I'll add my two cents on this...
The "Owner" Term
We can debate whether niche owners should be called "owners" or not and we certainly have no problem considering other terms if everyone thinks it is not accurate enough.
The reason we chose "owner" is that the owners are receiving revenue from their association/role with the niche.
I think Bryan suggested using "manager" instead, but that is also a bit problematic because that might imply that they manage the actions/content in the niche, when they do not. In fact, the system is designed to have a clear separate of powers. Owners must nominate separate moderators to do the actual management of the niche. They cannot manage the content themselves. So, IMO calling them managers is problematic.
Ultimately, it's just a term.. and one designed to show that the person materially benefits by taking a stake in the niche. If there is a better term than "owner" that does not confuse things in other ways, let's consider it... and we have plenty of time to make such terminology changes. I'd probably suggest a dedicated topic on that, though, because this is currently lumped in with a TOS discussion.
Niche Renewal Fees
The renewal fee is the greater of $75 USD (in NRVE at the going market rate) or 20% of the previous year's ownership revenue for that niche. IMO that is the fairest possible system for the community. After all, if a niche becomes a multi-million dollar earner, the value of that niche should be reflected in the annual fee that niche owner pays compared to someone with a very small niche. (And remember that niche ownership fees are a big part of the Network Rewards revenue base that everyone in the network participates in).
Of course, there is no requirement to renew a niche either, so it does not become an obligation of the existing niche owner to renew or pay. I don't see it as a tax at all, since there is no obligation. It is merely a way to set fair market value for each new at each point of renewal. Certainly if that niche simply went back on the market (at auction), it would no doubt bring in a much higher fee.
This does not make the Narrative organization a middleman, either. These revenues go into Network Rewards, to be disbursed to everyone. The one thing that should be perfectly clear in the entire model is that there is no middle man... the company always earns a flat percentage of Network Rewards (just like content creators, niche moderators, and EVERYONE else) for the services it provides.
I would argue to have a flat renewal fee would be the most unfair thing to do for everyone. No one knows how valuable any one niche is going to be.. and certainly no one knows that when the niche is first created. This system is fair for everyone and always reflects market value. It's also not onerous on the owners either. It's only 20% of the previous year's revenue.
Now, having said that, perhaps we should consider a way for renewing owners to pay renewal fees in installments (optionally) to lessen the burden. For instance, maybe I do not have enough NRVE to pay my renewal fee, but I want to maintain it. Maybe instead of paying one lump sum I can agree to simply deduct 20% from my earned niche revenue for the upcoming year to pay the fees (until it is fully paid). That seems fair... and that is the kind of thing we can easily support if the community thinks it makes sense.
Hope this helps!