The French government is considering a tax on technology.
A proposed 1 percent tax on smartphones and tablets has been presented in legislation to French President Francois Hollande. What has confused and angered some in France and other parts of the world is that the money raised will not go for Internet infrastructure for these devices, but for digital culture content.
The tax, if approved, is expected to raise 86 million euros ($110 million) annually. The money would go toward for to support French artistic content, such as videos, music and photography.
The funding mechanism is aimed at technology stalwarts like Google, Apple and Amazon, but the tax would likely be passed on by those firms to consumers purchasing their products, experts predicted.
Radio and television stations already pay to fund French cultural efforts, but online companies like Google are exempted.
Any “Internet compatible” devices would be subject to the tax, according to French officials.
The proposed tax falls under the French “cultural exception” policy, which aims to protect the French movie and music industries from Americans and other foreign invaders. Similar laws are also in place for protecting the French language.
The cultural exception policy, passed in 1993, states that cultural goods will be treated differently than consumer goods. In particular, the measure targets minimizing the impact of American films on the French population.
French leaders are expected to meet with representatives of the French arts community before making any decision on the proposed tax.
The “smartphone tax” was the highest profile items in a string of 75 measures put forth by Pierre Lescure, former chief executive officer of the French pay TV channel Canal Plus. Lescure headed a government-funded study looking at the rise of digital content in the country.
The measures are to “protect the culture exception in the face of digital innovation,” Lescure said.
French consumer are spending more money on hardware than on content, according to report. That trend brought the call for the smartphone tax.
“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,” French culture minister Aurelie Filipetti said.
“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.
Filipetti said the protection of French movies and music continues to be “a battle” that the country needs to fight.
Last year, France and Google became embroiled in a debate when the government unsuccessfully tried to tax ads placed on the online company’s search results.
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