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#Not-So-Free Speech

# not-so-free-speech - Tuesday 24 August, 2010

BLOGGERS IN PHILADEPHIA have condemned the decision of the city government to charge them $50 a year – or a lifetime contribution of $300 – for the privilege of having a blog.

The move, proposed by mayor Michael Nutter, will see any blog that accepts money for advertising, or sells any goods, as a business and thus being required to hold a licence – no matter how little money it might make.

A spokesman for Nutter said that the licence was nothing new, and is required for any money-making enterprise – whether it be a large corporation, a pizza parlour, or any home business.

Residents who keep blogs in their spare time, however, are annoyed that they could be asked to pay for an annual licence just for the privilege of publishing their own thoughts through a currently free medium.

The proposals came after the city’s tax authorities wrote to residents who had reported earning money through their blogs to the US’s national Internal Revenue Service, but who did not possess a city business licence.

One blog – albeit one based in San Francisco – called the fee “absolutely ridiculous” and said the city was ‘picking’ on bloggers.

To counter complaints that some bloggers would make less in a year than the cost of the licence, amendments have been proposed to the scheme which would see licence-holders exempted from their first $100,000 a year in profit.

“I think it’s ludicrous,” said Seano Barry, who writes a blog about the local music scene. He told AP that he reviewed “shows in the city. I sometimes write for a couple of other blogs. Sometimes I get access to the shows, sometimes I don’t. To put the ads up is to cover the cost of going downtown.

“This is not a business,” he said, suggesting he had made about $11 in the last two years. “Really, it’s a labour of love.”