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Amazon prevails in first amendment case

Wednesday, October 27, 2010; A17

Lists that identify the books, music and movies individual customers bought from online retailer Amazon.com are protected from North Carolina tax collectors, a federal judge has ruled.

Amazon said in a lawsuit it filed in April in its home town of Seattle that disclosing such information, as requested by the North Carolina Revenue Department, could harm its customers.

U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman ruled late Monday that the First Amendment protects a buyer from the government demanding to know the books, music, and audiovisual products they've bought.

Amazon and the American Civil Liberties Union, which later joined the case, "have established that the First Amendment protects the disclosure of individual's reading, listening, and viewing habits," Pechman wrote.

At stake are potentially millions of dollars in taxes that North Carolina contends Amazon was responsible for collecting for years before a state law was changed last summer.

Revenue Department spokeswoman Beth Stevenson said that attorneys were reviewing the ruling and that no decision has been made on whether to appeal the judge's ruling. The agency neither wants nor needs titles or similar details of products purchased by Amazon customers.

- Associated Press

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- From news services

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