Posts tagged ‘canada’

How (not) to submit a W8-BEN: Canadian retailers dealing with US income

As a Canadian retailer selling books on Amazon’s Createspace, (an American company), I suffer a 30% tax by the US government. (Aside: this is not a good way to promote global trade in a country that is nearer to economic collapse than ever before). Canadian residents are supposed to have this entire tax waived. In order to have the tax waived, I need to supply a W8-BEN form to Createspace. This sounds quite trivial, but the steps involved are time consuming and error prone. If you’re trying to figure out how to do this, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Get a Certified Copy of your Canadian passport. If you’re lucky enough to live near a city that has an official Passport Canada Office go there and have them certify it. Service Canada and Canada Post cannot perform this service. If, like many Canadians, you are not so lucky, you’ll have to mail it to this address:
    Passport Canada
    Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
    Gatineau, Canada K1A 0G3

    with a letter requesting the certified copy service. It will take up to four weeks for your passport to be returned, so don’t plan any international travel. You can also get the passport certified at a US embassy or by a US notary (the IRS won’t trust a Canadian Notary).

  2. Fill out a W-7 form. This is fairly straightforward. The IRS has instructions but they don’t make much sense. Mail the form to this address, with the certified copy of your passport:

    Internal Revenue Service
    Austin Service Center
    ITIN Operation
    P.O. Box 149342
    Austin, TX 78714-9342

  3. Wait for the IRS to get back to you. In my case they didn’t. They did get the form though, because I started getting official IRS e-mail spam. They just never gave me a TIN or responded in any physical fashion whatsoever. So I had to start the process over, continuing to lose 30% of my income every month, and going without my passport for another month.
  4. Fill out the W8-BEN form. The IRS has instructions for this too. You’ll have to include your TIN in this form.
  5. Send the form to whichever company is withholding taxes from you for the US government.

After the IRS lost or destroyed or rejected my application, without telling me, I had no way to contact them to find out what had happened. There is no e-mail address on their site, no web submit form, no phone number for international service. They don’t even seem to encourage using their mailing address.

Even worse, for me, Zazzle has now also started withholding this 30%, and they refuse to send my funds AT ALL until I submit the W8-BEN. A substantial portion of my income is now being held hostage or stolen by the US government, and they are cleverly refusing to give me the information I need to free it.

Taxes are a difficult matter, and we all complain about them. Dealing with the IRS has given me a huge appreciation for how intelligently the Canada Revenue Agency has streamlined their processes in recent years. Interacting with the IRS is like using smoke signals. Interacting with the CRA is like using a telegraph. Hopefully both countries will be able to handle the simplicity of the Internet someday soon.

ArchCon 2010

With a bit of discussion and a quick one-click deploy of a wordpress CMS, ArchCon 2010 turned from a “maybe we should do this,” into a “Let’s do it and see what happens.”

That’s right, folks, A few of us (and hopefully you’ll join us, we need more organizers!) are planning an Arch Linux Conference. Details are sketchy at this time, but we have a website, a location (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), and a timeframe (July 2010). We’re working out the details, and if anybody else wants to help work out details, we need the help.

Right now, we need presenters. If you have any ideas for a topic you can present at ArchCon, please let us know. We have a Call For Proposals open, but that basically entails “send your ideas to me and we’ll probably let you present.” Good presentation topics are a key to ArchCon’s success, and I believe each and every one of us have at least one good talk in us. So what’s your talk?

Hope to see you at ArchCon 2010, both as an attendee and a presenter or tutorial leader. Help us get this off the ground!

Arch Linux Was Invented In Canada

Arch Linux was invented in Canada by a guy called Judd. I want everyone to remember that. Why? Because if the great taco vs poutine war ever turns bloody, we must remember our roots.

Also, I’d like to announce a new Arch Linux community, the bringing Arch Linux home community, the community for Canadian Archers:

http://bbs.archlinux.ca/

I dunno what we’ll discuss. If you need help, the official forums are the best place to get it, so my thinking is this is a forum for Canadian socializing (and plans of world domination, something most Canadians are not aware we should be trying to achieve). Huge communities like the Arch Linux community are great, I love it and am proud to be part of it. But smaller communities are also nice because you can get to know individuals better, and have more in common.

It’s not closed to non-Canadians, but if you don’t know how to properly use ‘eh’ in a sentence, can’t form a good snowball, think tacos are better than poutine, or believe hockey is a silly sport, you probably won’t fit in. ;-)

Canadian Copyright Consultation

The Canadian government is either making an effort or making a show of making an effort to consult with the public and other stakeholders on the issue of digital rights and copyright. I encourage all Canadians to post a response to them at this site: http://copyright.econsultation.ca/

Here is my response. The ideas and opinions expressed here are largely based on discussions we’ve had at the Pirate Party of Canada discussion forum. My opinions do not, however, necessarily reflect the opinion of the Pirate Party of Canada.

Feel free to plagiarize any parts of the following letter in your own letters to the Copyright Consultation.

—-
Dear Copyright Consultation Members,

My background: I am a freelance software developer holding a Master’s
degree in Computer Science from York University. I am an advocate of
open source software and member of the fledgling Pirate Party of
Canada. I understand the fundamental shift that Internet technology
has made on society, and am here to explain this understanding to the
lawmakers.

1. How do Canada’s copyright laws affect you?

Our copyright laws take all power away from both artists and consumers
and place that power in the hands of wealthy distribution channels
such as book publishers, record labels, and movie studios. As an
aspiring author, I cannot get my book published because the publishing
industry does not like my style. As a consumer, I cannot access music
at reasonable prices because the recording industry wants a huge cut.
I may not mind paying $20 for a CD, but knowing that the original
artist gets a small fraction of that is upsetting. I’d rather send the
entire $20 directly to the artist and download their music from
so-called “pirate” services.

The Internet is making these distribution channels unnecessary.
Authors can post books online and self-publish using online services
such as lulu or createspace. Musicians can post their music online
using Jamendo or Bittorrent. Independent movie producers can post
their movies online using hulu, youtube, or similar services. This
shift allows artists direct access to the consumers and vice versa.

The distribution channels are irrelevant; they know this and are
lobbying for laws to make it harder and/or illegal to access content
without paying them. This is like trying to pass laws that we all use
typewriters instead of e-mail because typewriters and the postal
system are no longer relevant. It serves a set of industries already
well-known for misusing artists and consumers alike.

How should existing laws be modernized?

The number one change is to reduce copyright term. Drastically.

A book published today will not be available to the public in my life
time. How is the original author compensated after his or her death?
Sony is making an obscene fortune off of Michael Jackson’s death, a
small fraction of that will go to his family. Why?

In addition, technology is now advancing at an incredible rate. a
century ago when our current copyright laws were introduced, things
moved in decades. Now they move in seconds. It could take years for a
book or recording to circulate and be heard by everyone in the
country. Now the entire world can read it in a week, and next week its
old news.

Copyright term should be shortened to 10 years for books, 5 years for
music and movies, 2 years for software, and 1 year or less for
medicinal knowledge. This would give artists and distribution channels
some compensation, but would increase the rate of knowledge growth by
at least one human generation.

Second, non-commercial sharing of data must not be illegal. It should
not be illegal for me to loan a book to a friend. It should not be
illegal for me to read a book to my friend over the phone. By
extension, I should be able to share it with them across any media or
time-frame.

2. Based on Canadian values and interests, how should copyright
changes be made in order to withstand the test of time?

The primary Canadian value at risk and often forgotten in these
discussions is privacy. We are a very private people compared to say,
the USA, although probably less private than most of Europe. Many
corporate lobiests suggest that people not be allowed to share data
they have paid for or use it in whatever way they see fit. The obvious
example is filesharing, but the logical extensions could lead to
charging to read a book every time you open it, or forbidding a person
from watching a movie at a friend’s house if they haven’t paid to view
it.

The privacy problem is that policing such laws would require knowing
every movie I watch, every book I read, and every packet I transfer
across the Internet. The authorities would have to read every e-mail
to ensure I haven’t attached an “illegal” file to it. This is clearly
a drastic invasion of privacy.

Another core Canadian value is the desire to create. Our country has a
very unique heritage with many unique works of art not created
anywhere else. If the large media outlets get their way, they will
have complete control over all creative works. They will get to pick
and choose which artists get shown to the public and which ones get
placed in the equivalent of a creative prison with no access to
potential readers, viewers, or listeners. We will be steered by US
corporate interests and our cultural works will be marginalized and
ultimately, lost.

3. What sorts of copyright changes do you believe would best foster
innovation and creativity in Canada?

As mentioned, shorter copyright term. That will:
a) force capable artists and inventors to come up with new ideas
instead of living off the fruits of a single idea for their entire
lives
b) allow capable artists and authors to ‘stand on the shoulders of
giants’ and reuse existing works in their own works and inventions.
They can constructively spend time improving existing works instead of
trying to circumvent other good ideas that they do not have access to.

4. What sorts of copyright changes do you believe would best foster
competition and investment in Canada?

Competition would definitely be served by shorter copyright term.
Companies and artists would need to continue creating, and would have
to sell their works with quality service and pricing.

Investment is a really tricky issue because it depends what other
countries are doing. I believe that if Canada had sane copyright laws,
there would be a “new-style” publishing industry cropping up here, and
artists may move to our nation to take advantage of direct access to
an audience. On the other hand, currently powerful companies would
shun investment in the new model. I believe such companies will become
irrelevant.

5. What kinds of changes would best position Canada as a leader in
the global, digital economy?

Such a question depends on what the rest of the world is doing. Canada
needs to look to Europe for inspiration as the USA has the most
powerful corporate anti-consumer backing. Europe has already elected
Pirate Party members focused on copyright reform similar to what I
have described. It is inevitable that massive reform, even revolutions
in copyright law will occur at some point; it is possible that wars
will be fought over it. Canada can be at the front of this movement by
changing our laws first, and by doing it the way we always do:
peacefully.

Dusty Phillips
—-

Pirate Party of Canada

I have never considered myself a political activist. I rarely vote, believing that “low voter turnout” is a more telling statistic than “voted for one of several fools at random”.

I’ve always been unimpressed by the Canadian democratic process. There seemed no alternative to leaving the handling of our nation in the hands of whichever babbling, bumbling bozos happen to get elected. None of them ever really did anything to directly benefit me, but they never seemed to cause much harm either.

I also never tell people who to vote for. We all have different views and needs and you have both a right to and reason for completely different opinions.

But I can advertise! If you haven’t heard about the Pirate Party and its recent success in the European Union, you may want to read up on it. Its goals are to reform copyright laws such that authors and consumers are treated fairly and distributors no longer wield the increasingly evil and technologically obsolete powers they are lobbying to protect.

If you’re Canadian, I encourage you to read about Bill C-61 and consider the implications it will have on our country’s future. Its goals are to reform copyright laws such that authors and consumers are criminals and distributors have a complete monopoly on the increasingly evil and technologically obsolete powers they currently hold.

Read up on these topics and form your own opinions. Then, if you feel angry or threatened, I suggest heading over to http://piratepartyofcanada.com and lend whatever skills you have to this nascent Canadian political party.