California Seeks To Tax Rocket Launches, Which Are Already Taxed

The state of California is looking into taxing its thriving rocket industry. The Franchise Tax Board has issued a proposed regulation for public comment that would require companies that launch spacecraft to pay a tax based upon “mileage” traveled by that spacecraft from California. Ars Technica reports: The proposal says that California-based companies that launch spacecraft will have to pay a tax based upon “mileage” traveled by that spacecraft from California. (No, we’re not exactly sure what this means, either). The proposed regulations were first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, and Thomas Lo Grossman, a tax attorney at the Franchise Tax Board, told the newspaper that the rules are designed to mirror the ways taxes are levied on terrestrial transportation and logistics firms operating in California, like trucking or train companies. The tax board is seeking public input from now until June 16, when it is expected to vote on the proposed tax. The federal government already has its own taxes for commercial space companies, and until now no other state has proposed taxing commercial spaceflight. In fact most other states, including places like Florida, Texas, and Georgia, offer launch providers tax incentives to move business into their areas.

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Ice-Age Fossils Unearthed At Construction Site In California

An anonymous reader writes: Constructions workers in Carlsbad, CA. have recently discovered Ice Age mammoth and prehistoric bison fossils during an excavation. The fossils were taken to the San Diego Museum of Natural History for examination and storage. “The bison fossil, which includes a skull and partial skeleton, is the most unusual and probably the most complete of the larger animals found at the project site. These are big animals, much larger than modern plains bison,” said curator of paleontology at the San Diego Museum of Natural History, Tom Deméré.

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California Bill Would Dramatically Limit Commercial Drones

An anonymous reader writes: California’s Senate Bill 142 would prohibit drones from flying under 350 feet over any property without express permission from the property’s owner. The bill passed the California Assembly easily. Tech advocates have been battling privacy advocates to influence the inevitable regulation of private and commercial drones. Industry groups say this restriction will kill drone delivery services before they even begin. The legislation would also drastically diminish the usefulness of camera-centric drones like the ones being rolled out by GoPro. If passed, the bill could influence how other states regulate drones. The article notes that 156 different drone-related bills have been considered in 46 different states this year alone, and the FAA will issue nationwide rules in September.

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Judge Rules That Inglewood, California Cannot Copyright Public Videos

UnknowingFool writes: Recently a judge ruled in California that the city of Inglewood cannot hold copyrights of videos of public city council meetings which they published on their YouTube account and thus cannot sue individuals for copyright infringement for using them. In several YouTube videos, Joseph Teixeira, a resident of Inglewood, California, criticized the mayor, James Butts. Under the account name Dehol Truth, Teixeira took city council meetings posted on their YouTube account and edited them to make pointed criticisms about the mayor.

The city responded by registering the videos with copyrights and then suing Teixeira for copyright infringement. Many would say it was a thinly veiled attempt to silence a critic. Teixeira filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that (1) the city cannot claim copyright over public records (videos of public city council meetings) and (2) even if they could, his videos fell under Fair Use.
Unsurprisingly, a judge dismissed the city’s case, citing California law which bars the city from holding copyrights on most public records. (This case may not be over as Teixeira’s pro bono lawyer has not filed for attorney’s fees. The ruling can be found here.) What is notable is that the judge dismissed the case with prejudice, so the city cannot refile. Normally judges do not do this unless they feel that the plaintiff’s case was so weak that he feels no judge should hear the case ever again. Since the judge agreed with the defendant on the first point, he would not normally need to address Teixeira’s Fair Use defense, but he did anyway. Anticipating that the city may appeal his decision, judge ruled that Teixeira’s videos substantially met all four factors for Fair Use:
There is no evidence Teixeira used the videos for commercial gain and was transformative His work was creative by adding music and commentary to the normally boring council videos
Despite the city’s claim he used their “entire work”, it clear that he only used portions of meetings that lasted as long as four hours editing them down to a max of 15 minutes.
Teixeira did not harm the city’s market for the videos because the city is barred by state law from recouping more than direct costs of duplication. Even if the city could sell the videos (which they published themselves for free on YouTube), his short videos are not a substitute.

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How California Is Winning the Drought

An anonymous reader writes: California is in its fifth year of drought; the past four years have been the driest four-year period in recorded history, and the hottest as well. There have been consistent worries about how it will affect California’s residents and its economy — but somehow, the state still seems to be doing fine. “In 2014, the state’s economy grew 27 percent faster than the country’s economy as a whole — the state has grown faster than the nation every year of the drought. … The drought has inspired no Dust Bowl-style exodus. California’s population has grown faster even as the drought has deepened.” The article makes the case that California is pioneering the water preservation and governance techniques that will be helpful elsewhere in the country if the global climate continues to warm. “The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California now supplies roughly 19 million people in six counties, and it uses slightly less water than it did 25 years ago, when it supplied 15 million people. That savings — more than one billion gallons each day — is enough to supply all of New York City.” The article notes, however, that this resilience won’t last forever — if the drought continues for several more years, California will be in trouble despite their water-saving tactics.

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