Franchise Fees – Georgia Joins Other States in Rejecting Attempts to Recover Franchise Fees From Streaming TV Providers Under State Video Franchise Law

In a decision by a state trial court, Georgia has joined California and Texas in holding that local governments cannot impose franchise fees on over-the-top (“OTT”) streaming TV services like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.  Gwinnett County, Georgia, et al. v. Netflix, Inc., et al., Civil Action File No. 20-A-07909-10, Gwinnett County Superior Court, Feb. 18, 2022. Like those other states, the Georgia court held that the state video franchising statute (here, the Georgia Consumer Choice for Television Act), did not give local governments an express or implied private cause of action against the steaming TV providers.  While the local governments cited provisions allowing actions for disputes over franchise fee payments or for discrimination by franchise holders, the court noted that the provisions applied only to franchise holders, and that the streaming TV providers did not hold state-issued franchises.

In addition, the court explained that the Television Act does not apply to streaming TV providers because they do not construct and operate facilities in the public rights-of-way, and therefore cannot be required to obtain franchises or pay franchise fees to local governments.  As the court put it, “[a]pplying the Television Act – which contemplates fees for providers that offer facilities-based service – to non-facilities-based streaming services would be akin to applying a tax on horses to cars simply because cars have horsepower.”  In fact, the decision said, if the Television Act applied to non-facilities-based vide providers, local governments could seek franchise fees from an extremely broad range of entities that could not reasonably be covered by the Television Act, such as newspapers that provide online video or churches that stream their services online.  And like other courts, the Georgia court held that streaming TV providers do not “use” the public right-of-way simply because they send video content over the wires of internet service providers in the public right-of-way.  Finally, and again like other courts, the Georgia court held that streaming TV providers’ service falls within the exception in the Television Act for video provided via a service “offered over the public internet.”

This is the latest in a line of decisions in cases across the country where local governments seek to recover franchise fees from streaming video providers.  For an overview of the issues, arguments, and other cases, see this blog post.

The Potential Location of Amazon’s Second Headquarters

Amazon truly has developed into a beast of the Northwest. Indeed, Amazon is a major presence in Seattle, occupying tremendous amounts of office space, employing many people, and generally boosting the economy in that region.

Amazon announced some months back that it will establish a second headquarters within the United States. Not surprisingly, many cities came courting, trying to woo Amazon into their backyards. There has been quite a bit of buzz about where Amazon ultimately will locate its second headquarters. And now, according to a recent article by the Business Insider, Amazon may be on the brink of reaching a decision. But where? Drumroll please!  Continue reading “The Potential Location of Amazon’s Second Headquarters”

What You Might Not Know About Amazon

Sure, sure, like most of us, you use Amazon often to buy things online and have them delivered to your home without the hassle of actually having to go out to the store. So, given your buying familiarity with Amazon, you might think you know quite a bit about the company. But perhaps there is much more to know.

Indeed, in a recent book by Brad Stone, titled “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon,” profiled by Business Insider, much is revealed that you might not know. (And yes, big surprise, you can purchase the book on Amazon). Continue reading “What You Might Not Know About Amazon”

Amazon Now Raking in the Dough

Once upon a time, toward the beginning of the commercial internet, critics questioned Amazon’s aggressive approach in throwing money at the concept of becoming the full-purpose seller of all types of products online. Indeed, while Amazon was growing along the way, it was in the red, far from turning a profit. Detractors believed that Amazon’s “Hail Mary” approach would fail, and the only question was when Amazon would go under, like many other early dot coms.

Well, who is laughing now? Amazon, and CEO Jeff Bezos, of course.  Continue reading “Amazon Now Raking in the Dough”

Illinois’ “Amazon Tax” Law Ruled Unconstitutional

Should consumers be able to avoid paying state sales tax simply because they make purchases on the Internet?

Some legislators think not, believing that state coffers should not be deprived of sales tax revenue from online purchases. Consequently, they have enacted some laws designed to capture such revenue.

However, according to the Chicago Tribune, a recent law passed in the Land of Lincoln attempting to tax online purchases was just ruled unconstitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court.

Continue reading “Illinois’ “Amazon Tax” Law Ruled Unconstitutional”

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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