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Social Media Law - Blogging for Dollars - Do You Need a Business License?

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported (http://www.philly.com/inquirer/opinion/20100829_A_blog_is_no_longer_free_speech.html) last summer that the City of Philadelphia is attempting to require commercial bloggers that reside within the city limits to obtain a business license. The Inquirer article includes the following summary of the City of Philadelphia's position:

Doug Oliver, spokesman for Mayor Nutter, conceded that "there's often a blurry line when someone's passion becomes their profession." But, according to Oliver, once a blog starts generating revenue, it's a business like any other and needs to be licensed if it wants to operate here: "It is the same standard for any business operating inPhiladelphia.

This position will surely be unpopular for would be commercial bloggers (and Tweeters for hire) should cities and states follow Philadelphia's lead. Further, it appears that there is reason for concern because statutes and municipal codes attempt to define the phrase "engaging in business activity" very broadly to capture a wide range of commercial activities to license and tax. For example, in some cities, commercial bloggers could fall within the "engaging in business activity" definition simply they blog from a rented apartment or home in the City.

The law does an awful job of keeping up with technology advances, and this may be another example. Do cities and states really want to license and tax commercial bloggers? Should there be a revenue threshold that one must exceed for the licensing and taxing requirement to kick in?

Perhaps it is time to for states and cities to review their business licensing requirements and carve out exceptions for commercial bloggers.

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