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Canadian Songwriters Propose $10/mo Internet Fee

Sapphon Culture Tax (407 comments)

Proposals similar to this have been discussed in other countries in the past; I remember watching a panel discussion during a German arts festival (I've forgotten which one) in 2009 on pretty much the same topic – they called it a "culture tax".

Really, one should conceptually separate two things:
1) The desire to support musicians with public money; and
2) The source of that money.

The principle of supporting the arts industry with public money is well established, and, while it's difficult to say what the "right" level of funding is, I doubt Slashdot is the forum best suited to discussing this :-P
However, I think we can broadly agree that, due to internet-based file sharing, musicians are earning some lower amount of money than they would be in the absence of file sharing. (On average, over all musicians. File-sharing/piracy is not the only reason, but it is a reason. This should be reasonably uncontroversial.) Without implying that these are my personal views, I'm going to play the advocate and argue that, due to the benefit musicians/the arts sector provide to society in general, they should be supported to offset a decline in privately-collected revue that is of no fault of their own.

If you accept that argument (or a similar one), the second issue is then from where that money should come. I'm not an expert on the Canadian tax system, but I'm going to bet that, like most Western countries, the majority of Government revenue comes from income taxes, corporate tax, and perhaps some form of consumption tax (sales tax/VAT/GST/whatever); and, further, than the minority of its revenue is tied to a specific use when it is raised. (Technical terms differ: some countries refer to a tax where the revenue's use is pre-specified as an "excise"; I think Americans call it "earmarking"?) Most funding of Government expenditure comes from this pool of general-use funds, however, many countries have these use-specific taxes – petrol or car taxes (excises) to fund road maintenance or transport programs; specific taxes for healthcare, reconstruction funds, etc.

So – should this funding of musicians from from general revenue, or from a new (higher) tax on a specific area? (Maybe both?) It's sensible to tax the activity that is decreasing the musicians' income, but, if we could tax piracy, we'd certainly be doing so by now. What's the next-best alternative (i.e. how close can we get to taxing internet piracy)? Putting a tax on BitTorrent traffic? Not going to work. Taxing "the internet" (or its use) is probably the closest we could reasonably come to being sure of taxing this activity.
Clearly, we would also be taxing people who don't "harm" musicians through piracy. However, plenty of taxes provide benefits to other members of society than those who pay them; that's a basic part of the tax system. Use-specific taxes/excises are a little different, but, for example, Australian car owners are required to pay a tax for owning a car that goes into a fund to pay the victims of car accidents, even if they themselves never cause an accident are are therefore not able to benefit from it – it's called "third-party insurance".

Very few Australians would think of third-party insurance as a use-specific tax, but it's basically the same. Similarly, if we recast this internet tax proposal as a (compulsory) fee that then gives you the right – and this is important: the imposition of a tax would have to come with a legitimisation of the taxable activity* – to then, in this case, download music for free.

That opens up a whole new can of worms, of course: Whose music? How much of it? What would the level of the fee be? What would this state-sponsored download infrastructure look like? Would it eventually include all culture (i.e. films, literature, etc) It's at this point that the discussion gets put in the "too-hard" basket, but the concept itself is one I find fascinating; I'm not yet sure where I stand on the idea.

In any case, for a reasonably debate on this sort of proposal to occur – assuming, of course, that's the genesis of the Canadian proposal is a "culture tax" and not a simple bit of rent-seeking – I think the above issues need to separated.

* This principle doesn't apply to all taxes (e.g. drug runners still get taxed on their income without their activities being legitimised), but to most.

more than 3 years ago

AU National Broadband Network Signs $11 Billion Deal With Telstra

Sapphon This is not a done deal! (120 comments)

This is a great sign that the NBN won't be scrapped by any upcoming parties.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. What the Government and Telstra have signed is a "Heads of Agreement", which is not a binding contract; it's more like a broad set of terms both sides agree on.

The finer details still need to be discussed and the resulting contract approved by Telstra's shareholders before we can really rest easily. Until then, either side (incl. the next Government, should it change) can pull out.

It's definitely good news – not least for the current Government, coming fortuitously a scant day after a by-election hiding in Sydney –, but some commentators have already suggested Telstra holds a bit more of the bargaining power going forward as a result.

more than 4 years ago

Fatal Flaw Discovered In Invisibility Cloaks

Sapphon Re:bummer (255 comments)

Hurrah, they've succeeded!

more than 4 years ago

Japanese Guts Are Made For Sushi

Sapphon Re:Am i missing something? (309 comments)

... the division isn't whether you're Japanese or American or something else. It's just whether or not you eat a lot of sushi.

Or Japanese.

more than 4 years ago

Options Dwindling For Mars Spirit Rover

Sapphon Re:We could have MANY rovers. (120 comments)

There is a logical contradiction in your argument: if the funding is tied to the public opinion, then reducing expenditures on safety directly reduces the chances of future funding – the Challenger and Columbia disasters did a lot of damage to the public image of space flight.

more than 4 years ago

The Most I'd Pay For a Good Tablet PC Is:

Sapphon Re:$500 as the max? (257 comments)

I most emphatically second this experience. I bought a higher-end tablet PC for AU$3500 (US$2700, €2100; the difference to the list price is b/c I upgraded from the standard specs) back in 2006 before starting my second degree, and it was an absolute godsend. "Print" the lecture slides to OneNote, annotate them, cross-reference (between lectures and/or subjects), type in speech and scribble equations/graphs directly onto the screen. Everything is searchable – pictures through OCR, handwriting, even audio.

I know I'm extolling the virtues of a software more than necessarily the hardware, but the two go hand in hand. I need a more powerful machine for gaming, video work etc., but for academic and any graphic work a tablet is killer piece of hardware.

Would I buy another tablet? Most definitely. I almost grabbed the Eee T-91 until it turned out it didn't differentiate between between fingers & palms and couldn't recognise handwriting.

Based on my experience, a touchscreen is only going to be good for navigation. For actual data entry, you're going to want to switch to a keyboard or stylus (or perhaps one of those little finger-nubs the DS has). But when they get that right, my >$500 will be waiting.

more than 4 years ago

Myths About Code Comments

Sapphon Re:So who is this guy? (580 comments)

It's New Year's Day. What did you want – "Y2K bug still not here"?

more than 4 years ago

iPhone Has 46% of Japanese Smartphone Market

Sapphon Mod Parent Up (214 comments)

Good points regarding the statistics and selective reporting.

more than 4 years ago

Modeling the Economy As a Physics Problem

Sapphon Gee wizz.. (452 comments)

Economists routinely use highly complicated mathematical models on stuff like this, and are just as routinely criticised for it because their simplifying assumptions aren't close enough to reality. Then along comes this bloke and uses a model that's not even based on human behaviour: the economy as a heat engine. No wonder he's been panned. Criticise economic models all you like, but at least the modern ones* have a foundation in human behaviour.

I can see why this gets a run here – scientists are cool nerds; economists are not – but in the end it's a guy doing research outside of his field. Sometimes you get tremendous insights, but most of the time (as in this case) you don't.

* I'm not talking about the physiocrats here, okay?

Disclaimer: I am an economist.

about 5 years ago

Why Doesn't Exercise Lead To Weight Loss?

Sapphon Who writes these headlines? (978 comments)

How does the sentence, "The group lost an average of a little more than seven pounds [from exercise], and many lost barely half that" get parsed into "Exercise does not lead to weight loss"? This is a geek news site, and the editors of a story posted in science section can't do maths? FFS...

about 5 years ago

Learning About Real-World Economies Through Game Economies

Sapphon Re:I for one... (178 comments)

Is there actually a "right" level of reserves that can withstand crises, though?

There is, but unfortunately it's not the same level that's "right" for the non-crisis time. Ideally the financial sector would see the crises (or rather, the change in demand for or supply of reserves) coming and adjust, but that obviously doesn't happen when external shocks occur.

more than 5 years ago

The Most Useless Key On My Keyboard Is...

Sapphon Re:Missing option (939 comments)

That's for the battery. Oh, wait...

more than 5 years ago

Learning About Real-World Economies Through Game Economies

Sapphon Re:Limited Use (178 comments)

Mod parent up! He's like some academic type or something.. with understanding of statistics, economics and stuff.

more than 5 years ago

Learning About Real-World Economies Through Game Economies

Sapphon Re:I for one... (178 comments)

[T]he way fractional reserve banking in general and the Federal Reserve in particular is set up, there is always more debt built into the system than there are dollars in circulation. That's because debt is attached to money the moment it is created; i.e. for every X dollars in circulation there is always X+Y debt. This system is just not sustainable. How could it ever do anything but ultimately fail?

Dear Parent, I presume you understand the fractional reserve system so you can skip down to paragraph 4 whilst I provide an Economics 101 refresher for the gallery (and this really is first-semester stuff; I taught it earlier this year):

You and all your friends deposit money at the bank. The bank holds a fraction of the money in reserve (hence the name), at minimum the amount the law specifies, usually plus some amount X. We'll come back to this. The rest of the money it lends to people who want to borrow it; they pay interest, you get interest, the bank takes a cut, hooray.

These borrowers spend the money, and the people who get it stick some of it back into the bank, where the cycle starts afresh. It depends on how much money the bank holds in reserve and how much the populace deposits but, yes, usually there is more debt around than originally produced currency.

Now, you claim that this is a Bad Thing (TM). You don't state why. Presumably you are relying on the intuitive logic that having more debt than official assets can't be good. That intuition relies on the following crucial point: having more debts than assets is only a problem when people try and collect on their debts. Amazingly, this very rarely happens.

You have the absolute right to go to the bank and demand your money, in bar. All of it. Buy who does that? Practically no-one. You ask for a portion of it; some here, some there, more at Christmastime and during the holidays. So long as the banks have enough money to give everyone what they want – and this is the amount X from above – holding the rest of it would just be inefficient, since none of the depositors want it and there are plenty of borrowers who can do productive things with it. Fact: if the banks decided to hold more money in reserve, the government/central bank would simply create more 'original' dollars until the effective level of money is back where it was.

The fractional reserve system does have its problems. But the problems lie in deciding how high the reserves should be – too low, and when people do decide they want their money everything comes crashing down (e.g. AIG). Too high, and businesses can't borrow money and productive potential lies wasted (e.g. the current situation in much of Europe and the US). But the system is not inherently flawed. If the right level of reserves are held – and this is usually the case – the system provides a much more flexible and efficient supply of money than a representative currency.

more than 5 years ago

Parents Baffled By Science Questions

Sapphon Re:Pardon? (656 comments)

Surely "Where does X come from?" is always a science question?

Not where I come from. Where do you come from?


more than 5 years ago

Student Sues University Because She's Unemployable

Sapphon Re:Depressing, but not uncommon (1251 comments)

The Economist's latest figures have the unemployement rate at 9.8% Sweden, 3.8% Denmark and 3.1% Norway. Sweden's rate is not seasonally adjusted.

Where are your 2% figures from?

Anyone wishing to actually do a proper comparison of unemployment and education should probably look at Eurostat's Unemployment rates of the population aged 25-64 by level of education (at least for Europe).

more than 5 years ago

Judge May Take "Fair Use" Away From Jury

Sapphon Re:Justifying piracy on Slashdot (342 comments)

I have been to the concerts of three big acts and forked over almost $500 in tickets and merchandising. A large proportion of that money will go straight to the artists' pockets - far more so than if I had spent $500 on their CDs/DVDs.

That used to be true, but isn't any more. From personal conversations with successful bands (The Living End and Hilltop Hoods) I know that the days of bands being screwed around by record labels – the Courtney Love model – are in decline. Bands can now make plenty of money off CD/electronic music sales. Plenty of bands even use tours as "loss leaders" to promote themselves in areas where their exposure is low to guage reception and generate music sales. As example I again refer to the two aforementioned bands' tours in (continental) Europe.

Conclusion: some bands make more from touring, others from music sales. The relationship varies from band to band, from tour to tour, and even from album to album depending on what sort of contract they have. The popular generalisation that merch and concerts support bands more than CD sales isn't as true now as it was 10 years ago.

(As an aside: the rest of your post is insightful and I agree with near all of it)

more than 5 years ago



France wins EU approval to fund Google competitor

Sapphon Sapphon writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Sapphon (214287) writes "Melbourne newspaper The Age reports that:

France on Tuesday won EU approval to give euro99 million (US$152 million) to several companies hoping to build a European rival to U.S. search giant Google Inc.
The European Commission said it could allow the government to fund French technology group Thomson SA and 22 other companies working on the QUAERO multimedia search project because the potential benefits to European research would outweigh any gain Thomson would win over rivals.
Thomson hopes the research will help it offer better Internet protocol distribution technology to deliver television programs or films online.
According to the EU, the grant would not help Thomson gain any market power because rivals should also keep up their investment in research and development. EU rules forbid governments granting money to companies if that would give them an unfair advantage over competitors. (IHT)"

Link to Original Source



List of Twitter (104583) aliases

Sapphon Sapphon writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Erris (531066)
gnutoo (1154137)
inTheLoo (1255256)
Mactrope (1256892)
Odder (1288958)
westbake (1275576)
willeyhill (1277478)

(not exhaustive)

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