France Proposes Technology Tax To Pay For Culture Content

The French government is weighing a proposal to tax Google, Apple and possibly other large technology firms to raise revenue for the arts and cultural programs. The government contends the new tax would be similar to taxes already imposed on TV users, broadcasters and Internet providers.

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If you live in France, you might be paying more, soon, for smartphones and tablets, like the iPad. If the government moves ahead with a new tax proposal, the move could worsen an already tense climate between the Socialist government in France and some technology giants.

Here's NPR's Eleanor Beardsley.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: The French government has already tangled with Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft. Now President Francois Hollande's government is looking at taxing hi-tech devices - namely Apple's iPhone and iPad and Google Android products to finance French cultural content, such as movies, music and television.

Culture minister Aurelie Filippetti says that consumers are spending far less on cultural content than on the hardware that showcases it.

AURELIE FILIPPETTI: (French spoken)

BEARDSLEY: And this profits the makers of these technological devices to the detriment of the creators of the material that's being shown on them, said Filipetti. So why shouldn't some of the revenue from sales of these products go to help creators?

France has long stood at the forefront of protecting copyright laws. In 2010, the French parliament passed a law known as Hadopi, which fines those caught illegally downloading films and music.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (French spoken)

BEARDSLEY: In this catchy public service ad for the law, the announcer explains, she's the French singing sensation of 2022, inspired by Voltaire and techno pop. But without Hadopi, she'll never be able to make that first album.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV AD)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (French spoken)

BEARDSLEY: Though the new tax would be minimal, from one to three percent, television watchers, TV and radio broadcasters, as well as Internet service providers already pay fees to fund art and cinema in France. If adopted, the tax could go into force by this summer.

Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.

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