Fun_People Archive
20 Jul
Bits o' TBTF for 2000-07-20

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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Thu, 20 Jul 100 16:55:56 -0700
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Subject: Bits o' TBTF for 2000-07-20

X-Lib-of-Cong-ISSN: 1098-7649  -=[ Fun_People ]=-
Excerpted-from: TBTF for 2000-07-20: Many fathers
From: Keith Dawson <>

    T a s t y   B i t s   f r o m   t h e   T e c h n o l o g y   F r o n t

    Timely news of the bellwethers in computer and communications
    technology that will affect electronic commerce -- since 1994

    Your Host: Keith Dawson

    ISSN: 1524-9948

    This issue: < >

    To comment on this issue, please use this forum at Quick Topic:
    < >

..Regulatory foolishness abroad

    The Net happened to the US first. For years this country enjoyed a
    near-monopoly on clueless politicians laying waste to the medium in
    their bumbling attempts to render it inhospitable to terrorists or
    appealing to 6-year-olds.

    Now the rest of the world is catching up fast. Herewith a sampling
    from the outer limits of boneheaded lawmaking around the world.

    ..France: unintended consequences

    In the wake of the ILOVEYOU virus, France moved to stamp out online
    anonymity within its borders [11], [12]. (The French distaste for
    anonymity predates the Internet by at least 150 years, as the note
    at [11] explains.) Now it appears that open-source development may
    suffer as a result of the proposed law. John Fremlin was quoted in a
    Freshmeat article [13]:

      > As written, [the law] would unambiguously prohibit hosting of
      > content of unspecified provenance; that is, sites on which
      > users could post material would be legally obligated to some-
      > how determine the true identities and postal addresses of
      > their users.

    Open Source projects never have such information about all of their
    far-flung contributors, and gathering it would be next to impossi-
    ble. Under the proposed law, open-source projects currently hosted
    on French servers would have to move outside the country's borders.

    This unintended consequence is particularly twisted given France's
    expressed preference [14] for open-source software over that from


    ..Australia: streaming content = broadcasting?

    The Australian government is playing silly buggers with the coun-
    try's nascent online video and audio industry [15]. Recently passed
    legislation calls for a review of streaming content on the Austral-
    ian Internet by Jan. 1, 2001. The betting is that streaming content
    will end up equated with over-the-air broadcasting, forcing site op-
    erators to scramble for licenses -- which won't come available until
    2006. The minister responsible for reviewing the industry, Richard
    Alston, had said he planned to make no decision until next January,
    leaving a potential multi-billion dollar industry twisting slowly
    in the wind. An Internet Industry Association spokesman declared that
    the government had "defined the medium's commercial promise out of
    existence." But yesterday Alston appeared to back down [16], signal-
    ling that he didn't want to ban the internet industry from streaming
    video into Australian homes.

    Thanks to TBTF Irregular [17] Eric Scheid for the story.


    ..Germany: taxing Internet use at work

    Germany has made a strong move in the rapidly spreading interna-
    tional contest to demonstrate maximal blind cluelessness about the
    Internet. The German newspaper Stuttgarter Zeitung broke the story
    [18] (commentary here [19]), which was picked up by the Heise news
    ticker [20]. All of these pages are in German. Jochen Schwarze, who
    alerted me to the story, kindly provided the English translation


      German financial minister Hans Eichel has proposed a draft de-
      cree [*] stating that private use of the Internet at work will
      be taxed from January 1, 2001. The tax office assumes that pri-
      vate use is common and will therefore be regarded as a 'mon-
      etary advantage' [**]. If the company or the employee cannot
      prove that the Internet access is granted for occupational rea-
      sons only, the complete Internet costs for that workplace may be
      regarded as 'geldwerter Vorteil' and therefore added to the em-
      ployee's taxable income. To avoid this, the employer has to
      forbid private Internet use completely AND is obliged to take
      random samples. Only if private use is ruled out by 'special
      circumstances' (like technical actions to allow access to cer-
      tain pages only) there will be no tax implications.

      [*]  a 'decree' (German 'Erlass') is something that can be es-
           tablished by the ministry without having to pass the German
           federal parliament (Bundestag).

      [**] German tax idiom, 'geldwerter Vorteil' -- a 'monetary ad-
           vantage' is some service or benefit that you get from your
           employer beyond direct payment, for example free lunches
           or a staff car that you can use for free privately. You
           are obliged to pay income tax on the equivalent value.

      If, however, the employee has unrestricted access to Internet
      pages, the amount of 'geldwerter Vorteil' charged is based on an
      individual settlement. For this, the employee is obliged to take
      notes on the date, time, and duration of occupational use as
      well as the pages visited and for what specific reason.

      Industry representatives are in a rage about the proposed decree
      for a number of reasons like unjustified administrative effort,
      cost of logging all access, and tax revenues bearing no relation
      to expenses. They are now trying to get private Internet access
      declared a 'convenience' (like free coffee), so that it is not
      subject to taxes.

      Press comments:

      - Absurd and quixotic.

      - Every employee with PC and Internet access will be a poten-
        tial tax evader.

      - An idea that could only be developed by people without enough
        work to do.

      - Politicians issue soothing messages on Green Cards and the
        New Economy while at the same time burdening citizens with
        nonsensical tax regulations.

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    Keith Dawson     
    Layer of ash separates morning and evening milk.

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