by Mike Masnick
Tue, Mar 26th 2013 12:08am
by Tim Cushing
Thu, Dec 13th 2012 8:23am
from the cloudy-with-a-chance-of-rent-seeking dept
Consumers in Austria already pay levies on blank CDs and DVDs. Rights holders have been advocating to expand these kinds of fees to hard drives and other forms of storage media as well, and apparently aren’t just thinking about local storage. In its newspaper, IG Autoren wrote:Hardware makers have pushed back, calling these proposed levies what they really are: double dipping. Consumers already pay the levy on blank media and now, Autoren wants to tax the computer, the hard drive and the cloud it connects to. With the dropoff in sales of blank media, IG Autoren's got to make up the income somewhere, right? This is what passes for "fairness" in the eyes of rights holders. If one form of media dies out, along with its associated fees, it must be replaced with another. Rather than face the fact that a business model that predicates itself on the assumption that piracy is the main reason people purchase CDs, DVDs, hard drives and cloud storage is a thoroughly flawed model, IG Autoren would rather push for additional levies -- all in the name of the artists, of course.
“We not only want a hard disc levy, we also want a levy for the usage of the cloud.”
One would think that if levying taxes on storage was such a money maker, artists would be better off selling blank CDs at their merch tables if they could collect the levy directly, rather than through a third party. In fact, for those further down on the sales chart, it just might be, considering the "trickle down" effect continues to rain dollars on the most successful artists while leaving the other 95% with mere pennies.
Not that IG Autoren is interested in approaching this logically. To defend its rent-seeking, it points to Germany, the country with some of the most screwed up concessions to rights holders' demands.
Rights holders on the other hand point to Germany, where levies are already in effect. German consumers currently pay €13.65 ($17.66) for every PC and between €7 and €9 for external hard drives. However, there is no fee for cloud storage services in Germany.The European Commission is currently considering reforms to copyright law to better apply it to the digital age. IG Autoren apparently believes means this means it should be able to apply its levies, ones that began back in the analog age of cassettes, to cloud services and any other technology that could conceivably hold an mp3. And it's not just IG Autoren. As reported back in October, a coalition of rights holders sent a submission stating that they were "entitled" to remuneration for personal copies. Fortunately, the commission's paper pointed out that cloud services actually reduced the number of copies made, making a private copy levy "less appropriate."
If the past is any indication, these rights holders will likely be granted a levy on hard drives and other storage devices, but cloud services may be a tougher battle. Considering many services offer limited free accounts and are likely unwilling to foot the bill for a €7-9 levy, this means these services won't be available (at least not the free option) in countries collecting this fee. The end result of this rent-seeking is fewer options for the public simply because a handful of rights holding organizations feel they're "owed" a cut from anything that can conceivably hold copied files.
by Glyn Moody
Tue, Dec 11th 2012 8:36am
from the don't-follow-us,-we're-lost dept
Recently, we noted that copyright levies in Europe are looking more and more anachronistic for the high-tech world. It seems that Nigeria has not noticed this, since Afro-IP points out to us that the Copyright (Levy of Materials) Order 2012 has been approved there, which will bring them in for a very wide range of goods:
The Director-General who disclosed this in Abuja, indicated that the materials regulated by the levy imposed by the new Copyright Order include storage media like Audio Cassettes, Mini Discs, CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray, SD Memory Cards, Video Cassettes, USB Flash drives, I-Pods and Photocopying Paper. Others are equipment and devices like Photocopying Machines, MP3 Players, Digital Juke box, Mobile Phones, CD recorders, DVD Recorders, Blu Ray Recorders, Computer External Hard Drives, Analogue Audio Recorders, Analogue Video Recorders, Personal Computers, Printing Plates, Printers/Printing Machines, Radio/TV Sets enabling recording, Camcorders and Decoders/Signal Receivers.
The money is going to the usual places:
"The Commission is expected to disburse the funds to beneficiaries who are essentially approved collective management organisations (CMOs) subject to retaining 10 per cent of the collected levy for administrative purposes of agencies that would be involved in the implementation of the scheme", he stated, adding, "The Order also permits the Commission to retain 20 per cent of the fund for anti-piracy purposes; and 10 per cent for promotion of creativity", he stated.
It's particularly sad to see that exactly double the amount will be spent on "anti-piracy purposes" compared to the "promotion of creativity." That not only seems precisely the wrong way round but is regrettable in a country where it was piracy that helped build the hugely-successful local film industry.
It's obviously great to see African countries like Nigeria develop as an increasingly important player in the world of technology, but it's depressing to see its politicians repeating the mistakes of the West in this area. Imposing retrogressive levies do little to help local artists, but are likely to hinder the development of local hardware industries because of the extra costs they impose on purchasers.
Fri, Aug 24th 2012 6:36pm
from the oops dept
The argument was that Saverin had allowed this country to help make him rich and now, in an evil move that was completely legal, he was going to evade paying the full taxes of an American citizen by no longer being one. To combat this unholy act, Schumer and Casey unveiled the oh-so-cleverly named EX-PATRIOT Act, which would levy heavy taxes on Saverin and anyone else who thought they could escape the virtous clutches of the American tax system.
"This is a great American success story gone horribly wrong," Schumer told reporters Thursday. "Eduardo Saverin wants to defriend the United States of America just to avoid paying taxes. We aren't going to let him get away with it."But, as fate would have it, Facebook's stock price dropped faster than a Righthaven lawsuit. And the result, according to Forbes, may be that Saverin paid more in taxation than he would have had he stayed in The States.
A couple of things got missed in the furore. The first was that he had to pay tax on his Facebook stock as if he sold it on the day of his citizenship renunciation. The value then was some $2.4 billion, leading to a $365 million tax bill. That tax bill is fixed of course: now that he’s no longer a citizen he doesn’t get any tax breaks or credits on losses he might make. Which of course he has done. Since he crystallised that tax bill his stock (assuming he’s still holding it and he would have been until just now because of the lock in around the IPO) has halved in value to about $1.2 billion. But he still owes that $365 million.
So, at least so far, the net effect of his renunciation has been to double his tax bill, not reduce it. Oh, and if he hasn’t paid the tax as yet then he has to pay interest to the IRS on it.And there we have it. Schumer and Casey drafted legislation, which didn't pass, to combat a guy who did something legal because they insisted it was unfair that he escape full taxation by renouncing his citizenship. It turns out that Saverin's renunciation caused him to be overtaxed by a rather substantial rate. Any takers on whether Schumer and Casey would be open to Saverin claiming relief from this overtaxation?
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Aug 15th 2012 12:03pm
from the hello-streisand dept
Steinberg spokesman, Rhys Williams justified the disruption of CalChannel service this way: 'It was inappropriate to provide legislative resources to promote the ballot measure campaigns of either side, and in particular to make those public-funded resources easily available for exploitation in political TV commercials.'"In other words, because the public debate on these issues might lead others to make campaign commercials, it should not be transparent or shared at all.
The committee's own chairperson, Lois Wolk, was apparently horrified that the video was cut off, noting that "she had begun the hearing with a statement expressing hope that it would help voters reach a reasoned decision on the four measures." Oops.
Steinberg, to his credit has now apologized and admitted that: "It wasn't a good reason... When you mess up, you mess up. I'm sorry and it won't happen again." At least he recognizes that, but the initial move was still pretty blatant and raises significant questions about his motivations in cutting off this most basic form of governmental transparency.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Aug 3rd 2012 11:22am
from the oops dept
What I love about the linked article, however, is that the Bloomberg reporter sought to get a comment from Facebook over this (the company declined). What did he think Facebook would have to say? That it would try harder? That it felt bad that the state overestimated its stock price just about as much as the company itself did? I would imagine that budget overruns by the state due to Facebook's falling stock are pretty far down the list of priorities for Mark Zuckerberg these days...
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jul 25th 2012 10:16am
from the too-bad dept
So what policies did all five agree on? Here's the list (though you really should listen to the podcast to hear them all talk about the details)
One: Eliminate the mortgage tax deduction, which lets homeowners deduct the interest they pay on their mortgages. Gone. After all, big houses get bigger tax breaks, driving up prices for everyone. Why distort the housing market and subsidize people buying expensive houses?So there you go. Six proposals from five economists who represent a very wide spectrum of political views, which they all agree on. And nearly every one of those is political suicide (though, to be fair, Libertarian candidate -- and former beloved New Mexico Governor -- Gary Johnson's platform actually does include many of these).
Two: End the tax deduction companies get for providing health-care to employees. Neither employees nor employers pay taxes on workplace health insurance benefits. That encourages fancier insurance coverage, driving up usage and, therefore, health costs overall. Eliminating the deduction will drive up costs for people with workplace healthcare, but makes the health-care market fairer.
Three: Eliminate the corporate income tax. Completely. If companies reinvest the money into their businesses, that's good. Don't tax companies in an effort to tax rich people.
Four: Eliminate all income and payroll taxes. All of them. For everyone. Taxes discourage whatever you're taxing, but we like income, so why tax it? Payroll taxes discourage creating jobs. Not such a good idea. Instead, impose a consumption tax, designed to be progressive to protect lower-income households.
Five: Tax carbon emissions. Yes, that means higher gasoline prices. It's a kind of consumption tax, and can be structured to make sure it doesn't disproportionately harm lower-income Americans. More, it's taxing something that's bad, which gives people an incentive to stop polluting.
Six: Legalize marijuana. Stop spending so much trying to put pot users and dealers in jail — it costs a lot of money to catch them, prosecute them, and then put them up in jail. Criminalizing drugs also drives drug prices up, making gang leaders rich.
The show suggests they're going to explore in future episodes why so many proposals that a large number of economists think make sense are simply politically unfeasible, and I look forward to that. But, a lot of these are situations where old policies effectively locked us in, and making changes would upset an awful lot of existing infrastructure and jobs, not to mention beneficiaries of those policies. And that's one of the reasons why we're always a bit worried about government leaping in to regulate areas where they don't fully understand what's going on. Those regulations can (and often do) lock us into a situation that is not easy to get out of -- even if getting out of it makes a lot of sense...
What's really unfortunate, of course, is that we can't even have reasonable discussions about most of the proposals above. Bringing up nearly any of them is considered a political non-starter, even though if people really understood the overall impact of them, they might agree that all are at least worthy of discussion.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Sep 1st 2011 12:12pm
from the tax-and-spend dept
The whole thing sounds like a joke, but I feel like I should demand my cut, just to point out the ridiculousness of it all. After all, every time someone in Sweden opens up a page on Techdirt, they're making a "legal copy" on their hard drive. So, where's my cut? According to Google Analytics, last month we had over 12,000 page views from Sweden. Clearly, I deserve a cut for each of those.
While my claim above is obviously silly, it's no less silly than the claims of others. Why should one particular set of content providers get to set up a system like this, and how is the distribution manged? How much do we think will actually go to content creators? And where does it stop? If music and movie companies get a cut, what about book publishers? And news organizations? And blogs? Where do you draw the line? The problem is that as soon as you draw any line in such a case, you're setting up a system that others will demand to be a part of. It's just a bad idea all around.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jun 29th 2011 7:03pm
from the how-will-this-help-california dept
For well over a decade, the Amazon Associates Program has worked with thousands of California residents. Unfortunately, a potential new law that may be signed by Governor Brown compels us to terminate this program for California-based participants. It specifically imposes the collection of taxes from consumers on sales by online retailers - including but not limited to those referred by California-based marketing affiliates like you - even if those retailers have no physical presence in the state.As we've noted before, this is an incredibly short-sighted move by the state. They think it will bring in tax revenue, when all it actually does is kill off affiliates and drives that money elsewhere, to other states. For a state that should be friendly to the internet, considering the whole "Silicon Valley" thing, you'd think the local politicians would know better.
We oppose this bill because it is unconstitutional and counterproductive. It is supported by big-box retailers, most of which are based outside California, that seek to harm the affiliate advertising programs of their competitors. Similar legislation in other states has led to job and income losses, and little, if any, new tax revenue. We deeply regret that we must take this action.
As a result, we will terminate contracts with all California residents that are participants in the Amazon Associates Program as of the date (if any) that the California law becomes effective.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Feb 15th 2011 6:33am
While Texas Politicians Claim $600 Million 'Lost' In Uncollected Online Sales Tax... It Means $600 Million Texans Saved
from the that-money-doesn't-disappear dept
What happens with the $600 million depends on what you mean by "Texas." If you mean the government of the state of Texas in Austin, why, yes, the government appears not to collect that amount, which it wants to. If by "Texas" you mean the people who live, work, and raise their families throughout the state--Texans--they actually save $600 million a year. They get to do what they want with it. After all, it's their money.A good thing to remember in these discussions.
The Texas tax collector is complaining because the last thing state taxing agents want to do is collect money on in the form of use taxes, which means something like going door to door to collect money from voters based on what they bought from out-of-state. Revenuers intensely prefer to hide the process, collecting their residents' money from out-of-state companies.