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If IP Is Property, Where Is the Property Tax?

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the making-the-world-safe-for-mickey dept.

Government 691

nweaver writes "In a response to the LA Times editorial on copyright which we discussed a week ago, the paper published a response arguing: 'If Intellectual Property is actually property, why isn't it covered by a property tax?' If copyright maintenance involved paying a fee and registration, this would keep Mickey Mouse safely protected by copyright, while ensuring that works that are no longer economically relevant to the copyright holder pass into the public domain, where the residual social value can serve the real purpose of copyright: to enhance the progress of science and useful arts. Disclaimer: the author is my father."

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691 comments

Wow... (5, Interesting)

milsoRgen (1016505) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567450)

On the face of it, I love that idea. The bigger question would be how do you determine the value of the IP to assess it for taxation.

Re:Wow... (2, Interesting)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567484)

The value of anything and everything that includes the specific IP?

Or would having the trademark of every character in a cartoon be worth the value of the whole cartoon be a problem?

How else could you start dividing it up?

Re:Wow... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22567744)

I would imagine it goes like this: You have some IP you want protected. You file for something to protect it (new something, copyright, whatever). You claim a value. You make up the value - whatever you want to say it is. You are then taxed on that value. The only caveat is that if someone wants it from you they can buy the whole damn thing from you for the price you claimed it was worth - UNLESS you immediately raise the value and pay a penalty for undervaluing it.

Re:Wow... (5, Interesting)

milsoRgen (1016505) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567898)

How about every 10 years said item would go up to the auction block, if a competitor out bids you. They can claim the IP, if no one wants to compete the original value must be paid otherwise IP goes into public domain. And for IP that drastically changes in value in a short time, a petition could be filed that if properly cause is shown an auction could be triggered early.

Or something, really I'm thinking any alternative more sensible than the life+70 would be good.

Re:Wow... (5, Insightful)

colmore (56499) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567512)

I propose that the RIAA and MPAA and the BSA file the ridiculous figures they've been claiming all these years.

Re:Wow... (2, Insightful)

webmaster404 (1148909) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567530)

On the face of it, I love that idea. The bigger question would be how do you determine the value of the IP to assess it for taxation.


No the real question would be how much would you have to pay for that comment you just wrote. Because you have that piece of IP assigned to you you now have to pay say a $.01 tax to keep that registered to you. Im sure that it won't be that extreme if it does get implemented but governments are generally bad at keeping the interests of the people.

Re:Wow... (4, Funny)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567688)

No, no, no. It's two cents. Two cents.

Re:Wow... (1)

ichthyoboy (1167379) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567870)

Unless the IP within the comment is valued at $0.02. Then the tax would be much less. But that's just my two cents...how much do I owe?

Re:Wow... (4, Funny)

syzler (748241) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567874)

But I would only offer him a penny for his thoughts.

Re:Wow... (1)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567726)

No the real question would be how much would you have to pay for that comment you just wrote. Because you have that piece of IP assigned to you you now have to pay say a $.01 tax to keep that registered to you.
No, he's not proposing a tax on things people specifically want to retain copyright to. You're conflating the current system (automatic) with the proposed system (pay tax or get no copyright). I suppose perhaps you're making a joke, but it's hard to tell due to the complete lack of humor therein.

Re:Wow... (4, Insightful)

Solra Bizna (716281) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567878)

You're conflating the current system (automatic) with the proposed system (pay tax or get no copyright).

Yes, but by doing so he's pointing out one con to such a system. In that system, for instance, modifying and relicensing GPL software to be closed-source would be legal (in fact, encouraged) unless the author of that software paid a copyright fee.

Which would probably end with something like our modern-day patent system, where big corporations can easily absorb the copyright fees and be invincible while the smaller "people" it was designed to protect get shafted.

-:sigma.SB

Re:Wow... (5, Insightful)

rgmoore (133276) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567858)

No the real question would be how much would you have to pay for that comment you just wrote.

The answer is easy: nothing. You're never required to pay the property tax. It's just that you lose your copyright if you don't pay. Since I don't really care about the value of my slashdot comments, I wouldn't pay and they'd lapse into the public domain.

That's exactly the point. Things like blog comments that have little monetary value to their creators shouldn't be protected indefinitely. Neither should books that their publishers care so little about that they're allowed to go out of print. They should move into the public domain so that other people can make use of them without fear of lawsuit.

Re:Wow... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22567534)

I think the RIAA has already determined that a song is worth $150,000. I relish the idea that the RIAA would be required to pay billions in taxes if this succeeds. At the very least, it would adjust the cost of song infringement to something more reasonable.

Re:Wow... (4, Insightful)

FSWKU (551325) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567550)

The bigger question would be how do you determine the value of the IP to assess it for taxation.
I'd be all for a percentage of whatever revenue the copyright has brought to you the preceeding year. Failing to pay said tax would immediately cause the imagin...err...intellectual property to lapse into the public domain.

Re:Wow... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22567676)

That doesn't solve the problem addressed... people keeping copyright on things that are no longer economically viable to them.

Maybe require you to file official copyright claims on anything before you can defend it (automatically approved, but chalangeable) and then a small flat fee to maintain that copyright until you declare it public domain (a decision that you obviously can't recant) in addition to a percent of your income based on that copyright as property tax? Or maybe a tax on how much total you've made on that copyright, or some assessment of its current market value if you were to sell it (that'd be hard to do...) until you declare it public domain? (if the former, that'd certainly be an incentive to declare something public domain once you stopped really using it...)

Re:Wow... (4, Insightful)

dpilot (134227) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567964)

The government has all sorts of "innovative" methods of taxation.

For the case you mention, I can think of a very simple solution - some sort of "minimum IP tax". Hold the IP, pay at least the minimum tax. As your revenue stream rises from zero, you continue to pay the minimum tax, until the taxation on your revenue stream exceeds that minimum. You know, pay the greater value.

Then there needs to be a process for releasing content into the public domain, so you can prove it to the Tax Man.

Plus it may sound biased, but there probably needs to be some sort of "equivalent to public domain" status for open source licenses. After all, the purpose of public domain is to make the IP usable by others as a foundation for further work. But then again, that also means that the government would probably meddle in defining open source licenses, at least for tax purposes. I could readily foresee bsd licenses passing the muster, but perhaps not the GPL, though maybe the LGPL. Remember, one thing the US government *likes* is businesses making money, and if you assume that closing the source is *necessary* to making money, as some very powerful business players do, then the gpl can be considered hostile toward that end.

Valuating for Property Tax Purposes (5, Interesting)

qbzzt (11136) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567554)

I think Heinlein had the solution to that (he used it for real property). You declare a value, you pay taxes based on that, and anybody can force you to sell it to them at that price.

Re:Valuating for Property Tax Purposes (1)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567698)

Very elegant. I think applying that to copyrights would be fine, as long as the tax was scaled so that we could claim something was worth a bit more (maybe 25-100% more) what we might be willing to sell it for yet still have a reasonable tax on it.

A property tax on IP makes sense because it can be used for all this government supported enforcement of IP laws. Right now these companies seem to be getting a free ride from the FBI.

Re:Valuating for Property Tax Purposes (5, Insightful)

Atlantis-Rising (857278) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567746)

That sounds similar in concept to a shotgun buy/sell [wikipedia.org] (for corporate shares).

It sounds great in theory. In practice, however, it would be untenable. Linus would never be able to afford the property taxes on Linux, and as a result Microsoft with its billions in cash reserves would be able to buy it for a steal (unless of course Linus let it into the public domain, a decision I'm not even sure he could make.)

Linux is obviously an example, and perhaps a bad one. But a shotgun buy/sell system as you are proposing dramatically favors those with larger revenue streams and ready cash reserves.

Re:Valuating for Property Tax Purposes (1)

ZorbaTHut (126196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567852)

Except that Linus doesn't own IP rights on Linux.

Hundreds of people do. Everyone who's ever contributed to Linux does. Each one of them owns "intellectual property" in Linux, and in order to "lock down" Linux, Microsoft would need to buy out each and every person . . .

. . . except that that wouldn't help. Linux is under the GPL. The GPL is irrevocable. Every person who's downloaded a copy of Linux would still be able to use it, distribute it, and modify it.

So, imagine Microsoft somehow buys all the property rights to a version of Linux . . . the community merely "forks" it, keeping the same name (which isn't a copyright, note! It's a trademark! Microsoft can't buy it!) and keep developing, with the same version, leaving all the same code in place, without even skipping a beat.

The only things Microsoft could do with its new property would be to license it under a different license, such as integrating the code into closed-source apps or providing it public-domain. Honestly, if MS is willing to pay the open-source groups the millions of dollars it would no doubt cost for even a small segment of the code, I'm okay with that.

Re:Valuating for Property Tax Purposes (2, Insightful)

ichthyoboy (1167379) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567946)

How many of those billions in cash reserves would Microsoft have left over after they've paid the taxes on all of their IP?

Re:Valuating for Property Tax Purposes (1)

at_slashdot (674436) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567948)

"Linus would never be able to afford the property taxes on Linux" -- but would Linus ask for more than $0 for Linux? Why would he have to start to do that now? Besides, Linus is against software patents, it would be strange for him to ask for money for patents that he considers ludicrous.

Re:Valuating for Property Tax Purposes (1)

duffbeer703 (177751) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567828)

That's fundamentally unfair, as the value of property varies depending on who you are. The value of 500 acres to a farmer is significant, but tied the the value of his production. To a developer, the value of 500 1-acre plots is far greater.

So whose value do you use? The farmer cannot afford to pay the taxes for 500 1-acre homesites, but he also has zero defense against deep pockets under your system.

Re:Valuating for Property Tax Purposes (1)

qbzzt (11136) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567952)

So whose value do you use? The farmer cannot afford to pay the taxes for 500 1-acre homesites, but he also has zero defense against deep pockets under your system.

The farmer could lose his 500 acres. But if he gave a valuation that is enough to buy a 600 acre farm, he only pays a bit more in property taxes and gets thrown out with money to buy a better farm.

Re:Valuating for Property Tax Purposes (0)

seanadams.com (463190) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567834)

I think Heinlein had the solution to that (he used it for real property). You declare a value, you pay taxes based on that, and anybody can force you to sell it to them at that price.

That's insane. We're not talking about pork bellies here, a house (like a copyrighted work) is a unique thing that has all kinds of values that are difficult to estimate and may be valued differently from one person to another. Am I expected to entertain a bidding war with any might-be buyer in order to keep my house, until the point where I can't afford the property taxes?

Or am I supposed to declare a value that no person in their right mind would pay, and suck it up and pay the taxes? Even then, anyone wealthy enough (or not in their right mind) could simply seize my home if they fancied it.

Ridiculous idea.

Re:Valuating for Property Tax Purposes (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567864)

I think Heinlein had the solution to that (he used it for real property). You declare a value, you pay taxes based on that, and anybody can force you to sell it to them at that price.


There are lots of reasons that is a really bad idea for most kinds of property, and especially for real property, but it might actually be a fairly good idea for intellectual property with the slight alteration that instead of forcing you to sell it, any person (or group of persons) tendering the declared value can compel you to surrender to the IP right involved -- patent or copyright: you probably don't want to do this with trademarks -- to the public domain.

Combined with a short "tax free" term (say, 7 years) where you didn't need to declare a value and the work was immune to such moves, this would be a good way to guarantee that the public was benefiting from works one way or another, while still rewarding creators and providing an incentive to create works.

Re:Valuating for Property Tax Purposes (1)

SocratesJedi (986460) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567892)

While that is an interesting and provocative idea, it's also a stupid one. This would allow for all sorts of eminent domain-esque property seizures done by anyone with sufficient resources to slightly outbid you. Maybe it's a better allocation of resources from the perspective of the tax-collecting government that someone seizes your house to build a tax-generating UberMart Ultimate Shopping Center, but the system unfairly penalizes real people who have value entrenched in non-taxable things (for example, providing a stable environment for a family). Effectively, it would begin taxing those things as well since they would have to be just summed into the total value of the property.

Re:Valuating for Property Tax Purposes - $ (2, Funny)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567956)

What if you value it at an infinite value?

You'd have to pay an infinite amount of money in tax (any percentage of infinity is infinite), but then you'd write off that expense, resulting in an infinite tax write off, bankrupting the gov't.

Works for me!

RS

Re:Wow... (2, Interesting)

XaXXon (202882) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567596)

I agree with some others about making the creator declare a value on which they pay tax. However, instead of making this a value that you can buy it from someone for, you could make it the amount you could sue someone for - or for a fixed licensing / royalty rate.

Of course this destroys copyleft. It asserts that the value of a work is directly related to its monetary value. If you're not selling it, it must not have value (unless you have the money in the bank to keep paying the tax without income from the property)

Re:Wow... (5, Interesting)

Radical Moderate (563286) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567638)

"The bigger question would be how do you determine the value of the IP to assess it for taxation."

I agree, assessing intellectual property values would be a huge PIA.

On the other hand, a simple, flat, renewal fee would have the same effect. Or perhaps a sliding scale, so that the longer you hold a copyright the more expensive it becomes. Copyrights that weren't producing revenues would be released, and Disney could keep Mickey forever. Might not generate the billions in tax revenues that the author envisions, but it would get more works in to the public domain.

Re:Wow... (2, Insightful)

mysticgoat (582871) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567970)

On the other hand, a simple, flat, renewal fee would have the same effect. Or perhaps a sliding scale, so that the longer you hold a copyright the more expensive it becomes. Copyrights that weren't producing revenues would be released

This would destroy the GPL and probably all other copyright licenses that support FOSS.

I do not think that would be A Good Thing To Do.

Re:Wow... (1)

Deanalator (806515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567760)

It might be fun to set the value of the patent to the largest bid that someone has offered to pay for it.

If a company wants it, they could offer to buy it. If the current owner sells it, then they have made some money. If not, then they have to start paying more money to keep it out of the public domain. This would definitely kill patent trolls. The longer a patent exists, the more it would cost to keep out of public domain. This also gives the public a good way to buy useful patents (think batteries) into public domain. If people pool enough money together, they could make it very expensive for large corporations to hold onto their patents.

Re:Wow... (2, Insightful)

ndnspongebob (942859) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567826)

That is not the bigger question, the bigger question is why is there property tax, even for real estate. The framers of this country clearly didn't want the government to have centralized power over our property for any reason. In fact, if you read the constitution, it focuses on decentralization (just like the internet which is a key reason why it works). This is also the reason why everybody thinks the country is divided on like every issue. These issues are not to be determined by some central government, but rather by local government with the most amount of power left to the individual. So if you want property tax on IP, you figure it out where you want. I for one don't want another tax especially when i am trying to come up in the world on top of all the other expenses I would have to pay for.

Re:Wow... (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567926)

No need to assess the potential value of the work. Simply levy a tax sufficient to cover any expenses associated with collecting the tax itself, since the point here is to rescue orphaned works or other works where the copyright ownership is somehow muddled.

Re:Wow... (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567932)

sales tax on annual gross sales.

except for hollywood's funny accounting- but i do not think even they mess with taxing authorities.

Re:Wow... (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567942)

Further, could we tax them for holding millions of copies of each work? For example, if a song will be sold millions of times online, could they be taxed for those millions of copies of the song in their possession before they sold them? After all, making an unauthorized copy is equivalent to stealing the CD from the store, in their eyes, so surely they wouldn't mind reporting them to the IRS.

this post... (0, Redundant)

ameline (771895) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567454)

This first post is public domain and I therefore have no property taxes to pay on it

It isn't REAL property (5, Insightful)

cmay (687134) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567462)

Real property (real estate) has property tax, but no one taxes you for personal property.

I am sitting in a chair, no one is going to TAX me on the fact that I own some chair (personal property).

Weak argument.

Re:It isn't REAL property (3, Informative)

Zondar (32904) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567486)

Ad valorem taxes, anyone?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_valorem/ [wikipedia.org]

Re:It isn't REAL property (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22567626)

I assume you mean this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_valorem_tax/ [wikipedia.org]

Re:It isn't REAL property (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22567696)

Aha, I fell into the same URL formatting trap the gp did...
Here's a link that was actually double-checked.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_valorem_tax [wikipedia.org]

Re:It isn't REAL property (5, Insightful)

PinchDuck (199974) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567704)

Bingo. IP is taxed when the owner makes money on it. It's called the Income Tax.

Broken link in parent! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22567762)

Make that http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_valorem [wikipedia.org]

Don't add a / to the end of Wikipedia links. They don't work if you do.

Re:It isn't REAL property (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567940)

Ad valorem taxes, anyone?


Property taxes (in the usual cases) are ad valorem taxes, but ad valorem taxes levied on personal property generally are not property taxes (which are periodically levied on the value of things owned) but transfer taxes (levied at the time of transfer on the value of things transferred.) All an "ad valorem tax" is is any tax based on the value of the thing taxes. But that doesn't make all ad valorem taxes equivalent, or even generally analogous.

GP remains correct that personal property, as a general rule (at least in the US) is not subject to property taxes, or anything structured similarly, notwithstanding that various ad valorem transfer taxes (sales taxes, etc.) are levied on personal property.

Re:It isn't REAL property (1)

TheNarrator (200498) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567514)


I am sitting in a chair, no one is going to TAX me on the fact that I own some chair (personal property).


In most of Europe they tax you for owning a TV set.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tv_tax [wikipedia.org]

Re:It isn't REAL property (1)

cmay (687134) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567564)

They aren't taxing you because you own some property, the tax is because it is assumed that you will use the TV to access the programming they are providing (paid for by the tax). I wouldn't call that a property tax.

Re:It isn't REAL property (4, Interesting)

Above (100351) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567518)

This is not quite true.

Many states have personal property tax, for instance Virginia taxes your car, boat, RV, and things like that every year.

However, I don't think the worry is about personally owned IP, but rather corporate. A very large number of business jurisdictions tax businesses based on their owned property. As one property tax official told me in one locale, "if it's necessary to run your business it must be listed, and we tax it." If that's the business attitude of the tax man, I think the editorial is spot on.

Re:It isn't REAL property (2, Informative)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567644)

Here in Virginia you also pay property tax on your car; I believe that's also the case in some other states. But, yeah, even here you don't pay taxes on personal property in general, just real property and cars.

Re:It isn't REAL property (1)

N1EY (817702) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567902)

Except we tax personal property, now. This means your chair, desk, and computer. Seriously. Where have you been? Most jurisdictions levy a personal property tax.

Re:It isn't REAL property (1)

TechForensics (944258) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567944)

Actually, many if not most states have personal property taxes. Not just auto excise tax like we have here in dear old Taxachusetts... I mean a tax where they can come in to your home, note you have a $20,000.00 Steinway, and TAX you on the value. (If you don't let them in they could be free to asssume what they like and let you prove them wrong.) It's just that in Massachusetts at least, this tax is not enforced in peoples' homes, probably because the assessors would be shot. HOWEVER-- it is sure as Hell enforced on BUSINESSES. I had a visit in my business office from an assessor who noted down the type and number of desks, typewriters, computers and so on, and I received a personal property tax bill a bit later. (That's a bill you have to pay every year, by the way.)

Why? (4, Insightful)

webmaster404 (1148909) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567466)

Its easy why it isn't, almost everyone owns some piece of IP. For example, this comment, it could be considered IP, now should I have to pay essentially a fee on that? No. Or what about a program I wrote, should I have to pay a tax to license it under say the GPL? What really needs to happen, is lower copyright terms and the abolishment of the "forever copyright" and also, what in the world does the government do with all their copyright fees?

Re:Why? (3, Insightful)

Breakfast Pants (323698) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567498)

>For example, this comment, it could be considered IP, now should I have to pay essentially a fee on that?

No, but it should slip into the public domain unless you do.

Re:Why? (2, Insightful)

webmaster404 (1148909) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567580)

No, but it should slip into the public domain unless you do.


So in other words only the rich now can make money on anything that would be considered IP such as books, poems, songs, software, etc. Because the larger companies can now buy the rights to your public domain IP and sell it? Yes that will probably be illegal but if its public domain its not like you have the rights to complain.

Re:Why? (1)

xtracto (837672) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567632)

But the tax will depend on how much is such property valued. So for example, If the author of the metnioned post values it at X, then he will have to pay X*k (k1) as tax. That would make companies such as RIAA and the like value whatever property they have at their real value (instead of the thousand of dollars that they want to extort from the John Does).

Re:Why? (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567748)

Wait, wait, wait...

That would be different from the current situation?...

Re:Why? (2, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567906)

Because the larger companies can now buy the rights to your public domain IP and sell it? Yes that will probably be illegal but if its public domain its not like you have the rights to complain.
1. If it is in the public domain, you can't "buy rights to it".
2. You don't need to "buy rights to it" to sell it.

Re:Why? (2, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567536)

Exactly bring back the 17 years of copyright with no renewal. I could even argue that since works can be distributed much more quickly than 2 centuries ago, that works should be covered by copyright for an even shorter period. After 10 years your work should go into the public domain. If you haven't generated enough cash by that point, you're probably never going to generate any cash with that work.

Re:Why? (4, Interesting)

CorSci81 (1007499) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567628)

Perhaps the solution is some sort of automatic grace period? For instance, anyone can maintain copyright on a work for say a timeperiod of 1-year tax-free, but after that they either have to start ponying up (because it's economically relevant enough to care) or lose the copyright. The problem I foresee is figuring out how to appropriately tax copyrights. Photographers for instance sometimes rely on copyright protection to generate revenue off their work, but since an individual photo realistically generates a fraction of their necessary income they would be paying through the nose in taxes. Whereas a huge company like UMG or Sony could easily afford the taxes on their entire vast catalog if they paid the same rate as say a photographer. The trick is finding a way to do this that leverages huge companies to drop some of their less profitable copyrights without killing the livelihood of individual creators.

Punning != argument (-1, Flamebait)

Yath (6378) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567468)

Umm, because "property" has several meanings. You've used a different meaning in each instance of "property" in your dumb question.

Also because not everything under the sun needs to be taxed. Jerk.

It does... (2, Informative)

drakyri (727902) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567470)

There are maintenance fees. From http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/doc/general/mainten.htm [uspto.gov] :

"All utility patents which issue from applications filed on and after December 12, 1980 are subject to the payment of maintenance fees which must be paid to maintain the patent in force. These fees are due at 3 ½, 7 ½ and 11 ½ years from the date the patent is granted and can be paid without a surcharge during the "window-period" which is the six month period preceding each due date, e.g., 3 years to 3 years and six months. (See fee schedule for a list of maintenance fees.)

Failure to pay the current maintenance fee on time may result in expiration of the patent. A 6-month grace period is provided when the maintenance fee may be paid with a surcharge. The grace period is the 6-month period immediately following the due date. The Patent and Trademark Office does not mail notices to patent owners that maintenance fees are due. If, however, the maintenance fee is not paid on time, efforts are made to remind the responsible party that the maintenance fee may be paid during the grace period with a surcharge."

Re:It does... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22567890)

If they have to pay maintenance fees to keep their rights, then it's extortion. No one has to pay a maintenance fee to keep their right to free speech.

Patents have a "tax" (4, Informative)

Janthkin (32289) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567472)

There are fees associated with maintaining patents (due at 3.5, 7.5, and 11.5 years), and failure to pay them on schedule results in cancellation of the patent.

Re:Patents have a "tax" (1)

computerchimp (994187) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567700)

Most taxes are placed as a percentage not as an insignificant fee. What are the fees? cc

Re:Patents have a "tax" (1)

sckeener (137243) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567938)

There are fees associated with maintaining patents (due at 3.5, 7.5, and 11.5 years), and failure to pay them on schedule results in cancellation of the patent.

What would be nice is increasing the fees at an exponential rate, so yeah you can keep that patent but it had better be bringing in the dough...

offtopic a bit> I just watched the NOVA Ape Genius and one of the things it mentions that we, as humans, differ from Chimps is the ability to teach others...to pass on our knowledge. Wouldn't it be nice if patents were changed so that there was an end date (in my lifetime?) a date that meant the knowledge had to be passed...

Terrible idea for entertainment based copyrights (4, Insightful)

fictionpuss (1136565) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567476)

if all copyrights were taxed at a fixed (but significant) amount per year to maintain the copyright (all registered through the copyright office and searchable), there would be a significant carrying cost and most of the copyrighted material would revert to "public domain" and become available to "promote the progress of science and useful arts."
Think GPL - turning copyright into the tool of the people - we can do better than carrying costs, and in fact they would only be an unneccessary hinderance.

For example, the kid who wrote Chocolate Rain [youtube.com] has a potential revenue stream from the YouTube advert. You can bet he wouldn't have guessed that he would get almost 15 million views - so he would automatically have ceeded his potential copyright into the public domain. Someone else who saw the potential could have stepped in, linked it to all the right sites, and took all the advertising revenue for themselves.

This is an issue which will resolve itself just as soon as the internet becomes the main (legitimate) medium for entertainment distribution. At this point all the money currently spent on old media advertising follows the shows to YouTube or whereever they are being distributed. This creates, in effect, a democratic marketplace which rewards creativity; which will allow viral video authors to generate a revenue stream and (if they wish) go mainstream. Well, that's the dream [livejournal.com] , anyway.. and at that point all the big copyright trolls can go fuck themselves as their precious content they horde will have become almost worthless.

re Not so hot idea (2, Insightful)

jelizondo (183861) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567488)

Disclaimer: the author is my father.

That's what mommy told you anyway. :->

The idea is very good. Even not performing assets (i.e. unrented buildings) pay property taxes; of course, if I'm getting $3,000 a month rent from an apartment it is very likely that my property taxes will be higher than if it is a rundown hole in the wall, but even then taxes must be paid.

The problem is that the companies seeking longer copyright terms are precisely those whose assets are generating income, so adding 3 or 5 percent tax will not stop them; it will be the consumer who has to pay it through an increase in prices.

The real solution is to limit copyright terms to a reasonable,/i> amount of time; no more than 20 years from registration. Period. No extensions, no games, nothing more. If in 20 years you haven't reaped the just reward for your work, then you will never do it.

If you have reaped your reward, then twenty years is a fair amount of time./P.

Re:re Not so hot idea (1)

jguthrie (57467) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567844)

Those seeking longer copyright terms are most definitely those whose assets are generating income. However, the problem with the current copyright system is that the copyright terms cover those works which will not generate income over even a 20 year span. I honestly don't have a problem with a perpetual copyright as long as the work so protected is generally available without violating the law. The current copyright law effectively un-publishes most works and that is precisely contrary to society's reason for providing copyright protection in the first place. Requiring that intellectual property be taxed provides a means for deciding when it is appropriate for a particular work to enter the public domain.

How about my name and likeness? (2, Insightful)

AardvarkCelery (600124) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567490)

Lots of things are property. If the naked cowboy [wsj.com] can sue for unauthorized use of his name and likeness, should he have to pay property tax on his name? Or what about a research paper? I don't want my papers plagiarized or sold in unintended ways, but I shouldn't have to pay just to publish a paper, either.

apples and oranges (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567496)

In most states in America, personal property other than real estate and cars are not taxed or not taxed by value.

In most states, intangible property, including bank accounts, stocks, patents, etc. are not taxed or not taxed by value.

Real Estate, land-use/minerals, and sometimes cars and big-ticket items and the other property of wealthy individuals is taxed.

Perhaps a percentage (1)

PaK_Phoenix (445224) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567520)

Perhaps a percentage based system might be effective. A percentage of the gross I would think. Due yearly as property taxes are.

shhhhhh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22567538)

You are giving them tax ideas?

Hmmm... not liking it from my POV (1)

McNihil (612243) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567560)

so who will ensure that the government or any other party does not tax my brain... I mean will anybody that has higher education (thus potentially more IP between their ears) need to pay extra tax because they might have some insight that other mortals don't have?

I for one really dislike the idea on a fundamental level.

Ya...ya.. RTFM

good point (2, Insightful)

computerchimp (994187) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567568)

Not a lawyer here: A corporation has rights as a person and it owns property, but it never dies and never pays an inheritance tax on their coveted IP property or copyright. Their lifespan can far exceed a persons. It does not sound fair to me. What do the corp lawyers say?

cc

Re:good point (1)

Atlantis-Rising (857278) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567792)

If you never died, your heirs would never pay an inheritance tax. I'm not sure exactly what your problem is.

Majority of Artists (3, Insightful)

umStefa (583709) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567570)

The whole problem with requiring an annual fee to maintain your copyright is that the little guy would get screwed. Many artists spend their whole life creating and virtually starving to death (because sales require promotion and promotion costs money), only to become successful at the end and their early work thereby becomes profitable. They could not afford to maintain their copyrights if fees where involved and then Mickey and friends could step in a utilize their work for nothing.

A better solution would be to only charge a copyright fee on copyrights held by corporations (i.e. created under a work for hire license or purchased from the artist). When the artist who created the work still holds the copyright (and has no contractual obligations to a company on the use of that work) the current system works fairly decently. Since a company's main priority is its bottom line, unprofitable works would be released into the public domain sooner, but the little guy would still be able to benefit from his / her individual work.

Re:Majority of Artists (1)

nihaopaul (782885) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567786)

Fantastic but lets develop it a bit..

Patents:
You should register a patent with a declared value and on this value you shale pay tax, in the event of a lawsuit you can only ask for a monetary settlement up to the value you declared, these taxes are yearly.

copyrights could work in the same way - up to the published amount.

then again, who does this really help? Patent Trolls? the General Public? ..the Government?

For the same reason ... (1)

Kaz Kylheku (1484) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567576)

that the shirt on your back isn't covered by a property tax?

Doh.

If property is yours... (2, Interesting)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567590)

then why do you have to pay for it?

I understand this line of thought is really about IP, not about tax and rights...but I would like to thank the author for perpetuating the idea that even if something is YOURS, you still have to pay the government for it.

If the government can deprive you of a basic right (property as a basic right in the state of nature, Voltaire, Hobbs, Locke, T. Jefferson) simply because you don't pay for the privilege of enjoying the right, then rights are privileges, not rights.

I guess war and welfare aren't going to pay for themselves...

Re:If property is yours... (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567862)

then why do you have to pay for it?

      When you pay "property tax" the excuse is that you are paying for the services your municipality is rendering you: sidewalks, roads, water, sewage, public schools, public buildings, public facilities/services, etc. Of course since everyone wants to maximize revenue, someone decided to base the amount of property on the type/use of the property and its value - with the rich/more valuable properties paying more.

      An IP tax would just be another way to suck money out of people - presumably with the excuse that it would help defray the costs of enforcing/managing copyright - but really the expense of this compared to paying the gas for a single police cruiser running 24/7 is minimal. I'm sure governments would salivate at this idea.

If the government can deprive you of a basic right ... then rights are privileges, not rights.

      Government can deprive you of everything, up to and including your life, if the conditions are right (crime, drafts/war). Welcome to life - we are all still basically serfs. That's what power is all about. I suggest you read a bit of Henry D. Thoreau for some more insight into this phenomenon. The only way to avoid this is revolution, and making sure that YOU (not "your party") end up on top. Who do you think has more "rights" in Cuba - loyal Cubans, or Fidel Castro? Who had more rights in Iraq, the Baath Party members, or Saddam? It's good to be the king.

Bad idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22567608)

If it is taxed, tax revenues would rapidly become another reason for the state to preserve the copyright monopoly system's existence - Consider that USPTO (patents and trademarks, which require maintenance fees that are almost like taxes) is also profitmaking for the state - part of the "problem" with the USPTO is that those profits are actually bled off for purposes other than running the USPTO. Effectively, corporations buy market monopolies at knock-down prices from the state, while the state pretends it's doing to reward innovation.

The correct solution is to abolish copyright (and patent if you ask me). If someone doesn't want their work copied, they don't have to fucking release it. Don't try to burden society with a censorship system in every PC and network to preserve copyrights, that is moronic, and just gives the police-state-builders another _excuse_ for the Big Brother surveillance system they want.

Maintenance fee (4, Interesting)

david_thornley (598059) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567616)

Patents have a maintenance fee. Why not copyrights?

Why not charge a maintenance fee for copyrights every ten years? That way, most stuff will go into the public domain ten years after publication. It won't bother most people, because most people's copyrighted stuff isn't valuable the next day, let alone ten years later, and if it is they can always extend it.

The hard part would be figuring out what to charge for copyrights of commercial material, like proprietary software, books, music, and the like. I'm sure people can figure out something halfway reasonable, likely on the low side.

Re:Maintenance fee (2)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567732)

No, increase the maintenance fee geometrically every year, and let the author decide at what point it's no longer worth keeping the monopoly. Problem solved.

Commercial exploitation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22567622)

So it's often discussed that there is some sort of trade-off for the copyright monopoly: you get this limited monopoly to spur your creation of new works, and we get the benefit of the new work plus the freedom to do whatever we want with it when the copyright has expired. Nobody seems to work out, though, exactly why the monopoly should end before all commercial value has been harvested. It seems to me that unless you take a somewhat relaxed stance toward personal property, you have to recognize that expiration of copyright prior to exhaustion of value takes something from the author. Similarly, though, a term extending beyond the useful economic viability of a copyright imposes unjustifiable costs on the public- costs which don't even end up in the hands of the authors of those works. Fairness would seem to suggest that rather than fixed terms, we need something that would allow for the slow development of a market in a work, but that would kick the work to the public domain after a reasonable period.

Re:Commercial exploitation (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567708)

exactly why the monopoly should end before all commercial value has been harvested.

If the only reason there is commercial value IS the monopoly itself, then it will never end because what makes Day 1 different from Day "n"? On the other hand - why should the ultimate goal of creating something be the monopoly?

      Surely artists create for the sheer joy of creating - the GOOD ones actually managed to make a living from it through patronage, sponsorship, commissions for further works, etc. But now we have a bunch of cheap plagiarists drooling with the hope of retiring forever by making the smallest incremental change possible to some existing/previous works, and hoping these "new" works are different enough to avoid lawsuits.

      Heck, in Hollywood sometimes they manage to release different versions of the same movie (from different studios) in the same season.

      Enough. The internet's cheap and efficient distribution, and digitalization, have given ME the power to choose what I deem worthy of economic compensation, and what isn't. Call me a criminal. But you can't stop all of us.

are my thoughts taxable? (0, Redundant)

BlueshiftVFX (1158033) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567646)

can the American public be forced to stop thinking due to the penalty of being taxed for it? my thoughts are my Intelectual property aren't they? atleast until someone finds a way to read minds. I guess the only way to tell would be to scan thoughts in which they would then be public thoughts and then public domain therefore not taxable. would childrens thoughts under the age of thirteen be non-taxable? I should stop thinking, I think I hear the IRS coming.

Brains in the boston harbor (1)

PowerEdge (648673) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567658)

Great. I can see the boston brain party now... Chumming the harbor with brains will attract the sharks, or as I like to call them Democrats.

Re:Brains in the boston harbor (1)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567850)

So would that make Republicans the tumor or the syph?

come now, must we really have pointless bickering about political opinions?

Disclaimer: the author is my father. (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567670)

Noooooo! It's unpossible!

Search your feelings, boy, you know the content to be true!

FYI, I think it's a load of crap. (1) because only certain type of property get taxed, at least here in the US, I only pay tax on my car and home. Not my computer, TV, radio gear, home furnishings, etc. (2) Because, as mentioned several times already, there is a maintenance fee schedule to help comp the system. And (3), it'd be a state thing. The state taxes my car. The state taxes my property. We have enough problems with people sung from certain districts in Texas (and elsewhere) over patents, what if we get some state that sets themselves up as a patent haven, where the fees are low and the laws loose? It wouldn't work out.

interesting... (3, Insightful)

j0nb0y (107699) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567690)

The idea of property tax is that the owners of property owe something back to society. The idea goes back to feudalism when the land owners were feudal lords. Instead of(or in addition to) taxes, feudal lords could be called on to send knights into battle as a condition of their land ownership. If they couldn't fulfill the duty, the land would be taken away and given to someone who could...

The same idea could be applied to intellectual property. The owners of intellectual property should be required to give something back to society. As some other posters have pointed out, the problem becomes valuing the property. The easiest way to value intellectual property is by how much income it brings in to the owner.

By that measure, intellectual property is already taxed. The tax is simply paid through the corporate or individual income tax.

Tax the satellites. (1)

TheWizardTim (599546) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567750)

This reminds me of when the county of Los Angeles tried to tax satellites [caltax.org] . If it has any value to anyone in any way, they will tax it.

That said, taxes are the cost of a civil society.

If it produces income, then that is taxed (1)

PleaseDontBeTaken (604130) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567768)

An IP property tax might be awful. Suppose you copyright something and then it doesn't sell. Should you have to dig into your pocket just to keep the book you wrote from slipping into the public domain (like what would happen if you fail to pay to maintain the patent)? That would really stick it to the little guy. And of course the tax might be wildly disproportionate (high or low) to the value created.

If the copyright helps some produce income, the income tax will get its fair share. It is appropriate to question the transfer prices for sale/transfer of IP to foreign jurisdictions and no doubt the treasury is getting the bad end of some tax cheating, but that is a largely separate issue.

Not all property is taxed (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567772)

The contents of my house are considered property as well - yet I don't pay tax on them.
 
I had thought better of the LA Times - that they wouldn't indulge in these kinds of semantic games.

Re:Not all property is taxed (1)

PleaseDontBeTaken (604130) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567798)

You already paid tax on the money you used to purchase the personal property.

If your personal property starts to produce income (money tree, anyone?), then that income when declared will be taxed.

Actual property and property taxes (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567784)

In a response to the LA Times editorial on copyright which we discussed a week ago, the paper published a response arguing: 'If Intellectual Property is actually property, why isn't it covered by a property tax?'


Which is kind of a dumb place to start, considering that in the US, property taxes don't apply to most non-intellectual property. The main tax on property you find is on real property, and you occasionally find property taxes or the effective equivalent on some special items of tangible personal property (i.e., California's valuation-based "Vehicle License Fee" which is very similar to a property tax on automobiles, though not quite the same.)

There might be good arguments for property taxes on intellectual property, but the idea that "if it it is called property, it must have property tax" is not one of the better ones.

Would be bad for open source (2, Insightful)

jmv (93421) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567816)

A scheme like that would be terrible for open-source. So you write your program and GPL it, don't pay the property tax. Someone takes it and modifies it, does pay the property tax. Now they've turned your GPL software into proprietary software.

This is just Stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22567836)

An entire idea based around a "play-on-words" due to the similarity of two terms in English?

Putting forward an argument for taxing copyrights is fine (the discussion that is, not the idea - taxing me every time I create an original work is absurd), but saying that "Intellectual Property" should have a tax because land has a "Property Tax" and both phrases contain "property" is not an analogy that supports either your own or your fathers ideas.

We could have called IP "Intellectual Content Ownership" instead, and then your entire introduction falls apart. Maybe you were trying for a smart, catchy introduction that makes sense enough to catch someones eye even if that isn't where the substance of the idea lies - however you failed to take into account that Slashdot readers generally hate the human race as a whole and will pick apart any such attempts to mock our self-engrandised intellects..

Not all property is taxed (1)

jmv (93421) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567842)

The author seems to say that IP must be taxed because all property is taxed. This is BS. Most property isn't taxed. You don't pay a tax on everything you own. Generally the only thing you'll pay tax on is a house and that's mainly to pay for the services (road/water/...) you get to that house.

That's not what we agreed upon. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22567882)

As outlined in Copyright law, I agreed to give certain people(later it got extended to artificial persons but that is a complaint for another time) some exclusive rights to thoughts, ideas, and other intangible property. For this massive and profitable gift of rights they agreed to among other things allow far use, and after a limited time turn (many cases return) that in intangible property to the public domain.

That agreement has been routinely breeched by large corporations. One reason I feel no moral remorse for violating those granted rights.

In re to property tax for these intangibles: There's nothing in copyright law nor should there be stating that persons/entities with money can buy a different set of rules.

"Shame on you, Clinton!" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22567904)

Shame on Bill Clinton for passing the DMCA, URAA, and Sonny Bonno Copyright extension act.

I know, that was Bill, but please, no more Clinton's.

Profoundly Stupid (1)

Secret Rabbit (914973) | more than 6 years ago | (#22567968)

"""
If Intellectual Property is actually property, why isn't it covered by a property tax?
"""

Not all forms of property are land. My computer, for instance, is my property. But, do I pay "property tax" on it. NO.

This has to be one of the dumbest things that I've heard of in a while. Seriously, why don't people use there brain filters before publishing moronic bullshit like this any more?
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