Thursday, August 26, 2010

Nerd Rage: You Run a Blog? $300.00 Please.

Of all the bureaucratic stupidity I've ever heard, this has to take the cake. The City of Philadelphia wants to charge blog owners/runners $300.00 claiming they are small businesses. For those who want the original story, it can be found here.

This is their reasoning as I understand it:

1. We need money.
2. Blogs make money.
3. Therefore they are businesses.
4. Therefore, we can charge them license fees.
5. Money problem solved!

Gah! Ok, first off, as I understand it most blogs do not make any money, or if they do it's to the tune of, like the article mentions, $11.00 over a few years. From what I've seen most blogs are like mine, a chance to share your thoughts and feelings with the world, a matter of expression and free speech. Only in Philly, it ain't free.

Granted, some blogs are run as media outlets/advertising/business communications. Heck, I'll even so far as to admit that one of the reason I had when starting mine was as advertising for my writing career, such as it is. But note, I have no advertising running on my blog, nor do I earn anything from it. Everything I've posted here has been free of charge (and will remain as such for the immediate future), and I've gotten no special favors or opportunities because of it. It's not like say, Whatever, which is essentially a marketing tool for John Scalzi, or Robert J. Sawyer's site. Both are for established authors, both advertise their works/services (they are available for appearances/talks/bar mitzvahs/whatever), and you can even buy autographed copies directly from Sawyer's site. So for those two examples I could understand classifying them as businesses and charging a license fee. I'd still think it's cheesy, as let's face it, most authors don't make that much money and essentially you piling another tax/fee upon them.

Interesting thought though. Philly already charges freelance writers the $300.00 (yes, yes, they are that money grubbing that they're already sticking it to people who probably can barely afford to make rent much less pay a license fee), so I wonder if they can start blogs and claim it as part of their established business. Even better, get the people who have blogs to team up with a freelance writer who claims the blog under their existing license and "hires" the other person as a work for fee writer, the fee being the occasional smile. :)

Nah! Wouldn't work. The city would likely just claim the blog was a new business and to cough up the fee anyways.

Do I expect a huge outcry about this? Yes and No. I expect on the Internet it will be a huge issue and fought tooth and nail. The regular media/mainstream audiences are likely to say "so what?" For them it's likely not that big of a deal. Keep in mind that while the number of people online is growing, it's still a relatively small number worldwide. And even then, how many bloggers are there in Philly?

I can see this going too ways. First, the blog community in Philly could dry up completely as people start shutting down or registering the blog out of city to avoid the fee. Second, I can see someone fighting this tooth and nail and get this shot down as a impediment to free speech. Honestly, I think it's going to be a mix of the two. A lot of people won't care that much and will close their blogs, but a few will be pissed off enough to fight it.

For those who are going to fight it, you have my support and well wishes. Just not my financial support. Hey, I'm just a poor blogger too.

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