In this issue:
- MMA Introduces IT Report
- Governor Signs Streamlined Sales Tax Bills
- Companies Can Take Safeguards against “Cybersmearing”
- Music File Sharing Can Cause Legal Difficulties for Company Networks
- Magazine Ranking Moves Michigan to Eighth as Small Tech “Hot Spot”
- MEDC Coordinates Links with State’s IT Industry, Research Hubs
- MMA Adds Wi-Fi; Opens Online Directory
- What Would You Like to See in the MMA IT Report? Tell Us!
Note: To receive the MMA IT Report via e-mail, please sign up online or contact Lisa Lantz, membership specialist, at 800-253-9039 ext. 551 or 517-487-8551, today. Please provide recipient name, title, company name, address and e-mail address. (This information will not be shared with entities outside of MMA.)
1) MMA Introduces IT Report
I am pleased to introduce the MMA IT Report , the latest in a series of new e-newsletters the Michigan Manufacturers Association is bringing to members this year.
The MMA IT Report is designed to provide you useful information in a concise, quick-to-read format. Twice a year, we’ll report on information technology developments and news that is pertinent to manufacturers.
If you have any comments or suggestions for newsletter topics, please contact Jean Eggemeyer, MMA’s vice president of communications, at 800-253-9039 ext. 543 or 517-487-8543.
As always, if you need more information on, or assistance with, a particular information technology issue, please contact Chuck Hadden, MMA vice president of government affairs, at 800-253-9039 ext. 550 or 517-487-8550. Hadden also facilitates the IT Advisory Committee, which meets periodically to discuss advances in technology and IT-related developments at the Capitol. Membership on the committee is free to MMA member company representatives.
— John MacIlroy, MMA President and CEO
2) Governor Signs Streamlined Sales Tax Bills
A package of four bills which will enable Michigan to participate in a multi-state compact to collect sales and use taxes from Internet and remote purchases was signed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm in late June with immediate effect.
The measures are designed to bring parity in tax collection for Michigan “brick-and-mortar” retailers who compete with out-of-state businesses which, up until now, have not had to collect Michigan sales tax.
Michigan rejoins 42 other states and the District of Columbia that are developing a standardized system of collecting sales and use taxes on catalog and Internet sales. Michigan had been part of the initial development of the project, but the state’s authority to participate had expired.
3) Companies Can Take Safeguards against “Cybersmearing”
Companies that are targets of “cybersmearing” campaigns — typically Web sites posting fabricated allegations, far-fetched charges of fraud or misbehavior, and false statements about a company and its policies — may be inclined to sue an attacker as their first recourse.
But Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone reports that in many cases, the attacker may be anonymous; the posted information — however false — may be protected free speech; and many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are loath to disclose the identity of their users. What’s more, the attention of a lawsuit can bring added attention to the cybersmear itself.
Before pursuing litigation, a company should consider other alternatives. An attorney can direct a cease and desist notice to the Web site or message board where the postings occur, advising the anonymous attacker that legal action may be taken. The company may also contact the ISP. Most service providers like Yahoo!, AOL and MSN require their subscribers to agree to terms and conditions, and violations could result in deletion of the posted information and termination of service.
Policies and procedures that prevent cyber attacks will save money and the headache of trying to pick up the pieces after your company has been disparaged on the Internet:
- Implement an internal or external monitoring system that regularly searches Internet sites related to your company and checks for false information.
- Initiate a confidentiality policy that prohibits disclosure of corporate and client information, whether over the Internet or other means.
- Provide training for your employees that emphasizes the importance of following your guidelines and spells out the consequences of breaking policy.
- Register variations of your company’s domain name to prevent disgruntled employees and ex-employees from creating Web sites that mimic your official site.
- Create, distribute and implement policies that address the circulation of rumors or false information.
4) Music File Sharing Can Cause Legal Difficulties for Company Networks
The popularity of Internet music sharing programs has moved from home computers to business workstations — but companies need to be aware that employees that use music file sharing programs may be violating federal copyright laws.
Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, PLC suggests that companies consider taking the following steps to protect themselves from lawsuits in cases of music piracy:
- Establish an enforceable company policy that prohibits downloading music and other copyrighted materials from the Internet, and allows your company to impose appropriate sanctions for violations.
- Make certain each employee acknowledges and agrees to the policy upon hiring, or at the time the policy is introduced.
- Periodically post reminders of your policy.
- Review computer network logs to determine whether employees are visiting sites that offer shared music files.
- Remove any shared music files you find on your company’s network.
- Consistently impose sanctions for violations of your policy.
- Employ the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to establish your company’s immunity.
5) Magazine Ranking Moves Michigan to Eighth as Small Tech “Hot Spot”
Michigan is the eighth-best location in the country for small tech — nanotechnology, MEMS and Microsystems enterprises — according to the second annual ranking compiled by Small Times magazine, published by Ardesta LLC of Ann Arbor. In the initial report in 2003, Michigan ranked ninth.
The Great Lakes IT Report noted that the magazine indicated that Michigan’s “academic institutions increasingly embrace small tech, and industry is following suit. The state’s ability to transform lab-based ideas into products and solutions is building a foundation for sustained growth.”
California, Massachusetts and New Mexico were the top three states in the 2003 and 2004 rankings.
The complete 2004 rankings are available on the Small Times Web site.
6) MEDC Coordinates Links with State’s IT Industry, Research Hubs
Despite scaling back much of its efforts because of the state’s budget difficulties, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. still intends to keep a hand in building a strong technology sector in the state.
“We’re looking at IT in terms of how that technology can help our existing businesses be more effective and cost efficient,” said Jeff Mason, MEDC senior vice president for technology development, in an interview with The Great Lakes IT Report.
Much of the MEDC’s IT focus is concentrated on supporting the state’s broadband initiative, Mason said, in collaboration with Merit Networks, Inc. and the “Internet2” office in Ann Arbor.
Development of the state’s Michigan Venture Fund will improve the state’s venture capital climate and have a natural impetus toward technological development, Mason said. The fund will create $150 in seed capital for initial-stage companies.
7) MMA Adds Wi-Fi; Opens Online Directory
As a value-added service to members, the Michigan Manufacturers Association (MMA) now offers wireless Internet access in the meeting rooms of MMA headquarters in Lansing. Members can access e-mail and the Internet to stay in touch with the home office while in Lansing to attend MMA seminars and advisory committee meetings or to visit with government representatives.
The wireless access is available from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. weekdays.
For more information, contact Brenda Nalett at 800-253-9039 ext. 512 or 517-487-8512.
The MMA Marketplace, an online networking hub for manufacturers and related industries, was launched successfully in May.
Users can find information on thousands of Michigan manufacturers and service providers free of charge, 24 hours a day using a keyword search.
MMA members may enhance their Standard MMA Marketplace listing by adding a company logo or a product image, a 125-word company and/or product description, a Web site link, an e-mail address and a link to directions and a map for locating your company for only $100 per year. Companies with Enhanced Listings will appear ahead of the alphabetical Standard company listings.
Contact Joy Ross at 800-253-9039 ext. 515 or 517-487-8515 for more information.
8) What Would You Like to See in the MMA IT Report? Tell Us!
Readers of the MMA IT Report are encouraged to send in materials that would be of interest to the manufacturing community dealing with information technology issues. We would also like to learn what issues readers would like to see covered in future issues of the MMA IT Report. Contact Jean Eggemeyer, MMA’s vice president of communications, at 800-253-9039 ext. 543 or 517-487-8543.