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The U.S. Supreme Court Jan. 18 denied certiorari to a case which argued that fees charged for registering and annually renewing Internet domain names amounted to an illegal tax (Thomas v. Network Solutions, U.S. 99-605, cert. denied, 1/18/00). A group of website owners had filed suit in 1997 claiming that the National Science Foundation’s original 30 percent share of Network Solution’s registration and renewal fees was illegal in that it was unauthorized by Congress. Congress authorized the 30 percent allocation in 1998 in Pub. L. No. 105-174 and, as a result of that authorization, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed the complaint and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed, Thomas v. Network Solutions Inc., 176 F. 3d 500 (Ct. App. D.C., 1999). The plaintiffs had sought damages of more than $100 million and argued that Congress cannot retroactively ratify a tax. The Supreme Court’s one-line order leaves the court of appeals’ ruling in place. While setting no legal precedent, the decision was seen as a victory for NSI.

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