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iAWFUL Legislation 2015: Death, Taxes and Trade Secrets

iAWFUL Legislation 2015: Death, Taxes and Trade Secrets

WASHINGTON, April 14, 2015 — They say nothing is life is guaranteed except death and taxes. But now state legislators around the country are trying to open your private communications after you die, turn Internet retailers into tax tattle tales, and force trade secrets to be revealed to unauthorized repair shops.

Many pieces of legislation across the country were worthy of review, but only seven were deemed iAWFUL enough by NetChoice to make the latest version of the association’s ranking of state and federal bills that limit competition, innovation and customer choice. (

Since 2009, the iAWFUL (Internet Advocates’ Watch list for Ugly Laws) list has been dedicated to tracking the worst Internet laws in America.

Fortunately, sunlight and common sense can usually stop bad ideas from being law – and your problem. So, let’s take a look at the worst that lawmakers have to offer so far this year. Additional details about each iAWFUL bill can be found at

#1 States Want Your Privacy to Die with You

(AR HB1362), (FL HB313/SB102), (IL SB1376), (IN SB368), (IA SB1238), (KY SB53), (MA HB1287), (MI HB4072), (MN HF200/SF476), (OR SB369), (TN HB774), (TX HB2183)

What happens to your online accounts, messages, and photos after you die? If you don’t give permission beforehand, would you want an estate manager to have access to everything? That’s exactly what estate attorneys are seeking with legislation in several states that would open up your online accounts after you die, whether you approved or not. That not what Americans want: More than 70 percent of Americans think that their private online communications and photos should remain private after they die – unless they gave prior consent for others to access. In addition, 70 percent also felt that the law should err on the side of privacy when someone dies without documenting their preference about how to handle their private communications and photos.

#2: Internet Sales Tax

(US S698)

Despite losing year after year, the tax collectors continue to try to force small businesses to collect sales tax for up to 10,000 local jurisdictions and file returns with 46 states.  That means small businesses – like your neighbor who’s trying to make a living — will drown in red tape. And the winner here?  Big box stores and certified sales tax software providers, one of whom is telling investors that MFA will bring them a windfall of up to $1.5 billion a year. This tax grab continues despite clear opposition by the American public (NTU MFA Assessment).

#3 – Shifting the Burden of Tax Collection

(AR SB527), (UT SB125)

Two states considered laws that would harm in-state businesses just to extract a small increment of sales tax from their citizens’ pockets.

At the last minute, the New York state assembly wisely dismissed the governor’s proposal to force marketplaces to collect taxes for sales made by other sellers.

Arkansas’s purchase reporting bill threatens citizen privacy (AR SB 527).  This bill exposes private purchases to potential abuse and leaks by the state’s tax department.

#4 – Placing First Amendment Restrictions on License Plate Photos

(GA HB93), (VT S18)

New bills in Illinois, Vermont and Georgia limiting commercial photos of publicly visible license plates would violate the first amendment, confiscate business assets, and impair law enforcement investigations that save lives and solve crimes.

Legislation based on a misinformation campaign would eliminate the ability of LPR technology to serve the public good.  Moreover, it runs into bedrock first amendment right to take pictures in public places – of license plates that are required by law to be publicly displayed.

 #5 – Forcing Manufacturers to Give Up Competitive Secrets

(MN HF 1078)

Some third-party repair shops think they’re entitled to the code that makes a device work and access to the manufacturer’s proprietary supply chain for device components.  This demand for access has made its way into a Minnesota bill. If passed, HF 1078 would require manufacturers to disclose technical manuals – including trade secrets and intellectual property — making it easier for criminals to break security locks.  It would require manufacturers to give access to proprietary supply chains and to proprietary components. 

#6 – Preserving the Car Dealership Monopoly

(MI HB 5606)

The Internet has made purchase direct from manufactures more possible and more popular than ever.  But several states believe innovation should not apply to car purchasing. Laws in Arizona and Michigan have banned Tesla from selling its cars directly to customers.  New Jersey stopped Tesla from selling cars from its showrooms.  In Texas, Tesla is not just stopped from selling their cars; it has to go through rigorous steps just to advertise them.

#7 – Impeding Data Breach Investigations

(CT SB949), (IL SB 1833/HB3188), (NV AB179), (OR SB601), (RI HB5220/SB134), (TX HB3478), (VT S73)

Following high-profile hackings, states are rushing to pass new data breach notice laws.  But forcing businesses to issue broad and rushed notices could impede investigations.  And the quantity of notices will desensitize consumers to situations where a notice truly does merit their immediate attention.   Moreover, the divergence among state laws is creating an impossible patchwork for businesses that have customers in every state.

About NetChoice

NetChoice is a trade association of online businesses and consumers who share the goal of promoting convenience, choice, and commerce on the net.