Oct 24

Nat Torkington

Nat Torkington

When is Virtual No Longer Virtual?

When is virtual money no longer virtual? When the Government wants to tax it. Reuters carried a brief article with this great line: "Right now we're at the preliminary stages of looking at the issue and what kind of public policy questions virtual economies raise -- taxes, barter exchanges, property and wealth," said Dan Miller, senior economist for the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress.. That's policy wonk for "we don't know what it is or how big it will get, but if it continues to grow then bet your ass we will figure out how to take a piece of it."

Interesting questions, though: if virtual money is real money, are virtual crimes real crimes? This has long been debated in the virtual world space (Linda Stone and many others have been talking about this for at least a decade). But if real world tax laws are deemed to have analogs in virtual economies, what about the virtual economy of open source? Can I get a tax credit for donating my time to Perl? Or (knowing Washington) will there be a coder penalty, taxed for the time I give to open source at the rate I'd sell it to a customer? It's no crazier than a modem tax :-) Then, further out on the "the future is weird, it's just not evenly disconcerting yet" riff there's the what if everything was free world of 3d printers.

As I'm sure Larry Lessig would attest, there's just as much pain as there is mirth to be found in imagining a future where current laws are applied to new technology. Until virtual worlds are taxed and regulated, there'll be a ton of money to be made by the people who first figure out how to exploit them to bypass first life laws. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to ask Tim to pay me in small unmarked Lindens ...

tags:   | comments: 6   | Sphere It

Previous  |  Next

0 TrackBacks

TrackBack URL for this entry: http://blogs.oreilly.com/cgi-bin/mt/mt-t.cgi/4988

Comments: 6

  David Megginson [10.24.06 04:14 AM]

Here's a famous early-19th-century discussion about electricity:

Peel: But after all, what use is it?

Faraday: Why sir, there is the probability that you will soon be able to tax it.

I don't think there is any evidence that this conversation actually took place, but it's still funny.

  Piers Cawley [10.24.06 05:10 AM]

Charles Stross has written about this sort of thing in Accelerando, and an upcoming novel is apparently a crime novel where the crime happens in a virtual world.

  Bryan Rasmussen [10.24.06 06:08 AM]

certainly you could deduct for time donated to Perl if Perl was a non-profit organization following the rules pertinent to allow deduction of such hours. I suggest the best way to achieve this is for Larry Wall to officially declare Perl a religion.

  Steve Philips [10.24.06 02:16 PM]

"...where the crime happens in a virtual world."

Just as I suspected.
There is virtually no virtue in a virtual world.

  Silentium [10.25.06 01:32 AM]

I'm now livin' in Germany and this article reminds me:

Germany has become the first country in the world to tax private personal computers that are deemed to be "Internet-capable".

The plan, long in the offing, was agreed in Berlin by the Conference of Prime Ministers of the Federal States of Germany on October 8. It is being billed as part of the expansion of the television and radio public services fee, which is administered by Germany's Radio and Television Licensing Authority and enforced by the universally despised Gebühreneinzugszentrale (GEZ), which often resorts to controversial and illegal Gestapo-like methods of gathering information on private citizens.

The new tax was originally planned to come into effect on January 1, 2007. That date still holds for businesses and large corporations, but private households will be forced to register their PCs before the deadline of March 31, 2005. Owners must then pay 17.03 euros a month for their PC unless they are already complying with the full GEZ tax for a registered television and radio. ..... ...

  Greg [10.27.06 06:37 AM]

"Can I get a tax credit for donating my time to Perl? "

No - donated time is not deductible. But money is deductible. Assuming the perl project you donate to has registered as a not-for-profit - you can deduct your donation.

(hmmm - I wonder if anyone has looked that aspect of the latest open source patrons.)


Post A Comment:

 (please be patient, comments may take awhile to post)

Type the characters you see in the picture above.