On September 7, 2010 the Obama administration proposed a new tax program addressing capital investments. Under the proposal, US businesses would be allowed to deduct from their Federal taxes the full value of new equipment purchased through 2011. This proposal would build on the stimulus measures enacted in 2008 and 2009 allowing businesses to depreciate 50% of their capital investments. The Senate rejected this proposal, however, it did initiate two programs that may have an impact on business tax liability. First, rather than allowing 100% depreciation on new equipment purchased by businesses, the Senate reinstated the 50% depreciation bonus for 2010. Second, the Senate authorized an increase IRS Code Section (“Section”) 179 expensing levels to from $250,000 to $500,000 and the phase-out threshold amount from $800,000 to $2,000,000 for 2010 and 2011.
As a new school year begins with new classes, new students, and a whole lot of new work, I thought it might be nice to provide a link to another law related blog that is insightful and interesting, Above the Law: A Legal Tabloid (www.abovethelaw.com). Yes, I know this is not an academic blog with in-depth articles written by the many skilled legal minds across the country. However, it provides a very honest and no BS approach to what new, and returning, law students should know about the profession that they have chose to dedicate their lives to for many years to come. If you want to know what firms are hiring or firing, what morale is like in many of the most prestigious firms, and the overall state of the legal market, Above the Law is the place to go. It is also a great place to go to get some quick information about the current legal decisions that are handed down by courts across the country. So, if you haven’t checked it out, take a quick look and share it with others if you like what you read.
Every law student is familiar with the latin phrase “ignorantia juris non excusat” or “ignorance of the law does not excuse.” Well, the Supreme Court may review a modern twist on this age old maxim if it takes up Whitney Harper’s appeal in Maverick Recording Co. v. Harper. As a teenager, Harper used LimeWire to download 37 of the plaintiffs’ copyrighted songs. The plaintiffs asked the district court to impose at least the minimum statutory fine of $750 per song, for a total of $27,750 in damages. However, Harper asserted that her liability was limited to $200 per song because she was an “innocent infringer” under the Copyright Act which provides
“where the infringer sustains the burden of proving . . . that [she] was not aware and had no reason to believe that . . . her acts constituted an infringement of copyright, the court in its discretion may reduce the award of statutory damages to a sum of not less than $200.”
In essence, the innocent infringer exception allows a defendant to assert ignorance of a copyright as a defense to the minimum statutory penalties. Harper claimed that she did not know she violated anyone’s copyright because she believed she was streaming the music as if LimeWire were internet radio. The district court, persuaded by Harper, capped her liability at $200 per violation. However, the 5th Circuit reversed, awarding the plaintiffs’ $27,750 in damages. The 5th Circuit held that Harper could not avail herself of the innocent infringer exception because the CDs of the songs Harper downloaded contained a copyright warning. So, even though the digital copy of the song did not include a copyright warning, the CD supposedly put Harper on notice that the songs were copyrighted. You can read Harper’s petition for writ of certiorari here.