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This week in tech and politics

All eyes were on Washington this week as politicians and jurists made decisions that rippled through the tech community.

All eyes were on Washington this week as politicians and jurists made decisions that rippled through the tech community.

The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear Microsoft's appeal in a lawsuit that has resulted in a preliminary jury verdict of more than $500 million for alleged patent infringement in Internet Explorer. Announced without comment, the court's decision not to hear the case, involving Eolas Technologies, clears the way for proceedings to continue before a federal district judge.

The August 2003 decision from a federal jury in Chicago sent shock waves across the Internet. If Eolas and its business partner, the University of California, eventually prevail, the effects could force a redesign of Web pages that use plug-in applications like Macromedia Flash and Adobe Acrobat that run inside a Web browser.

The Supreme Court also refused to hear the appeal of a Tennessee computer programmer who claimed that New York was violating his constitutional rights by forcing him to pay taxes on income he earned in his home state while telecommuting. The move means that telecommuters employed by a company outside their home state may have to pay extra taxes unless Congress adopts a bill to protect them.

The New York tax provision, called "Convenience of the Employer," allows the state to tax nonresidents who, for their own convenience, choose to telecommute for their New York-based employers, but not if it is at the convenience of the employer.

The Telecommuter Tax Fairness Act, reintroduced in the Senate in May, would protect telecommuters from double taxation. The bill is in committee and not yet scheduled for a vote.

On the other side of Capitol Hill, Democrats managed to defeat a bill aimed at amending U.S. election laws to immunize bloggers from hundreds of pages of federal regulations. The vote tally in the House of Representatives, 225 to 182, was not enough to send the Online Freedom of Speech Act to the Senate.

The reform bill had enjoyed wide support from online activists and Web commentators worried about having to comply with a tangled skein of rules. Opponents of the reform plan mounted a last-minute effort to derail the bill before the vote on Wednesday evening. Liberal advocacy groups circulated letters warning the measure was too broad and would invite "corrupt" activities online.