Ziese & Associates, Ltd.

Robert J. Ziese, Esq.

Kathryn G. Ziese Financial Services

Client Newsletter - Jan. - Mar. 2003

It's Tax Time !

Call us for real estate, wills & trusts, tax & bankruptcy issues, business startup & litigation, matrimonial, adoption, and non-profit organization matters



                Tips for keeping and shredding records

Supreme Court Upholds Longer Copyrights

Christmas in the Year 2020

Fed's Spying Plan Fades to Black

Wineries Battle Wholesalers Over Distribution




Tips for Keeping and Shredding Records

For purposes of sanity, tax-filing time for small businesses should be a case of "out with the old, in with the new." But be careful to discard business documents at the right time and with the right method.

The IRS normally has three years to audit a return. However, the statute of limitations for some states is longer. Keep any records that would help you get through an audit for seven years. After seven years, you can get rid of receipts and supporting documents, but keep the actual tax returns permanently. Documents dealing with purchases of tangible assets or real estate should be kept for seven years after the assets are gone or sold.

The safest method to dispose of old records is to shred them. Documents with Social Security numbers or bank account information are valuable to identity thieves.


Supreme Court Upholds Longer Copyrights

By Associated Press and Wired.com

The Supreme Court has upheld longstanding copyrights designed to protect the profits of songs, books and cartoon characters, a huge victory for Disney and other companies.

The 7-2 ruling, while not unexpected, was a blow to Internet publishers and others who wanted to make old books available online and use the likenesses of a Mickey Mouse cartoon and other old creations without paying high royalties. Hundreds of thousands of books, movies and songs were close to being released into the public domain when Congress extended the copyright by 20 years in 1998.

Justices said the copyright extension, named for the late Rep. Sonny Bono (R- Calif.), was not unconstitutional. The Constitution "gives Congress wide leeway to prescribe 'limited times' for copyright protection and allows Congress to secure the same level and duration of protection for all copyright holders, present and future," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said from the bench.

A contrary ruling would have cost entertainment giants like the Walt Disney Co. and AOL Time Warner hundreds of millions of dollars. AOL Time Warner had said that a ruling against them would threaten copyrights for such movies as Casablanca, The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind. Also at risk of expiration was protection for the version of Mickey Mouse portrayed in Disney's earliest films, such as 1928's Steamboat Willie. Congress passed the copyright law after heavy lobbying from companies with lucrative copyrights.

One of the major differences between European Union and U.S. copyright protection may soon be the subject of international trade wars.  EU copyright law only protects the publisher of a sound recording for 50 years from publication; here in the United States, such protection extends to 95 years.  Consequently, the works of many pop icons from the 50s and 60s -- Elvis Presley and the Beatles, for example -- will soon enter the public domain in Europe.  U.S. publishers are expected to fight with trade-related sanctions.


Christmas in the Year 2020

Technology keeps making our lives "better" - whatever that means. Having just experienced the 2002 holiday season, and reflecting upon "the simpler days", can you imagine Christmas in 2020?  

Will ANYTHING under the Christmas tree be the same?

                  The Future of Christmas, 2020-Style.
                 by Ian Pearson, BT Exact Technologies

(Excerpted form the full article)

A Doll's Life !

The kids have a great time with their presents after dinner while mum and dad try to have a nap. The girl got a Furby for Christmas, one of the latest genetic engineering fashions. They have cute personalities,never show aggression, and are easy to look after, the ideal toy for a five-year old. It is already getting on well with the red and yellow striped cat they bought last year. She also got a new Barbie doll. It walks around, behaves just like a miniature human being, with all the intelligence and abilities of a human blonde. She is already spending half her time chatting to Ken from next door on her doll's-house video-wall. Her invention was something of a headache for the ethics committees, who insisted on various rules that the manufacturers had to conform to. Barbie thus sees being a doll as her role in life, has no pain receptors, strictly limited emotional capability, and has her mind continuously backed up on the network so that she can be repaired in case of abuse. Her 5-year-old owner can watch the world through Barbie's video camera eyes in a virtual environment, so the toy overlaps both the physical and cyberspace worlds. She and her friends have orchestrated an entire virtual soap, with their dolls all having complex pseudo-social lives that involve other dolls, software entities, and real people. Few of the parents understand what their kids are up to, they are from a much simpler age when dolls were dolls and people were people.

The Harrow Technology Report



Fed's Spying Plan Fades to Black


By Julia Scheeres

A controversial government initiative to recruit Americans to spy on each other in an attempt to prevent terrorist attacks was quietly killed with the passage of the Homeland Security Act.

First announced by the Justice Department in January, Operation TIPS (Terrorism Information and Prevention System), was initially designed as a nationwide reporting system that would enlist one million workers; ranging from postal employees to truck drivers; - to tattle on any "suspicious activity" by people along their routes.

The program was met with vehement opposition from privacy groups, newspaper editorialists and even conservative legislators. Some likened TIPS to an operative of the East German Stasi, the secret police that used citizen informants to spy on ordinary Germans for more than 40 years.

Caught in a hail of criticism, the Justice Department decided not to engage mail or utility workers in the program. Officials then toned down the TIPS website, deleting references to the one million snoops and excising the exhortation to "Volunteer now!"

In July, House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas), introduced legislation to ban TIPS (Sec. 880). The bill also prevented the Justice Department from using the Homeland Security Act as a launch pad to create a National ID system (Sec. 1514), and to create a Privacy Officer (Sec. 222).

"Mr. Armey was adamant about keeping those provisions in the bill," said Richard Diamond, a spokesman for Armey, who recently retired after 18 years in Congress. "He felt the programs were not consistent with free society."

Despite the backlash, the Justice Department lobbied hard for the initiative.

"We worked with Congress to try to implement the program, but ultimately the language was put in (the Homeland Security Act) to prohibit it," said a department spokeswoman.

News of TIPS' demise has been buried in the deluge of stories arising from the law's passage, including a provision that makes it easier for Internet Service Providers to disclose suspicious activity on their networks to authorities.

Moreover, the Pentagon's newly-minted Total Information Awareness System aims to create massive databases tracking the activities and communications of private individuals in an attempt to track down terrorists.

But critics say the TIPS program was a particularly insidious idea, turning neighbors against neighbors and enlisting untrained citizens to spy for the government.

"This program epitomized the government's insatiable appetite for the surveillance of law-abiding citizens," said Katie Corrigan, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU worried that TIPS would lead to ethnic profiling.

All that is left of the infamous effort was a Google cache of the TIPS site.


Wineries Battle Wholesalers Over Distribution

Excerpted from an article by MOLLY McDONOUGH

2003 ABA Journal

Buying wine directly from out-of-state wineries has been a problem since Congress repealed Prohibition with the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That amendment gives each state the right to regulate shipping of alcoholic beverages within their borders. 

Traditionally, that state right has meant that "mail order" or now Internet- savy wineries had to either have an office in the buyer's state or ship to an "agent" - usually a wholesaler- adding to the cost. Some wineries just ignored the law, but with the Internet as a selling tool, many wineries now want mail order business.

Presently there are six lawsuits pending, challenging those state rights. The issue will probably have to be decided by the Supreme Court, since lower Federal Courts have decided the six cases differently. Overturning those state laws could open up a major new area for Web-based business.   




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