Well, this minor controversy looks pretty obvious to me:
The dispute centers on the sales tax exemption that state law provides writers, composers and artists residing in Rhode lsland who sell their own “original and creative work.”
Much to the dismay of nonfiction writers like the prolific Paul Caranci — the former North Providence councilman who went undercover for the FBI — the state tax department has decided that nonfiction does not qualify as an “original″ work of art, eligible for an exemption from Rhode Island’s 7 percent sales tax.
The ACLU is on the case, arguing that the Division of Taxation should not be authorized to judge literary works for their creativity. A much more obvious line could be drawn between books and, say, “works for hire,” or generally technical documents drafted as part of a job. (Of course, it’s difficult to see why such works would become subject to the sales tax, anyway.)
If only the ACLU would broaden its views, though. If the government cannot differentiate non-fiction from fiction, how can it differentiate political non-fiction from other forms? That is, campaign finance regulations, particularly those requiring the publication of the financial backers of a publisher (so to speak) cannot be applied only to a particular type of speech.