The US government reasserted its right to tax Internet users in a US court judgement last week. A US federal judge approved the domain name tax levied by registrar Network Solutions (NSI). This legalised the tax formerly paid by users registering domains such as .com. The tax, which was dropped in April, raised funds for Internet II, a high-speed network for US academics and scientists. Although the tax is unlikely to be levied in future, many non-US Net users are outraged that the US is claiming the right to impose it. "Most Europeans are appalled by the charge," said Willy Black, managing director of Nominet, the non-profit organisation that registers .uk domain names. But he added: "If people want a .com address, that's their choice. There's plenty of competition among (registrars)." Although .com is supposed to signify an international commercial organisation, it has been appropriated by US firms who prefer to register under .com rather than the more politically correct .co.us. "There's still a raging debate surrounding the value of generic (.com, .net, .org) versus country codes (.uk, .us)," said Black. "We shouldn't force people to use .co.us or .uk." NSI stopped collecting the levy in April, after $56 million (#33.7 million) had already accumulated. The original plans for funding the Internet II project called for $23 million (#13.9 million). The American Internet Registrants Association (AIRA) brought a court case against NSI earlier this year, claiming the company was abusing its monopoly and unlawfully taxing registrants (see PC Week 24 March). Of the money raised, $23 million (#13.9 million) has already gone to the Internet II project. The rest is still waiting to be allocated, but it seems unlikely that registrants will ever receive a refund.
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