If you’re doing business online, here are seven Internet lawyer predictions of what to expect in 2013.
The crystal ball might be cracked. However, if you own a website, it’s worth reading to see where Internet law is heading and how it can affect you.
1. Internet Sales Tax Spree
A broke Uncle Sam will raise revenue by passing a federal Internet sales tax in the interest of “fairness” (Marketplace Fairness Act, Main Street Fairness Act, We Want Your Money Fairness Act, etc.). More states will pile on to pass state Internet sales taxes too even though existing ones are being challenged as unconstitutional.
These are another big hurdle for small ecommerce websites. The big sites (Apple, Amazon, etc.) already have the infrastructure in place to handle collecting and remitting new sales taxes.
2. FTC Makes Headlines Protecting Children and Aspiring Business Owners
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will force a few bad apples into big settlements that grab headlines. These settlements will involve allegations that certain website owners violated the business opportunity rules that were updated in 2012 and the new children’s online privacy rules that go into effect July 1, 2013.
A few smaller fish will also get caught by the FTC too. The big fish make the headlines. The little fish are a reminder that the regulations apply to website owners regardless of size.
3. Internet Marketing Guru Witless Protection Program Expands
Flying Amelia Earhart Airlines, many of the Internet marketing gurus disappeared from the scene in 2012.
Some are broke. They can barely afford to renew their domain registration fees in order to sell recycled garbage.
Many are scared witless…they are keeping a low profile hoping that past marketing sins don’t land them in trouble with the government and private civil lawsuits. You’ll find them hawking “geolocal” and mobile marketing scams to small brick-and-mortar businesses.
Love him or hate him, Salty Droid / Jason Jones played a large part in exposing some of the worst deceptive and fraudulent practices online. Although I didn’t always agree with the targets he chose, at least 90% of the time he shed light on sociopaths and psychopaths who preyed upon ordinary people and fleeced them with info products that were either stale or never worked in the first place.
4. Stupid Federal Internet Privacy Laws Will Pass
Claiming to protect the Intertubes, bipartisan idiots will pass privacy legislation that does nothing to protect privacy but creates unworkable and burdensome mandates for website owners to comply with. These ignorant pointy-haired bosses will punt issue to the FTC to create regulations to enforce the bad law.
Somehow true Internet privacy protection never enters the mix. For example, congressional grifters will continue to turn a blind eye to federal, state, and local law enforcement searching your Gmail accounts without a warrant. Got to protect that “homeland security” after all by snooping through your email.
5. Social Media Sites Gut Internet Privacy – Nearly Everyone Yawns
Wall Street, and even journalists, are starting to figure out that having a big social media site that goes public is more like a pump-and-dump scheme because there’s little underlying revenue to support stock price.
Existing stockholders who overpaid (dupes) and venture capitalists wanting to go public with the “next Facebook” are going to demand some real revenues as part of the business model.
This means selling user data and intellectual property, and gutting social media privacy policies in order to legally do so. To be sure, there will be Instagram-type backlash by the same idiots who would be shocked to discover gambling exists in Las Vegas.
Yet 95% of users will accept modified privacy terms, no matter what they give away in the process, in order to keep using their favorite social media sites. The other 5% will quit and will be replaced over time.
6. Internet Gambling Interests Roll the Dice
Although unlikely to pass in 2013, major casinos will push hard for legalizing Internet gambling like the bill sponsored by Congressman Joe Barton. Some of these casinos have already inked joint venture deals with online gambling outfits that operate outside of the United States.
The coming year will set the stage for eventual passage of a federal Internet gambling bill. The primary roadblock in 2013 will be states that don’t want to lose revenues from their lotteries to online gambling.
Once the federal and state governments can agree on a system of divvying up the new tax revenue, online gambling will be sold/auctioned off to existing gambling powerhouses. The capital and regulatory requirements will make it difficult, if not impossible, for an entrepreneur to set up a startup to compete head-to-head with these interests.
7. SOPA/PIPA Piecemeal Passage
Hollywood’s trained monkeys, like Congressman Lamar Smith and former Senator Christopher Dodd, will cherry pick parts of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (PROTECT IP Act or PIPA) to pass into law in pieces under the public’s radar.
Having been cyber tarred and feathered in early 2012, these Honey Boo Boo rejects are likely to attempt passing bits and pieces of this bad legislation rather than repackaging all of it into a renamed bill that will face overwhelming opposition again. Knowing how UnRepresentative Smith and his ilk operate, you should expect parts to be attached as riders to appropriations and other key bills typically pass without controversy.
As a general rule, if an intellectual property bill is supported by Congressman Smith or his lobbyist cronies at the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) or the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the proposed legislation is bad for ecommerce, free speech, and intellectual property rights.
…That’s it for the coming year. If you’d like to see how well the crystal ball did for the past year, check out my Internet lawyer predictions for 2012.