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This Week
January 17, 2003

This week on NOW:

In the wake of the Supreme Court decision this week upholding copyright extensions, NOW looks at the digital future of intellectual property and why we should care about who owns Mickey Mouse. Mega-media companies spent nearly $150 million dollars over the last 12 years to buy influence in Washington. And in 1998 Congress voted to extend the term of copyright - giving these corporations permission to keep control of intellectual property for much longer than the law had previously allowed and far longer than the framers ever imagined. So why should you care? If you loan a friend your copy of THE SIMPSONS, print an article from a Web site, or want to copy a chapter of a book at the local library, you could be breaking one of those new laws - unless you pay these corporations for what you’ve been doing all along for free. NOW investigates the future of copyright in the digital age and the debate that has pitted private control against the public interest.

Conservatives call it the Death tax. Lawyers call it the Estate tax. Others call it the Inheritance tax. Therein lies a story of wealth and power. In 2001, after a lengthy campaign hatched by a small group of wealthy families President Bush signed a bill repealing the Estate tax. But now there’s a campaign to restore it. The effort is being led, believe it or not, by some of the country’s richest people, including Bill Gates Sr., the Patriarch of the Gates family, who heads the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Chuck Collins, an heir to the Oscar Mayer fortune who founded the organization called Responsible Wealth. Bill Moyers interviews Gates and Collins on their new book, WEALTH AND OUR COMMONWEALTH, on why they believe an inheritance tax is fair and responsible.

NOW sits down with leading epidemiologist DEVRA DAVIS, who has spent her career researching the effects of the environment on health. Her book, the National Book Award nominated WHEN SMOKE RAN LIKE WATER, was inspired by the 1948 industrial smog that killed more than 60 people and made an additional 6,000 ill in her hometown of Donora, PA.

In Depth

Alaska Budget Deficit

When and how did ideas become property?

Tollbooths on the Digital Highway

Environmental Resource Map: Check the air quality near home

Howard Zinn
Bill Moyers talks with Bill Gates, Sr. and Chuck Collins about the inheritance tax.

Monet painting of smoggy London
A brief history of deadly smog


Talk about the news on the message boards


You Be the Judge: Inside the Supreme Court

We've got more resources for teachers


Learn more about the issues discussed on NOW

Read the complete transcript.


Tollbooths on the Digital Highway
Producer: Gregory Henry
NPR Correspondent: Rick Karr
Editor: Alison Amron

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