Tech Law


Brit Music Industry to Haul Pirate Party to Court

Britain’s music industry body is preparing to take the Pirate Party UK to court for offering access to The Pirate Bay, which has been blocked in the UK.

The British Pirate Party — the Pirate Party is a political party in many European countries that is opposed to virtually any restrictions on the free-flow of information — has set up a proxy service that allows users to circumvent the UK’s ban on The Pirate Bay, according to the BBC.

The UK ordered the nation’s Internet service providers to block the site in April. Other European countries, including the Netherlands and Belgium, have imposed similar blocks.

The Pirate Party in the Netherlands also offered a proxy to reach The Pirate Bay, but the party was ordered to stop it.

A music industry rep is quoted by the BBC saying that the group has tried to resolve the situation outside the courtroom, but that the Pirate Party won’t comply. A Pirate Party spokesperson, meanwhile, said it won’t give in “because of the principles at stake.”

Google Cashes In on Bermuda Shell Company

By funneling nearly US$10 billion in revenue to a Bermuda shell company, Google saved about $2 billion in international income taxes in 2011, according to Bloomberg.

Google’s tax practices, which Bloomberg is quick to point out were legal, involved shifting profits from overseas subsidiaries into Bermuda, a nation with no corporate income tax. By sending this money to Bermuda — a total of $9.8 billion, which represents about 80 percent of the company’s pre-tax profit in 2011 — Google reportedly cut its overall tax rate by 50 percent.

Bloomberg speculates that the amount of Google’s revenue that was funneled through Bermuda, which almost doubled between 2008 and 2011, could fan anger over Google’s tax dodging. The UK, Italy and France are among those currently grilling Google about its tax avoidance schemes.

The European Commission last week advised EU member states to “create blacklists of tax havens” and adopt rules to prevent tax abuse, according to Bloomberg. It is estimated that “tax evasion and avoidance” costs the EU $1.3 trillion each year.

Many American companies have found clever — and, it should be stressed, legal — ways to skirt European taxes. Amazon, for instance, has its European headquarters in Luxemburg, which allows it to get creative with its tax payments. eBay, for its part, uses Switzerland and Luxemburg to skirt UK taxes.

Huawei to Open Finnish R&D Center

Huawei Technologies, the Chinese telecommunications equipment maker that was recently on the wrong end of a U.S. House intelligence committee investigation, announced that it plans to open a research and development center in Helsinki in 2013.

The move signals the company’s accelerating investment in Europe, according to The New York Times. While it received a frosty reception in the U.S., Huawei reportedly employs more than 7,000 people in Europe — and says that number could double in three to five years.

The Helsinki locale, which will cost a reported $90 million, will focus on smartphone development.

Australian Medical Center Hacked

Russian hackers have encrypted patient files belonging to a medical center in Australia, according to the Australian Broadcast Corporation.

The hackers are reportedly demanding roughly $4,200 to unlock the files, which contain confidential information.

Austria Ponders Cloud Fees

IG Autoren, an Austrian rights holders group, is pushing for a broad expansion of fees levied against storage media.

Austria already has fees for blank CDs and DVDs, according to Giga OM. Now rights holders want those fees to cover “hard drives and other forms of storage media as well.” IG Autoren includes cloud storage on its wish list.

Consumer electronics makers and Internet companies like Sony, Nokia and Apple have opposed the proposals, saying that such levies amount to a double tax and will stifle local businesses.

David Vranicar is a freelance journalist and author ofThe Lost Graduation: Stepping off campus and into a crisis. You can check out hisECT News archive here, and you can email him at david[dot]vranicar[at]newsroom[dot]ectnews[dot]com.

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