France mulls smartphone and tablet tax to fund culture

French MPs use tablets in parliament (19 February 2013) The French government says makers of tablets and smartphones currently "contribute nothing" to financially support digital content

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The French government is considering introducing a 1% tax on the sale of smartphones and tablets to help fund French film, music and images.

The proposal estimates some 86m euros (£73m) could be raised per year.

The bid is based on France's so-called "cultural exception" policy, which aims to protect culture from market forces and foreign competition.

Broadcasters already pay fees to fund cultural projects but firms like Google and Apple are currently exempt.

The proposal was released as part of a government-funded report specifically examining the rise of digital content.

'Battle for France'

The study, led by the former CEO of French pay-TV channel Canal Plus, Pierre Lescure, proposed a total of 75 measures to "protect the cultural exception in the face of digital innovation".

The report said taxing internet devices could help fund culture because consumers were spending more money on hardware than on content.

"Today we have extremely sophisticated technological equipment that is extremely expensive to buy, but which contributes nothing to the financing of the works that circulate on that same equipment," Culture Minister Aurelie Filipetti said following the release of the report.

"Companies that make these tablets must, in a minor way, be made to contribute part of the revenue from their sales to help creators."

She added that the cultural exception remained "a battle for France".

Lawmakers will spend the summer reviewing legislation based on the report's recommendations.

The "culture tax" was likely to be included in a budget law to be submitted to parliament in November, Ms Filipetti said.

Last year, France became embroiled in a row with Google over government plans to tax the company's revenue made from posting ads alongside online search results.

The dispute was settled in February after Google agreed to create a 60m euro fund to help French media organisations improve their internet operations.

The cultural exception policy, introduced in France in 1993, asserts that cultural goods are to be treated differently from other commercial goods.

In particular, it is aimed at shielding French culture from the spread of US films.

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