26 October 2010

It's Still Monday, Isn't It?

It sure feels like it.

  • In a sign of other shoes dropping, the Tory–LD coalition government will be cutting payments to authors for the public lending right at the same time it "privatizes" (or otherwise transfers) administration of the payments. I realize that this sounds bizarre to American authors, but that's just because the US — unlike most other Berne signatories, including in particular the entire EU — doesn't extend an author's copyright to the lending right in such a formal manner. Buried inside the story itself is the proof that a library is still one's best entertainment value, even with a lending right: The payment due the author is £0.0629 per circulation. To put it another way, that's a 0.5% royalty on the current list price of a casebound Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (£12.99) that will add up to the cost of that volume after 206 borrowings... and for an unusually hungry bookworm reading a book of that length every day, costs a tenner every 159 days.
  • Happy 40th birthday, Mike and B.D. Many sarcastic returns!
  • Unfortunately, Paul the Psychic Octopus will not be making any more predictions. Perhaps the Spanish team should have a celebratory meal of pulpo prior to their next match, though.
  • Yet another reason to decry media consolidation: MordorCorp promises to retaliate against actors who won't play publicity games with Fox-related news outlets. I'm not too worried about Denzel Washington getting dissed by Fox over disdain for Glenn Beck's overt racism; I'd be a lot more worried about it happening to a less-well-known actor, and in particular a less-well-known immigrant actor.
  • Amazon won a customer privacy battle against North Carolina sales/use tax overreaching. What this really reflects, though, is an interesting question that tourism-heavy states really don't want asked: If "use tax" applies to all purchases by residents outside of the state, shouldn't all of that merchandise that was purchased on vacation also count? That is, why is it "shipment into the state by a third party" that triggers sales tax? Those of us in high-sales-tax states (like Illinois) who go to lower-sales-tax areas (like, believe it or not, Los Angeles) and bring home souvenirs, or more-substantive purchases, should also be paying use tax, right?

    My European colleagues are scratching their heads at this... because that's exactly what happens there at customs. This idea of differing tax systems in less-than-national jurisdictional areas is really confusing.

    Yes, that was sarcastically on purpose: Just like the Tea Party, I put the tax issues up front, and pushed the privacy and civil rights issues to the tail end of the discussion — even though those issues are vastly more important. In this particular instance, the tax collection issues are just an excuse. We all know damned well that at least some high-level people in the North Carolina administration (whether elected or incivil service) were salivating at the chance to see what their suspicious neighbors were buying from Amazon, and anticipating the potential blackmail opportunities. (Surely Justice Thomas remembers that, at least regarding videotape rentals...) Worse, it's many of the people not in the government anticipating another means to find out what that foreign-looking neighbor is reading so they can — at best, and most optimistically — ostracize him at the next neighborhood barbecue; after all, if the North Carolina government has the information in the first place, FOIA might make it accessible...