Short Strikes No. 19

This week, Short Strikes returns for a visit to the Supreme Court, casts an eye towards Alaska’s Pebble Mine, and talks Instagram TV.

States Can Require Online Retailers to Collect Sales Tax

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that online retailers can be required to collect sales taxes in states where they do not have a physical presence. For decades, online retailers have not been required to charge sales tax in states where no brick and mortar location was established. Now, that could all change as individual states decide how to proceed. Two principles in the ruling govern future state actions: the states should not discriminate against out-of-state businesses, and they should not place an undue burden on interstate commerce.

The strike: Analysts say the ruling could close the door to small business entrepreneurship online by forcing owners to comply with some 10,000 taxing jurisdictions  in the U.S. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 30.2 million small businesses operate in the United States. You won’t find any of them on last year’s list of Top 10 online retailers below, but you might have seen one or two there 25 years ago.

Here’s a list of top eCommerce stores in the U.S. last year:

  1. Amazon – $94.6B
  2. Apple – $16.8B
  3. Wal-Mart – $14.4B
  4. Macy’s – $4.6B
  5. Costco – $4,4B
  6. QVC – $4.0B
  7. Nordstrom – $3.2B
  8. Target – $3.0B
  9. Kohl’s – $2.9B
  10. Gap, Inc. – $2.5B

Will this decision keep current and future small businesses off of that list? Forbes has a full breakdown for you.

Pruitt’s Pebble Mine Problem

This week, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt directed his staff to create a rule limiting his agency’s ability to protect the environment. (Yes, really.) According to Pruitt’s memo, he wants to limit the EPA’s ability to preemptively halt projects that would pollute nearby waterways, notably taking aim at a measure that the EPA leveraged in 2014 to halt construction of a mine near Alaska’s Bristol Bay.

The strike: You may have heard of Pebble Mine, the proposed mining project on 186 square miles of Alaskan wilderness which just happens to sit in the watershed of the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery. Pruitt’s directive would disallow the EPA from interfering in such projects until a permit application has been filed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It would also disallow the EPA from interfering after a permit has been approved.

Mining officials are stoked about the idea of getting the EPA off of their back.

“[The] EPA’s action is a vital step forward in returning certainty and order to the permitting process in the U.S.,” National Mining Association spokeswoman Ashley Burke said in an email. “Even the mere threat of retroactive and preemptive veto actions has harmed America’s competitiveness when it comes to attracting investment in U.S.-based mining projects, adding volatile obstacles into what is already an extensive, established process at the state and federal levels.”

Meanwhile, the National Resources Defense Council is less enthused.

“That would be a terrible and very disruptive public policy,” NRDC senior attorney Joe Device told the Washington Post. “One that could hamstring the EPA by creating a ‘very narrow window of time’ during which the agency could act.”

Don’t Roll Your Eyes at IGTV

Instagram made waves this week with the launch of IGTV, a format that supports video up to 60 minutes long on a user’s Instagram story. That feature, ripped directly from Snapchat in 2016, has seen user engagement on “the Gram” skyrocket. Short Strikes had an opportunity to sit down with a Snapchat employee last week, who acknowledged that the company was “getting our asses kicked” by Facebook’s little brother. Forbes proclaims that Instagram is now “eating the world” and they may be right. Instagram has over 1 billion active users and hosts a thriving community of influencers and brands. IGTV is a separate app that will need time to build its own active user base. How much or how little time is anyone’s guess.

The strike: How will people use IGTV? Refinery 29 has a long form interview with Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger, to get his take. An excerpt:

How do you see celebrities using IGTV differently than creators? What about everyday Instagram users?

“I’ll start with the creators, since I think that’s the one that’s the clearest so far. They’re very used to doing things that are more episodic with themes, whether that’s a cooking show or an illustration series, so I think that will probably be a lot of what they do.
“Celebrities will be interesting. For musicians, I think it’s cool for them to be able to put whole music videos on Instagram for the first time, and I already saw a couple of those go up. It’s funny to think about how many music videos will be thought of from a vertical-first perspective from now on. But you also see some behind-the-scenes for them as well. And a lot of celebrities have established branded content deals in place, so they can do deeper versions of those things on IGTV.”
“For normal people, a lot of them are creators that just haven’t made it yet. One of the fun things about having IGTV be internal for a couple of months was we discovered some of our employees are creators in the making. I’m a little worried they’re going to leave their engineering jobs and just do full-time IGTV.”