Read Clinton's Lips

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Remember Ira Magaziner? He was Hillary Clinton's partner in formulating the extremely complex 1993 Clinton healthcare reform proposal. Web entrepreneurs who may have been a tad concerned to learn that Magaziner's next big challenge was formulating the White House Web commerce strategy announced today may be relieved to see that while President Clinton seems determined to control some forms of Web content, he's taking a hands-off approach to Web commerce. In presenting a policy paper designed to serve as blueprint for government control of the Internet, from copyright protections to privacy considerations, the President called for key patent and intellectual property policies to be developed in the next year. While the paper recommends that the government maintain restrictions on the export of sophisticated encryption technology, it takes the position that the U.S. should not impose any new taxes on Web commerce, meaning transactions conducted on the Internet. The encryption provision irks software makers, who make 48 percent of their profits overseas, and fear they will lose market share to foreign competition. But other companies were pleased by Magaziner's recommendation that the government should not impose new taxes and regulations on the promising new realm of Web commerce, now running about $1 billion and projected at $5-$10 billion by 2000. State and local governments are working furiously to undermine efforts in the House and Senate to prevent them from placing new taxes on Web commerce. They may have an uphill battle. Since the White House has hijacked the Republican pro-business stance, Congress is unlikely to jump on the regulatory bandwagon any time soon.