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NY Bill Proposes Tax Credit for Open Source Developers

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the save-the-commonwealth-a-few-bucks dept.

GNU is Not Unix 111

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "Assemblymen Jonathan Bing and Micah Kellner, along with a number of co-sponsors, have introduced proposed legislation in New York State which would grant a tax credit to individuals acting as volunteers who develop open source programs. The idea of the credit is to ensure that volunteer developers, who could not otherwise deduct their expenses because they are not part of a 'business,' should nevertheless be able to receive a tax benefit for their contribution. The credit would be for 20% of the expenses incurred, up to $200. The preamble to the bill notes that the New York State Assembly itself currently uses 'Open Source programs such as Mozilla for email, Firefox for web browsing, and WebCal for electronic calendars,' and that these programs have led to significant cost savings to taxpayers. The preamble also cited a 2006 report authored by John Irons and Carl Malamud from the Center for American Progress detailing how Open Source software enhances a broader dissemination of knowledge and ideas."

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$200 in NY is a start (1, Insightful)

alain94040 (785132) | more than 5 years ago | (#27081519)

It's great because while you can generally deduct your expenses from your income, if you are contributing to free software code, by definition you are not making any money.

An alternative of course is to join a fair project [fairsoftware.net] instead (warning: shameless plug - you have been warned). Think of it like open source, except that if someone makes money with the resulting software , that person owes a fair share back to the developers.

$200 is too low. I want to be able to deduct my MacBook Pro. But hey, New York is leading the way. Anyone knows if this has a chance to pass?

Re:$200 in NY is a start (3, Insightful)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 5 years ago | (#27081609)

New York was heavily dependent on wall street/banker money and expanded government spending during the subprime bubble.. That money dried up big time and they are one of the hardest hit states. There's no chance of any tax credit. In fact, you should hope they don't start taxing FREE software.

Re:$200 in NY is a start (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#27081663)

I want to say 'suddenoutbreakofcommonsense' but you're probably right... no new tax breaks this year. It's about damn time there was though.

Re:$200 in NY is a start (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27081809)

you should hope they don't start taxing FREE software

10% tax on $0.00 is $0.00.

Re:$200 in NY is a start (1)

WinPimp2K (301497) | more than 5 years ago | (#27082015)

Nope, not a percentage, but a flat fee like an excise tax.

Personal Finance package (MS Money equiv): $25.00
Office Suite like Open Office: $200.00
Point-of-Sale package (MSFT RMS equiv): $180.00 per lane
mid level ERP package (Great Plains equiv): $10,000.00 and up

After all slashdotters joke about having to pay the "Microsoft Tax", just give the legislators half a chance to think about it...
Then give MSFT half a chance to "educate" said legislators via campaign contributions.

Re:$200 in NY is a start (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 5 years ago | (#27087441)

Ten percent of nuthin' is...let me do the math here...nuthin' into nuthin'...carry the nuthin'...

Re:$200 in NY is a start (1)

fistfullast33l (819270) | more than 5 years ago | (#27081639)

I know it's Slashdot, but I'm assuming you're not from New York. Per the article's link, the bill was introduced on March 3rd, so if this gets passed by 2015 we'll be lucky. This is the same state that's rebuilding the World Trade Center and swears it'll be done in time for the 10th year anniversary - in 2011. Did we mention they started in 2002?

Re:$200 in NY is a start (1)

Workaphobia (931620) | more than 5 years ago | (#27083551)

A quick Wikipedia check reveals that you're mixing the memorial with the Freedom Tower. The Tower was started in 2006, and the memorial will be done by 2011.

Re:$200 in NY is a start (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27081661)

$200 is too low. I want to be able to deduct my MacBook Pro. But hey, New York is leading the way. Anyone knows if this has a chance to pass?

I think you should only be able to deduct purchases of hardware if the hardware is open. It doesn't make sense to promote open source development by partially subsidizing the purchase of closed hardware.

Re:$200 in NY is a start (1)

spectre_240sx (720999) | more than 5 years ago | (#27084151)

What's closed about the hardware? OS X is what's controlled. They could care less about people running another OS on hardware that they've already sold.

Re:$200 in NY is a start (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27081677)

It's great because while you can generally deduct your expenses from your income, if you are contributing to free software code, by definition you are not making any money.

Not so, at all. First, you may (and probably do) have income from other sources. Second, it could be an open source bounty or the like - the "as a volunteer" may prohibit this, the "free software" nature of the code does not.

Re:"$200 is too low" (2, Interesting)

hdon (1104251) | more than 5 years ago | (#27081771)

I think now is a good time to have some public discussion of what it will mean if big companies can essentially make money by making their code open. Would Sun have open sourced Java sooner if we were going to pay them to do it? Will it mean a healthier open source community? Will it encourage hardware vendors to go further for the Linux community than just giving us BLOBs?

Re:$200 in NY is a start (1)

Ninnle Labs, LLC (1486095) | more than 5 years ago | (#27081799)

if you are contributing to free software code, by definition you are not making any money.

How so? You can make it so that while your software is libre, that people have to purchase it to obtain it. Volunteering obviously means that you will not make money, but contributing in and of itself doesn't exclude this.

Re:$200 in NY is a start (2, Insightful)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 5 years ago | (#27081853)

$200 is too low. I want to be able to deduct my MacBook Pro. But hey, New York is leading the way.

Be thankful, given the past history, [slashdot.org] I'm surprised they aren't charging sales tax on free software.

Re:$200 in NY is a start (1)

yaphadam097 (670358) | more than 5 years ago | (#27083085)

Be thankful, given the past history, [slashdot.org] I'm surprised they aren't charging sales tax on free software.

Sales tax in NYC is 8.375%, I believe. I would be happy to pay that same percentage on free software.

Re:$200 in NY is a start (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 5 years ago | (#27083427)

Sales tax in NYC is 8.375%, I believe. I would be happy to pay that same percentage on free software.

Whoosh!

Re:$200 in NY is a start (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27083905)

Double Woosh!

Re:$200 in NY is a start (1)

putch (469506) | more than 5 years ago | (#27082395)

it's probably DOA. no sponsor in the senate yet. so call/write/harass your nys senator to sponsor the bill.

also there's now the nys senate is now on twitter http://twitter.com/nysenate [twitter.com] . so send them a tweet saying you want an open source tax credit.

Re:$200 in NY is a start (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#27082647)

if you are contributing to free software code, by definition you are not making any money.

That's not necessarily true. You may not make money directly off the contribution, but the expenditures that go into developing the code that is contributed could be, in effect, a PR and/or R&D expenditure in pursuit of another business (e.g., writing software-related books, or selling consulting services related to the project to which you are contributing.) Heck, if it couldn't be part of a money-making business, big public corporations that certainly aren't doing it out of altruism wouldn't contribute code to free software projects, but there are a bunch that do, mostly because they sell related products and services. Conceptually, the same thing could vary easily be true of businesses that consist of a single person, there certainly are open-source developers that make money off of their relationship to open source projects they contribute to, even excluding those that are paid directly to develop code for a particular open source project.

Re:$200 in NY is a start (1)

yaphadam097 (670358) | more than 5 years ago | (#27083313)

$200 is too low. I want to be able to deduct my MacBook Pro...

Working on OSS won't pay for a MacBook either. You just have to devote a small amount of time to paid freelancing. Then you can write off the entire cost of the MacBook and still have plenty of time to use it for OSS development.

How to prevent abuse? (5, Insightful)

javacowboy (222023) | more than 5 years ago | (#27081667)

The idea sounds excellent in principle, but how do you tell a true open source developer apart from a poser looking to abuse this program?

Re:How to prevent abuse? (1)

thermian (1267986) | more than 5 years ago | (#27081833)

The idea sounds excellent in principle, but how do you tell a true open source developer apart from a poser looking to abuse this program?

Release history on a well known open source project hosting site, Sourceforge, Google Code, places like that, or a large easily verifiable team.

Yeah... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27082057)

What if people make software like "Hello World v5" or "My First For Loop v2.1" just for the tax credit?

And don't tell me it requires LOC counts or a certain team size or number of downloads or user base. Because I'm sure that people wanting a tax credit wouldn't mind teaming up...

Re:Yeah... (0, Flamebait)

thermian (1267986) | more than 5 years ago | (#27082083)

What if people make software like "Hello World v5" or "My First For Loop v2.1" just for the tax credit?

And don't tell me it requires LOC counts or a certain team size or number of downloads or user base. Because I'm sure that people wanting a tax credit wouldn't mind teaming up...

Did you actually read my post?

Re:Yeah... (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 5 years ago | (#27082287)

I read your post. And he has an excellent point. Tell me how you prevent me and ten friends from putting up "Hello, World" Versions 1 through 20 on Sourceforge to get the credit. I have a large, verifiable team, and I have a release history. Now gimme my money.

Re:Yeah... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27082563)

if u want to go thu all this trouble for 200$
might as well stand in line down town for some free soup on lunch

Re:How to prevent abuse? (1)

david_thornley (598059) | more than 5 years ago | (#27082499)

Yeah, so I put up what I've got now for DIFL and PTG. I've now contributed to two OS projects. Disregard the fact that the code for those projects is sketchy, and nothing actually works yet; last I looked, Sourceforge had project classifications for that. Suddenly I can get about $200 back, provided I can generate expenses.

Isn't there enough vaporware on Sourceforge already?

Re:How to prevent abuse? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27081877)

If they release the source code under GPL?

Re:How to prevent abuse? (3, Funny)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 5 years ago | (#27082107)

The idea sounds excellent in principle, but how do you tell a true open source developer apart from a poser looking to abuse this program?

Slashdot post history?

Re:How to prevent abuse? (4, Funny)

NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) | more than 5 years ago | (#27082147)

The idea sounds excellent in principle, but how do you tell a true open source developer apart from a poser looking to abuse this program?

Slashdot post history?

True. If they've never been modded to "-1 Flamebait" you know they're not genuine.

Re:How to prevent abuse? (1)

Chris Acheson (263308) | more than 5 years ago | (#27082413)

Looks like the mods think you're genuine. ;-)

Re:How to prevent abuse? (1)

NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) | more than 5 years ago | (#27082447)

As a lawyer I'm genuine.

As a software developer, I'd be as genuine as a 3 dollar bill.

Re:How to prevent abuse? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27086499)

Those aren't real? Shit.

Re:How to prevent abuse? (2, Funny)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#27087955)

As a software developer, I'd be as genuine as a 3 dollar bill.

Here's the quickest way to getting that -1 you've always wanted:

vi or emacs?

Re:How to prevent abuse? (1)

NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) | more than 5 years ago | (#27091073)

As a software developer, I'd be as genuine as a 3 dollar bill.

Here's the quickest way to getting that -1 you've always wanted: vi or emacs?

Actually I still haven't perfected my skills programming a Vic 20.

Re:How to prevent abuse? (5, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#27082255)

The idea sounds excellent in principle, but how do you tell a true open source developer apart from a poser looking to abuse this program?

Simple. Yank on their beard. If the beard pulls off, they are a poser. If only a few hairs pull out, and your hand comes away coated in grease and food particles, then they're legit.

Re:How to prevent abuse? (1)

NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) | more than 5 years ago | (#27082483)

I guess that was one of the funniest posts I've ever read here.

Re:How to prevent abuse? (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#27084229)

It's also one of the oldest jokes on /., so I can't really take credit, except maybe for good taste in cliches. :)

Re:How to prevent abuse? (1)

NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) | more than 5 years ago | (#27084657)

It's also one of the oldest jokes on /., so I can't really take credit, except maybe for good taste in cliches. :)

Well I'm always down for learning a Slashdot "meme". I for one welcome the teachings of our more ancient and wise overlords.

Re:How to prevent abuse? (2, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#27085011)

Ah, not familiar with the un-kept-beard-and-poor-hygiene stereotype of UNIX/Free Software geeks? Well here's a crash course in the frighteningly real basis [stallman.org] . ;)

Re:How to prevent abuse? (1)

zombie_monkey (1036404) | more than 5 years ago | (#27083237)

This is one of the funniest posts I have ever seen here.

Re:How to prevent abuse? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27087515)

Funny... ha ha...

Except I've worked on open source and I don't have a beard.

Re:How to prevent abuse? (2, Funny)

castironpigeon (1056188) | more than 5 years ago | (#27082379)

It's NYS. If you can fill out the reams of paperwork it takes to get the money, you deserve it. You'll probably be spending more on ink and fax charges than the $200 you get back. That's right. Fax.

Re:How to prevent abuse? (1)

jamesmcm (1354379) | more than 5 years ago | (#27082487)

Force the projects to be GPL-licensed and only GPL licensed. That way it prevents companies opening an BSD-style licensed project to get tax cuts on the early development and then finishing it closed source.

Re:How to prevent abuse? (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#27082709)

Force the projects to be GPL-licensed and only GPL licensed. That way it prevents companies opening an BSD-style licensed project to get tax cuts on the early development and then finishing it closed source.

Companies don't get tax cuts, the contributors do. The companies can already deduct their expenditures as business expenses. And, if that was an issue, your proposal wouldn't help, since it wouldn't stop them from starting a GPL-licensed-with-copyright-assignment-required-to-contribute and then finishing it closed-source.

Sure, all the original contributed code would have at one point been available under the GPL, just as in the other case the original contributed could would have at one point been available under the BSD-like license, but the license of the final product is controlled by whoever controls the copyright, however they may have licensed preliminary versions.

Re:How to prevent abuse? (1)

xZgf6xHx2uhoAj9D (1160707) | more than 5 years ago | (#27083473)

Presumably the same way they do tax credits for everything else: voodoo. I'm currently allowed to deduct "research expenses" up to a certain amount. How do they verify what expenses are "research" and which aren't? I don't know, but I'm guessing they'd frown if I tried to submit a receipt for a Jet Ski. Same thing here: as long as you throw something up on Sourceforge (even "Hello World" might count) and give them receipts for things vaguely computer related (new hard drive?) they won't care too much.

Is this what is needed? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27081695)

Instead, commission some FOSS or features added to FOSS you already use; the money directly supports useful development and the developer(s) involved, the taxpayer, and the entire world (well, that uses that software, directly or indirectly...)

America (-1, Offtopic)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 5 years ago | (#27081705)

America has become a land of pigs willing to watch our nation crumble as long as the farmer keeps feeding us our slop. It is amazing how we don't care about trillions upon trillions of debt and not trillions in single-year deficits... as long as somehow, we are getting a share of the handouts. The sad part is that the slop we are receiving is not real... it is an illusion. It won't be long before we are bankrupt. And we have done it to ourselves.

Re:America (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27081733)

This is the result of capitalism, lol. Doing just enough to get money.

WORKING AS INTENDED.

Re:America (1, Troll)

bencoder (1197139) | more than 5 years ago | (#27081801)

Sure, people may be living by the fundamentals of capitalism (maximising their own gain) but I don't think the system was ever intended to include an all powerful thief who steals money and then redistributes it to some people arbitrarily, keeping a big chunk for himself as payment for his wonderful services.

Re:America (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27082111)

Actually, that is completely backwards. A capitalist economy requires a powerful government to keep order. If you get rid of the government one of two things happens. You either have people doing some really terrible things to each other, or you develop communes. Usually both, with the former prevailing.

Re:America (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#27082329)

So you're saying capitalist theory was developed without considering the existence of governments? Well that would explain why it feels so disconnected from reality sometimes. That'd be like me developing a plan for getting to work that doesn't account for terrain or solid objects in my way.

Re:America (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27083557)

Analogy Time by a great American:

"Think of a poker game. Eventually someone wins and has all of the money. If the other players want to stay in then they need to borrow money to do it."

This is basically how capitalism works. Except that if someone winds up with all the money then we go into a depression and everyone suffers.

Is this really what you want?

Re:America (3, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 5 years ago | (#27082047)

To the mod... perfectly on topic. Let me break it down slowly for you. We have various agencies offering tax breaks and increased spending to help the economy. The reality is that spending Trillions more than you bring in may help short-term. However, long term we have to work harder just to pay the debt we owe everyone.

Now, if Mr. Smith not receiving any benefit from the overspending, he rightly goes "Hey, it isn't right to put me into debt so you can benefit". But, throw him a bone, and suddenly he is content with the overspending and gladly puts the ring through his nose.

Fast forward a generation, and the bill catches up with us. We spend more time just to pay off old debts, and less for investing in the future. Countries who lent us the money have more to spend on capital projects. Soon we are a 2nd world country.

It is already happening. And seeing the collective orgasm over a $200 credit illustrates it beautifully.

Bottom line: tax cuts are nice. But you have to pay for them. Either now. Or later.

Re:America (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#27083229)

We have various agencies offering tax breaks and increased spending to help the economy. The reality is that spending Trillions more than you bring in may help short-term. However, long term we have to work harder just to pay the debt we owe everyone.

If, as you say, the tax breaks and increased spending actually do help, then, by definition, more wealth has been created than otherwise would have existed with which to pay off the debt. That's the whole theory behind accepting short-term and potentially very significant increases in debt load (proportional to GDP) during a recession (not willy-nilly, but with targeted policies designed to reduce the impact of and reverse the downturn) while working out of the debt load during expansions. The problems generally are (1) proper targeting of stimulus policy during recessions (which is a comparatively minor problem in practice; while it can be done very badly, usually it is done in a way which is a net benefit even if it could be improved), and, particularly recently, (2) maintaining the discipline to work debt loads down during expansions.

#2 is the big problem, and its not a problem that has always existed and that shows you just can't trust politicians; US national debt-to-GDP ratio was managed well from the end of WWII through the 1970s, working down pretty consistently, with occasional short-term increases; exactly what you'd expect from responsible fiscal policy. In the 1980s under Reagan and Bush I it exploded -- not only during the recessionary periods, but during the expansionary periods in between, as well. Under Clinton the growth of the debt compared to the GDP was slowed and reversed, buy it grew again under Bush II, not just during the short recession at the beginning of his term and the longer one at the end, but through the expansion in the middle as well (to be fair to Bush the Younger, the debt increase in his term was at nothing like the rate under Reagan and Bush the Elder.)

(OTOH, its worth noting that, despite all the hyperventilating about the size of the national debt now, its currently a little over half the share of GDP it was when it peaked in the 1940s; while we certainly need to get better discipline about working it down during expansions, the apocalyptic portrayals of unprecedent runaway debt are misleading.)

Re:America (2, Interesting)

Puzzleer (309198) | more than 5 years ago | (#27083615)

I write open source drivers for the Linux Kernel and I live in New York City. I've easily spent a thousand bucks in the last year buying hardware I didn't need so I could make it under Linux work.

People might think the $200 is a token gesture, but for me it's real money. It's another two or three devices I could add support for.

Re:America (1)

jojo_mcbean (1373887) | more than 5 years ago | (#27088003)

Tax levels and credits in an ideal democracy represent how much the society values various things. Carbon taxes with open source credits mean they don't like C02 in the atmosphere but like Linux. So yes, taxes on the whole should be increased to curb foreign lending, but that doesn't take away from legitimate shifts in a value for something like open source programming.

Al Gore (1)

hdon (1104251) | more than 5 years ago | (#27081709)

Didn't Al Gore propose a similar tax program?

20% up to $200 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27081793)

20% up to $200.00? Guess what. My hourly rate is $200,000. That works out pretty well.

(this joke goes out to my old teacher Mrs. Lett, who taught me that "x is n percent of y" equates to x = n% * y, thus y = x / n%)

Corporate R&D tax credits? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27081803)

This is a nice thought but $200 is nothing... that's chump change.

How much do we miss, as individual developers, when compared to corporations who get R&D tax credits, etc?

Obviously anyone getting paid via a W-2 gets very, very screwed. But for those getting paid via 1099, what can they do to recoup their investments in development that may or may not ultimately prove commercially viable? Etc.

No Thanks (5, Insightful)

janeuner (815461) | more than 5 years ago | (#27081829)

If you want to help open source, require that government software makes widespread use of open specifications. The rest will pay for itself.

Re:No Thanks (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#27082769)

If you want to help open source, require that government software makes widespread use of open specifications.

Open specifications and open source are almost orthogonal; I would say you want government software to specifically use open source, and government-issued software standards (e.g., standard mandated data formats) to be open specifications.

Re:No Thanks (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#27082931)

Open Source doesn't imply Open Specification.
Source Code is not a Specification.
Source Code can be Officiated and written for such a Platform Particular Level that it is useless to anyone else without the Spec or the original programmer.

Hey if you have a Binary File and the Intel Assembly Manual you could disassemble any program in assembly and follow that code to see what it does and then do changes and make it better.

20 Megs of source to sift threw without specs is a hassle and potentially quite dangerous.

Open Source doesn't mean Open Specification

Re:No Thanks (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#27083275)

Open Source doesn't imply Open Specification.

Correct. Which is why I said, in the post you responded to here, that the two were "almost orthogonal".

Open Source doesn't mean Open Specification

You are repeating yourself, to which I repeat the above response.

Re:No Thanks (1)

janeuner (815461) | more than 5 years ago | (#27083263)

No, I do not want government software to be open source.

I want government software, like all software, to be good. There will always be bad software. However, if an entrepreneur identifies a bad product, and the market in quest has a low cost of entry, you will find that the bad product will be replaced with a better product. Whether or not it is open source or closed source is irrelevant.

Too many people consider freedom to be a price. I consider freedom to be the opportunity to improve yourself and the world around you, and I believe any society that promotes freedom of opportunity will prosper.

Re:No Thanks (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#27083387)

No, I do not want government software to be open source.

I want government software, like all software, to be good.

Let me clarify: I do not mean to say that it is essential that all government software should be open source, what I meant is that there open source is, all other things being equal, a positive thing in many areas of government, where the same advantage may not apply equally in the private sector (this is particularly true, for instance, in software where government sponsors the development, remembering that the government exists to serve the public interest, not a competitive private interest, so that whereas for a private company it is a benefit to gain a competitive advantage over other users with similar needs -- and moreso the more similar the needs are -- with government it is not.)

IOW, very often, open source is good for government in ways that it might not be as good for a private business, simply because the purpose of government is not the same as the purpose of a private business.

think about it more. (1)

hamanaka (894048) | more than 5 years ago | (#27081903)

Anyone who is even remotely related to FOSS systems could claim the $200 tax credit. How about small grants for making open source contributions, with milestone requirements.

All Your Code Are Belong To Us (2, Insightful)

Rene S. Hollan (1943) | more than 5 years ago | (#27081973)

Great. Just great.

This is effectively an open source government subsidy, albeit a small one.

Government subsidies generally are used to either (a) encourage a behavior (mortgate interest deducture designed to encourage home ownership, for example, though what it really does is raise home prices), or (b) create a claim to that subsidiesd, in hopes of exploiting it later, which is likely the case here.

IOW, "You could not have developed this code if the taxpayer did not subsidize it, therefore the taxpayer owns it, not you, and you now have to pay a $50/year tax to use it. Obviously, since you did not own it, you could not copyright it, and the GPL is null and void, except where we say otherwise. If you need further convincing, we will just apply the doctrine of eminent domain to own it."

Basically, the government creates the slimest of justifications for an ownership interest in something, on terms likely never acceptable in a free market, and the uses it's force to exploit that supposed ownership interest.

I'd expect that RMS might actually like this, but I also think he is a bit naive about how evil and incompetent governments can be.

He supports universal healthcare, for example, but can not accept that it's general failure is due to a design and not implementation flaw.

Re:All Your Code Are Belong To Us (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 5 years ago | (#27082115)

Maybe because it is not a failure?

All healthcare systems ration, either by you not having the cash to buy it, by your HMO deciding it is cheaper to let you die while they drag out the denials and appeals process, or when there are not enough doctors and you have to wait. When there are limited resources, and there always are, there has to be a way to ration them.

The VA has the best result per dollar spent of all healthcare systems in the US, far more goes to overhead in private systems.

If this does not make you think, then you should look at the amount spent in the US vs other nations on healthcare and you will see we already pay for universal care and just don't get it.

Re:All Your Code Are Belong To Us (1)

Rene S. Hollan (1943) | more than 5 years ago | (#27082765)

Get sick in Canada, and tell me what you think.

If you don't have "connections" you wait forever, often longer than if you could have paid the tax dollars you did toward health care toward a private policy. I discovered this very quickly when I moved from Canada to the U.S.: my taxes went way down (as I was married at the time and owned a home, there being no mortgage interest deduction in Canada, or the option to file jointly (and the tax credit for a spouse was a token amount)), and the premium I paid for health insurance was far less than the tax dollars I save, and the care I received was far, far, better.

Granted, there are many who lack health insurance in the U.S., the prospect of malpractice litigation, insurance, and plethora of various insurers, make for inefficiencies and insurance more expensive than it needs to be.

But, I've found if you're willing to work, you get some level of health insurance at least on a par with what you'd get in a socialized nation: the worst insured care in the U.S. may suck compared to the best, but it is often better than what is available to all in a socialized medicine nation.

I've lived 36 years in Canada, seen the nationalization of health care become complete there in the course of my life, amd 11 in the U.S. I write from expereience. There is a thriving healthcare industry just south of the Canada/U.S. border that caters to Canadians who can cross the border.

Canada is like North Korea and Cuba as far as it's national health care system goes. It isn't a matter of paying taxes to provide basic care for everyone, with the option to purchase better care for yourself once you've paid your "tax share". This is illegal, arguably because it is "unfair" for "the rich" to have better health care than "the rest". They can buy better cars, though. So, if they chose to be materially frugal, and invest in gold-plated health care instead, why question it?

Of course, this results in long waits in the public health care system, where doctors are paid a mediocre wage, can't command higher salaries on the basis of competentence, and have procedural quotas imposed.

Private care is an option but only if (a) the provider does not participate in the public system, (b) the patient is not eligible for the public system (IOW is not a citizen). Thus, only providers that cater to foreign athletes operate privately.

I am a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. since 2006, and can apply to become a citizen in 2011. I had previously resided in the U.S. from 1997 to 2003 on various visas, returned to Canada for a year in 2003/4, and came back to the U.S. on work visas in 2004, immigrating in 2006. I have an American son. When we were in Canada in 2003 and he was sick, I had the choice of applying for Canadian citizenship for him du sanguis, and he could wait and get "free" health care. Insted, having produced his American passport, I paid and he went to the head of the queue.

There has been pressure for a two-tier system, as in other socialized nations like Great Britian, but one hears tales of woe from their citizenry as well.

In the face of mounting healthcare costs, what the U.S. really needs is a system of cooperatively-ownend health insurers, rather like cooperatively-owned life insurers, and standardization of policies, and practices, in the healthcare field.

It DOES NOT need government interferance.

Re:All Your Code Are Belong To Us (1)

mdm-adph (1030332) | more than 5 years ago | (#27083411)

That's a nice story, but you must realize that your observations do NOT mirror those of Americans as a whole.

Re:All Your Code Are Belong To Us (1)

Rene S. Hollan (1943) | more than 5 years ago | (#27083841)

Then, if those Americans don't like it, they should leave, watch that the door doesn't whack them on the ass when they do, and if they decide to return, stand in line behind all those that actually want to be here.

Some of us actually like it here, because, as imperfect as it is, we find it far better than the alternative that we left. I usually hear the most griping from those that are fat, lazy, spoiled, and think the world owes them a life.

As for me, I've been treated far better as a foreigner coming to the U.S. legally through "the front door" than a citizen when I lived in Canada. I was shat upon for being able to (barely) support a family on my income alone: "How DARE you deny child care workers a job by not puting them in daycare?" I was berated for hiring a kid to mow my lawn in the summer of 2003: "Who the hell are you to be able to afford that?" My kid was punished in her Ontario school for "showing off" for show and tell by displaying her yearbook from her last year in Texas: it was "too ostentatious because it was hardcover".

I make no bones about hiding my utter disgust for "liberals". They are like fleas upon the societal dog who multiply and suck the breath and blood out of the productive. We should not suffer them just because they sometimes take down a corrupt and greedy individual who leverages money to buy law for self-serving purposes.

Re:All Your Code Are Belong To Us (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27082199)

...if the government takes ownership of the code, and someone "pirates" it, or worse yet, develops for it, do you seriously believe the government is going to start to sue? And what about foreign countries that just tell the US gov't to f**k right off?

You know the person who wrote the code originally isn't going to sue you if you stick to the GPL, so the only party would be the government.

I don't think this is for control, it wouldn't make sense in this case.

Re:All Your Code Are Belong To Us (1)

Rene S. Hollan (1943) | more than 5 years ago | (#27082417)

Geez. The government won't sue for use. They'll tax you on your own code, and prosecute for criminal income tax evasion if you don't pay.

Dunno about the U.S., but in Canada, while the police can't bust down your door just because they think you killed someone, they can certainly do so, and sieze all your assets and property, if they think you're guilty of tax evasion. I hear the IRS is about the same, though my dealings with them have been reasonable.

Re:All Your Code Are Belong To Us (1)

Simetrical (1047518) | more than 5 years ago | (#27085583)

Dunno about the U.S., but in Canada, while the police can't bust down your door just because they think you killed someone, they can certainly do so, and sieze all your assets and property, if they think you're guilty of tax evasion.

They can do so in either case, if and only if they have a warrant. At least in the US, the police can't confiscate anything or enter your home without a warrant, with only quite narrow situational exceptions. I doubt it's much different in Canada, although you probably don't have the exclusionary rule [wikipedia.org] .

Re:All Your Code Are Belong To Us (1)

Rene S. Hollan (1943) | more than 5 years ago | (#27086447)

Except, (a) Canada does not have as strong a constitution, (b) jurisdiction over tax matters is via a special tax court [wikipedia.org] , and (c) the burder of proof based on a balance or probabilities is upon the taxpayer to establish their innocence. The burden to establish civil penalties is upon the state.

Basically, if the taxing body says you're guilty of tax evasion, you have to prove otherwise. And, generally your assets can be siezed, until you can prove your innocence, often depriving you of the means to afford adequate legal representation.

Contrast areas of criminal jurisdiction not related to state revenue: the burden of proof likes on the prosecution.

Re:All Your Code Are Belong To Us (3, Insightful)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 5 years ago | (#27082271)

insightful my ass.

IOW, "You could not have developed this code if the taxpayer did not subsidize it, therefore the taxpayer owns it, not you, and you now have to pay a $50/year tax to use it. Obviously, since you did not own it, you could not copyright it, and the GPL is null and void,

He supports universal healthcare, for example, but can not accept that it's general failure is due to a design and not implementation flaw.

pure bullshit

Re:All Your Code Are Belong To Us (1)

Rene S. Hollan (1943) | more than 5 years ago | (#27082791)

Rather like talk of taxing the internet because DARPA funded it's original development?

Re:All Your Code Are Belong To Us (1)

Simetrical (1047518) | more than 5 years ago | (#27085617)

Rather like talk of taxing the internet because DARPA funded it's original development?

You think the government doesn't tax the Internet? It taxes every ISP, router operator, and website owner for all profits they make on their business. That's about as close as you can get to "taxing the Internet" even in principle.

Re:All Your Code Are Belong To Us (1)

aukset (889860) | more than 5 years ago | (#27082429)

Completely unsupported anti-government rant = instant karma, I guess. Why is this modded up?

Re:All Your Code Are Belong To Us (1)

Simetrical (1047518) | more than 5 years ago | (#27085523)

IOW, "You could not have developed this code if the taxpayer did not subsidize it, therefore the taxpayer owns it, not you, and you now have to pay a $50/year tax to use it. Obviously, since you did not own it, you could not copyright it, and the GPL is null and void, except where we say otherwise.

Copyright is a federal institution in the United States, and states cannot nullify, adjust, reinterpret, or ignore it. Copyright is held by the author of the work unless they created it in the course of their official duties for a regular employer, per USC 17. Therefore, New York couldn't do this.

If you need further convincing, we will just apply the doctrine of eminent domain to own it."

I've never heard of eminent domain being used with intellectual property. How would it work? They aren't actually causing you any loss, so can they just take it for free? Can they say that they get an exclusive license, or only that they get a plain old ordinary license? Can they force you to give support? Most importantly, would this run into federal supremacy problems? Congress created copyright, so it could impose whatever limitations it liked, but states might be on sketchy ground here.

It's a beginning (2, Interesting)

NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) | more than 5 years ago | (#27082091)

Sure it's a small number, but it's a beginning. What's important are the principles -- the recognition that open source (a) contributes to the growth of ideas, (b) makes our economy more efficient, (c) helps both industry and government improve the services they provide, and (d) should be encouraged.

Re:It's a beginning (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 5 years ago | (#27082625)

It's a tax break for a hobby. There are lots of things out there which are noble and good, but which don't qualify for tax breaks because the business never makes a profit, or not enough over the long term to call it a true "business."

I applaud OSS developers, but this is a carve out for a special interest. It happens to be "our" special interest, but that doesn't make it any better. I'd rather see the government actually use OSS and buy support contracts than give a handout.

Re:It's a beginning (1)

UnderCoverPenguin (1001627) | more than 5 years ago | (#27089077)

I'd rather see the government actually use OSS and buy support contracts than give a handout.

How many OSS developers benefit from those support contracts? As best I can determine, only the ones lucky enough to be able to do OSS professionally.

Why shouldn't the little guys get a little financial incentive, too?

Also, what actually defines a hobby? (other than the tax authorities definition of "Does it actually make money after a reasonable time?")

Example, I once had a business I ran purely as a hobby. I actually made a lot of money from it. Then I took the money I raised and started a different (though closely related) business. Big mistake. I was much better at running the first business.

never pay programmers (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27082189)

I love open source, that way I never pay for software or ever pay programmers. I just give them a big ego boost and tell them how great they are and how they are helping the world. True open sourcers don't ask for tax breaks. Cause that would be like working for the man.

The gnomes who did the heavy lifting (4, Informative)

NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) | more than 5 years ago | (#27082333)

By the way, for those of you anxious to know the background of how an Assemblyman named Jonathan Bing got into this issue, I should mention that

(a) the guy with the idea behind this bill was "open government", "open access to court records", "open source", "open everything" activist Carl Malamud [americanprogress.org] , who was most recently in the news when Congressmen and Senators started picking up his thread about making PACER -- i.e. court records -- free (as in beer); and

(b) the guy who helped usher this through, and put together the details, and get the Assemblymen to put their backs behind this, in the halls of government, is a very dynamic young geek and Slashdotter named Benjamin Kallos (like myself a Bronx High School of Science grad) who until recently was working for Assemblyman Bing but is now running for City Council [kallosforcouncil.com] in Manhattan.

Re:The gnomes who did the heavy lifting (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#27088019)

Almost sounds like a decent human being, if not for the stigma of 'Assemblyman' for a title.

why is the name Ben? :-) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27089691)

does that ring a bell?

Tell Obama that we want Carl (1)

sporkmonger (922923) | more than 5 years ago | (#27090799)

(a) the guy with the idea behind this bill was "open government", "open access to court records", "open source", "open everything" activist Carl Malamud [americanprogress.org] , who was most recently in the news when Congressmen and Senators started picking up his thread about making PACER -- i.e. court records -- free (as in beer); and

Also, it should probably be noted that Carl Malamud is informally campaigning to be nominated as Public Printer of the United States [yeswescan.org] .

Your First Premise Is Wrong!: +1, True (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27082339)

New York is OUT OF BUSINESS PERMANENTLY!

The U.S.A. Is OUT OF BUSINESS .

Cordially,
Kilgore Trout.

I like the altruistic idea but... (3, Insightful)

psnyder (1326089) | more than 5 years ago | (#27082763)

Keep the money out of it. The open source system is already working. Any additional legislation, no matter how well intended, has consequences. If nothing else, government officials have to spend their time administering that legislation. Only when the benefits outweigh the consequences should legislation be introduced.

This kind of legislation only has the potential to harm the open source movement.

Currently, the benefit of this extra legislation is a pittance, a mere $200. This is nothing more than a token gesture. It's intended as an extra incentive for individuals to contribute, but gives no real relief to any project large enough to make a difference.

So it has barely any benefit, and it has a chance to do a lot of harm.

The little harms: It can be abused too easily. There's very little way to keep proper track. The money would be diverted from other public benefit.
The big harms: 1) incentives have been shown to psychologically stifle altruistic endeavours and 2) possible large scale abuse later.


1) The incentive
This kind of incentive actually does a lot more harm than good. Barry Schwartz talks about it briefly in one of his TED talks [ted.com] . (at 10min 50sec).

"If you have a reason for doing something and I give you a second reason, it seems only logical that 2 reasons are better than one and you're more likely to do it. Right? Well, not always..." He gives an example of something I've heard about time and time again. If people are willing to do something based on principle for what they believe is right, they are less likely to do it if they are also offered an incentive of money. The introduction of the incentive switches the psychological focus from, 'How can I help?' to 'What can I get out of it?' Without the incentive we're willing to deal with difficulties for a community or a cause we think is right. With the incentive, we weigh the difficulties with what we're getting out of it.


2) Abuse
If legislation grabs hold in one place, that makes it easier for similar legislation to come about in other places. This can have a snowball effect until it gets rather large. So right now you'd have a few individuals abusing the system, but if more legislation gets passed and more money added, you'd get large corporations abusing the system. What happens when the the next OOXML (a product owned by a large company but passed off as being the same as any other OSS) comes into play? It'll just be another government kickback to be abused. Don't assume government legislation is going to be tech savvy as to what true FOSS is.



OSS is doing fine now. It's not broken. It doesn't need fixing. There is already legislation helping non-profit organizations. This kind of legislation does not provide any real benefit. It is too easy to abuse now and it psychologically harms the motivations of the OSS movement.

Let's leave the money in OSS to donations and deals with ordinary companies. Adding extra governmental layers of money is just a bad idea.

Re:I like the altruistic idea but... (1)

Ohio Calvinist (895750) | more than 5 years ago | (#27083941)

I have to disagree. I have little applets I have written specificly for me, but if I had a little tiny incentive, I might make them a little more suitable for public use. I know, I know, I sould be doing this anyway as a measure of "correctness" (writing apps that are more configurable, generally suited) and I shouldn't need a token gesture to get me to upload it to SourceForge, but that tiny ammount would make me think "I should be uploading this, therefore I should be coding more generally."

Economic diet (1)

Neanderthal Ninny (1153369) | more than 5 years ago | (#27082799)

Governments and executive management needs to go on a economic diet. However like all diets, we go off of them for various reasons and go back to our "bad" ways.
Government and executives need to reduce own personal expenses so they can live within income they get.

Communism's insidious threat. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27082927)

And so the progress of socialism and communism in America continues unabated.

$200 in NY is nothing (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 5 years ago | (#27082945)

I'd rather see the government push to get the open source software used in schools and government offices as well as a push for these institutions to use open source formats which will help push people into using it and in the end that will be worth much more than a cheque for $200.

Where do the "cost savings" go? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27083379)

If they are saving all this money, why do my NYS state tax go up? Why does this state have the most expesive state goverment of the all of the 50 states??

This is bad. (2, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#27085571)

It will lead to the government defining Open Source.

"I'm from the Government. I'm here to help you."

Happy about the Preamble (1)

OutlawDrake (219223) | more than 5 years ago | (#27085949)

With all of the chatter about the merits and viability of the tax credit, I'm surprised at the lack of comment on the preamble. Regardless whether the proposed legislation makes it, as a resident of NYS, I'm really encouraged to hear that the Assembly "Gets It" when it comes to *using* OSS. That's not "proposed" -- they've already made OSS a significant part of how they get things done. This is a *huge* win in mindset, and will have positive effects (even indirect ones) beyond any small tax credit.

--
It must be bunnies.

Re:Happy about the Preamble (1)

NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) | more than 5 years ago | (#27087061)

With all of the chatter about the merits and viability of the tax credit, I'm surprised at the lack of comment on the preamble. Regardless whether the proposed legislation makes it, as a resident of NYS, I'm really encouraged to hear that the Assembly "Gets It" when it comes to *using* OSS. That's not "proposed" -- they've already made OSS a significant part of how they get things done. This is a *huge* win in mindset, and will have positive effects (even indirect ones) beyond any small tax credit.

Excellent point, Outlaw. It demonstrates an understanding of some of the important contributions that are being made by open source.

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