Wed, May 15, 2013 - Page 6 News List

France’s president mulling smartphone tax to boost culture

The Guardian, PARIS

French President Francois Hollande is considering a tax on smartphones, laptops and tablets to finance the country’s celebrated “cultural exception.”

The money raised from a 1 percent tax on all devices that connect to the Internet, estimated at about 86 million euros (US$112 million) a year, would be spent on supporting French music, images and film.

This latest proposed tax rise was among 75 suggested measures presented to Hollande on Monday by a special culture committee that has spent nine months examining ways to “protect the cultural exception ... in the face of digital innovation.”

Curiously, the committee’s 719-page report also proposes relaxing penalties for pirating videos and music from 1,500 euros to 60 euros.

“The cultural exception is a battle for France and defending and adapting also contributes to growth and employment,” French Minister of Culture and Communication Aurelie Filippetti said.

She said phone and tablet manufacturers should pay in an “absolutely minimal way ... part of the proceeds of their sales in favor of the creators.”

“Today we have tablets, 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,” she said.

Last year, almost one-quarter of all new televisions sold were Internet-compatible.

French consumers also bought 13.5 million smartphones, 3.6 million tablets and 4.5 million laptop computers last year.

“Tax, always tax. The left is addicted to taxes and, despite the [economic] crisis, has not decided to kick the habit,” Camille Bedin, the deputy general secretary of the opposition UMP party, said.

France’s exception culturelle is a precious concept that means anything considered to be of cultural value to French society must be protected from market forces in general and the pernicious spread of US films and the English language in particular.

The principle is enshrined in French law, which requires a strict limit to discount on books, a minimum 40 percent quota of French music on radio stations, state aid for all French films, reduced VAT on movie tickets and mandatory subsidies paid by national television channels to finance French films.

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