure that millions of Kazaa's on-line audience will no longer be able to distribute and share files that infringe on copyrights.

A statement by the trade organizations representing international and American recording industries claimed that Kazaa's activities had damaged the music industry immensely and hurt their legitimate digital business growth. It also stated that at its peak, Kazaa had 4.2 million users worldwide and in May 2003 its owners said it had 239 million downloads, the most at that time for any software.
Kazaa's Web site called it a "historic turning point" for both the technology and content industries and said it would "clear the way to enable distribution of the broadest range of licensed content over Kazaa."
"This settlement marks the dawn of a new age of cooperation between [peer-to-peer] technology and content industries which will promise an exciting future for online distribution in general and Kazaa users in particular," said Nikki Hemming, chief executive of Sharman Networks, which is headquartered in Sydney, Australia.
According to the Associated Press, Kazaa has agreed to pay more than $115 million in penalties to leading music and movie companies and has promised to redesign its program to block customers who try to find and download copyrighted music and movies. Kazaa's popularity declined in recent years because of concern over "spyware" monitoring programs and the emergence of more efficient downloading services, said the news agency.
A recent report by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), "Protecting Creativity in Music" reports on a number of unauthorized services in the digital music market that have put an end to their copyright-infringing activities and shifted to legitimacy -- including Grokster, iMesh and Bearshare in the United States, Ezpeer in Taiwan, Soribada in South Korea.
A landmark ruling by the Federal Court of Australia last year found Kazaa guilty of authorizing widespread copyright infringement. In June 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that individuals or companies that promote copyright theft by users of Grokster and Streamcast for copyright infringement can be held responsible. Subsequently Grokster settled the case with the record labels and motion picture studios.
"This is the best possible outcome for the music industry and consumers," John Kennedy, chairman and chief executive officer of IFPI, said in a written statement. "Our industry will have a new business partner and consumers will experience new ways of enjoying music online, with more choice. This is a win-win scenario."
Kazaa's owners said they would be working with the music and motion picture companies to make peer-to-peer an integral part of the future of online digital entertainment.
"It has been our long standing goal for Kazaa to play a significant role in the growing market for licensed online distribution and authorised exchange of copyrighted content using peer-to-peer technology, and this settlement ensures that we will be working together with the content providers to the benefit of consumers, businesses and artists," said Sharman's chief Hemming.
"This meaningful decision has helped bring legal and moral clarity to the marketplace," said Mitch Bainwol, chairman and chief executive officer of the Recording Industry Association of America.