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VAT on email troubles Reg readers

And no one is keen on signing avatars, either

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Letters The notion that we might all owe VAT on the content of some of our emails really caught your attention this week. Plenty of you wrote in wondering similar things, so here follows a representative sample of the thoughts you've been having:

You say "Emailing the data keeps it in a form where it's useful - spreadsheets, databases, and so on - and means Britain can be a Great Place for a bit of ecommerce, because it speeds up communication. Putting it on paper is slower, costlier (all those dead trees) and destroys the useful formatting work done in collecting it."

Er, what about burning a CD-ROM and posting that? If the data is at all valuable, that's what the recipient will do when they pick up your email anyway. No regression to Victorian times required, and if enough dead trees are involved the postage might be cheaper too.

But yes, the law is an arse, er, ass. (Do you think network printers are liable? VPNs? Hmm, perhaps best not to give the lawyers any ideas.)

Ken


So what happens if some one emails me a commercial program (no commercial value without registration code), and sends me the registration code (what I pay for) by post? Do I/can I save the VAT?

John


VAT through a law that could not reckon with a non-existing technology at the time.

How deliciously dated :) Are there still any laws dating back to Henry VIII about? That could be a boatload of fun.

So, what if I zip all the data in a smooth package, send the customer an email that says: "file soandso is waiting for you on our ftp server. Please check it out". Am I in the clear or will I be charged for the implied worth of the data on the ftp server?

And if the customer is not happy with some details in my project and adds/removes some aspects which increase the price [3 bridges are more expensive than 2, but if it goes from 4 to 3 - for instance - it's still going to cost the customer because I already made provisions for 4], and I have to send the data again, will the customer be charge AGAIN for this data?

Or what if say, someone wanted to circumnavigate the VAT and started off with a contract worth half a million and, supposing you could charge VAT only once, having paid the VAT on half a million, cheerfully continued expanding the project but the bottom line now reads half a billion. How will that be handled?

How is VAT to be charged on a potentially lucrative contract, where it is impossible to predict exactly how much the contract will be worth, but it's going to be a whopper?

What if J K Rowling [way to go, J!!!] receives an email from her publisher on the upcoming release of her new book and it includes some details about the contract, is she going to have to pay VAT?

And how are you going to check up on that? Is the Crown going to have the tax collector peruse ALL the email that an office sends out per year? That's going to be mighty entertaining. This is Tony Blair's way of solving the unemployment problem in one fell swoop, I guess.

Jeorge


Next, an interesting take on the mobile phone virus hype machine:

Frankly, mobile viruses can't be hyped enough for my liking, for one very simple reason - they're just as antisocial to savvy users as email viruses.

Let me paint you a picture that has happened more than once to me lately - sitting in a bar having a pint with friends, and suddenly my phone goes bananas, as someone with a healthy dose of Cabir finds my phone and starts to batter it with incessant incoming file requests. It doesn't matter that my phone, running series 90 is theoretically immune to series 60-specific code (not that I'm going to risk it), nor even that I have the wit to reject a file named cabire.sis - the damn thing will still keep trying until I turn off my bluetooth or it finds someone else to annoy. So I am still denied service until that happens. And that's if the constant incoming file transfer requests don't overwhelm the slightly slow-witted 7710 in the first place.

Still, I'd rather that than my girlfriend's SE K700i, which very kindly pops up a modal dialog when Cabir pings it - which it does, of course, every time you refuse its request. That makes getting into the preferences a game of timing and reflexes, and also ultimately futile because if you *DO* manage to tell it to turn bluetooth off, it politely tells you it can't do that because it has an active connection to the infected phone! And of course all the while the constant activation of the vibrating alert is running the batteries down...

So bluetooth viruses are very effective at denying service, even on phones they can't infect. And it's a situation that will be exacerbated the more infected phones are in a given location. So any amount of hype that gets the average bovine button-happy toothing fan smartphone owner to actually stop and think before he accepts that payload is fine by me. Of course there should be an "ignore this device permanently" option from the OS manufacturers when a bluetooth alert gets received, but there again, perhaps the hype will persuade them to add it.

Therefore, please run more stories about virus-infected cellphones raping grandmothers and smuggling illegal immigrants into the country. I mean, if we can get the Daily Mail to pick up the story, we'll be home and dry...

James


The University of East Anglia built a signing avatar - a computer generated person who uses British sign language. The idea is that the avatar would make websites more accessible to those whose first language is British Sign Language. Ooooo, but you lot did not like that:

How nice to know that the universities are doing something useful </sarcasm>

Now all they have to do is invent some method this deaf, signing only, can't read/write english person can use to write the emails, fill in the web form boxes, and put the search entries into google in the first place.

Did they actually check how many of these people exist and want to get on the net? Or are they still stuck at the "Keyboard not detected - Press f1 to continue" bios line?

Steve


Wake me up when a computer cam can read sign language.

Just think of it as zero impact typing.

HJC


Alas, the sign language avatar only works on a Windows and IE6 combo.

From http://www.sys-consulting.co.uk/downloads/esign/

"Currently there is no Avatar installation available for Mac computers, or for browsers other than Internet Explorer."

As you'll no doubt be aware, Opera Software has recently launched version 8 of their browser and it now includes both voice recognition and speech output. That, coupled with Opera's well-known zoom feature make it one of the best browsers available for the visually-impaired.

In addition, the Opera browser can readily be customised to cater for those with limited mobility and low dexterity. It can be controlled by keyboard only or by mouse only.

What a shame then that Sys Consulting excluded Opera from its eSign program for the hearing impaired.

Brian


So deaf people can't read?

As someone who has a significant hearing loss, nearly as deaf as a door post (and just as thick in the eyes of those that can't tell the difference between not hearing and brain damage!), I find this yet another extreme case of wannabe do-gooders doing something for a minority that doesn't need it, or really want it.

These wannabe do-gooders need a wee bit of a reality check, or a good whacking across the head with a BIG clue stick.

This really implies that deaf people are so thick and dumb, that they need words converted into visuals in order to understand. Not that those of us that have such a problem experience such attitudes or behaviour from the 'normal' people. Things such as T A L K I N G V E R Y S L O W L Y with extremely exaggerated mouth movements never p*sses us off, not at all, we just love being treated as retards by, well retards!

To UEA, picture this please:

A person standing in front of you with their right arm bent at the elbow in front of their torso. The hand is semi-closed (in an open fist shape) and the person is now moving it up and down in a SLOW and EXAGGERATED manner... Get the picture?

Joskyn


As a deaf consumer from a large deaf family with eight generations of deaf people, I approached the idea with an open mind.

The signer is totally not acceptable as we do not like the false nature of the signing, we could not understand what was being signed.

We fail to understand why so much money is actually spent on developing the idea when we, the real consumers, have always been against the idea. When the RNID introduced the Signing Avatars at some Post Offices in the UK, they did not meet the requirements and failed deaf consumers.

Why don't they listen to us and provide access with real human signers as other websites provide via flash or movies - they're simply the best!

Ramon


Crikey. We weren't expecting quite that amount of venom.

Says a spokeswoman for Deaf Connexions:

"The audience is mainly profoundly deaf British Sign Language (BSL) users, for those who have BSL as their first language. There is a significant number of sign language users, which is why the government finally recognised it officially as a language in its own right last year.

"For native BSL users, English is often not very accessible, so the more information available in BSL the better."

There you go.


The US released an intellectual property blacklist. You thought it read more like a list of places on the planet that were not the good ol' US of A:

So basically what they're say is that everyone outside the US borders are considered problematic when it comes to the ridiculous manner in which companies in the US are awarded patents for no actual product, or won't allow the US to impose copy protection laws without sufficient fair use rights required by law in most other countries.

For example, in many European countries, backups of purchased media is permissible, regardless of the methods used to make those backups.

However in the US, if you circumvent copy protections in order to exercise your fair use rights, you're in violation of the DCMA.

I know the US is trying to enforce a European DCMA, which is probably what they mean by "meriting bilateral attention to address the underlying IPR problems".

This is just another example of the USA demanding everyone do as they say, regarding individual freedoms (even those of their own citizens) as some kind of communist/terrorist or whatever plot against them.

Abuse of power is what it's all about these days, and (with the obvious exception of the Register) the media are just too spineless to report it.

Apparently rule of law only applies if the US President is getting personal attention from interns in the Whitehouse, as opposed to bunging big tax-payer financed contracts to pet corporations, illegally threatening judges, assisting in the artificial inflation of energy prices (Enron forcing California to over pay for energy in order to profit from their energy crisis), financial irregularities in major corporations (guess what, Enron again, with troubling trails back to Dick and George) or shutting out Kerry supporting telecommunications companies from key decision making get togethers in Washington.

The list could actually go on, but to what point, as no major media company has the balls to report on anything but the colour of the smoke coming out the Vatican chimney...

Andy Bright


This blacklist simply looks like a list of people whom the USA intends to bully into it's way of thinking. On of the reasons India is so high up is due to the pharmaceutical (drugs) industry, India does not allow the Copyrighting or Patenting of information, processes or goods that save human life, this allows generic drugs (ie. drugs identical to the IP covered US drugs) to be sold a the low prices that Indians need to be able to afford AIDS, Hep B and Cancer drugs, nevermind antibiotics and the like. Due to this respect for human life they are being penalised by the economically superior (but morally decadent) USA.

Plague-like outbreaks of disease in Asia, Africa and other developing countries will continue and millions of people will daily lose their lives for the profit of a few wealthy people in, mainly, the USA.

I've been reckoning for about a decade that India will be the next world superpower (though China has recently been changing rapidly enough to put up stiff competition) but regardless the USA ought beware as todays subservient wage slaves are easily nimble enough to be tomorrows economic power houses and beat them at their own game... India is, after all, growing one of the world's largest service industries and doesn't have nearly the same amount of heavy industry polluting the environment to clean up after, never mind a greater moral backbone that people are more likely to respect and follow.

This all assumes that the USA doesn't just nuke the world when it starts to lose it's grip on world power...

Keep up the interesting articles,

Johann


Can I just say "Kilo Mike Alpha"?

I don't know how IPR and "Good faith negotiations" can be used in the same paragraph, never mind the same sentence.

Mark


Why is practically every trading block on the watch list? the EU? how much of that is for not rolling over and having Software Patents and for not being a push over in trading negotiations?

I notice Australia isn't on the lists, although they have been known for their complete lack of spine recently in regards IP law.

Regards, Martin


A teenager who was sentenced this week for fraudulent behaviour on eBay put in an interesting plea for leniency:

Quote "The court heard that since his arrest Shortman had married and become a father. Defending, Lawrence Jones said: 'Since he has admitted his guilt, his life has changed. He has undergone a sea-change...' He is relishing fatherhood and looking forward to the responsibility of being married."

Soooo, he's knocked up some lass, and should get off because of it? Brilliant and innovative defence strategy. Time to browse the lonely hearts in preparation for any future criminal enterprises I might be planning...

Mark


Sticking with the criminal fraternity for a while, we also covered the story of the conviction and imprisonment of an online pot dealer, prompting email from one of his customers. For him, the budmonkey was no criminal fiend. He was running a site with security standards that our banks should consider imitating:

As a former, loyal, customer of "Harry" @ budmonkey.co.uk I have to say that the site delivered fantastic customer service, offered first rate products (the likes of which I have only seen in Amsterdam) and always had amazingly prompt delivery. (I must find out where he's locked up and send him a thank you gift through the post - hermetically-sealed, of course).

And no, contrary to your article, he was not the first. The first to be convicted perhaps, but not the first. The first of his kind, that I knew of, called it a day in the summer of 2003. Pepe, you were a master and are missed.

What was best about the budmonkey experience was the leveraging of technology coupled with the security-minded site operators: a prime example would be the "state of the art encryption techniques" alluded to in your article. We're all adults, so lets call a spade a spade: Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) http://www.pgpi.org/ was the system used.

I was able to communicate confidentially and freely with Harry, using PGP and it's (relatively) strong encryption, just as Harry was able to communicate with me freely and securely. Secure e-mail communication such as this is something that my BANK does not offer!!! Then again, the last time I visited my bank, the assistant's password was the **name of the bank** (once a sysadmin, always a sysadmin). No caps, no alpha-numerics, no special characters...

With regards his client database having been encrypted and rendered unreadable by the authorities: that is commendable!!! How many tales have we all read recently where backup tapes have been 'lost', a laptop has been discarded/stolen/sold, or a security breach on a system/website exposed confidential client details? His PC was taken out of his control, into the possession of an organisation with specialised departments, resources and the determination to access the encrypted data. It would appear from the article that the encryption held. Nice to know that the RIPA works well on those already facing jail time ;-)

The .com's out there should learn a lot from Harry's setup. Secure, encrypted communications; encryption of customer databases - nothing left to chance to protect both yourself and your clients if the worst happens (which undoubtedly does sooner or later).

It is unfortunate for Harry that the worst did happen; that he wasn't able launder the volumes of money efficiently or stealthily, unlike the Wall Street bankers who launder between $500 billion and $1 trillion annually in the US alone. Had he been able to master this, he would be sitting pretty right now: alas it was his downfall. Then, maybe, he should have employed a Wall Street banker to do it for him.

Once the treasury get it's cut, I wonder if they will realise just how much tax it could make if the sale of tetrahyrdocannabinol were legal and regulated... Maybe that is from whence the Lib Dem's, if elected, would fill their coffers.

Harry, I salute you. You were a true professional, who's paranoia equalled only my own. Oft do I reminisce about the good old days when you were in business and that plain brown envelope dropped through the door: 1/4 of solid, wrapped in cardboard so as to not give the game away, all sealed up in the marvellous plastic wrapper. There are people out there, now, wishing they had known you - I am privileged to have conducted business with you. Hope you get out soon.

Anon


This next email arrived with so plaintive a tone, we had to take pity and include it in today's letters:

Could I through your page make a plea for my sanity.

This week one of my email boxes was rendered near unusable by 18000 sober virus emails during a 48 hours period days.

These seem to have now died down.

Unfortunately I am now getting flooded out by email server antivirus software telling me I sent out an email containing virus.

As 99% of worms/viruses fake the sender information, would postmasters mind terribly if I asked that they just deleted the virus and didn't tell the sender about it.

Then I might actually be able to get on with some work!

Steve

It would be lovely, wouldn't it?


Finally, we must return to the terrifying Rise of the Machines (TM). US computer scientists didn't build that robot to help blind shoppers after all. There are darker schemes afoot:

If this isn't another step towards the inevitable RoTM™ then I don't know what is. First people are innocently grabbing a shopping assistant, then before you know it the assistants are grabbing them and dragging them off to the nearest 'Andy' sex android. It's clearly all the work of the Lizard Alliance.

Phil

Good grief, Phil, you are right. It is a short step from robotic shopping assistant to homicidal Dalek. Thank goodness you spotted it in time. This, valiant reader, is another example of how quickly the guard can be dropped. We urge caution and vigilance at all times. ®

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