France weighs 'culture tax' for Apple, Google products

Mon May 13, 2013 9:54am EDT
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PARIS (Reuters) - President Francois Hollande will decide by the end of July whether France should impose new taxes on technology giants like Apple and Google to finance cultural projects, a move that could feed into an anti-business image days after a spat with Yahoo!.

The Socialist government asked former Canal Plus CEO Pierre Lescure to find new ways of funding culture during an economic downturn, in line with France's "cultural exception" argument that such projects must be shielded from market forces.

While far from becoming laws, the proposals could worsen tension between France and technology giants after Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg blocked an attempt by Yahoo! to buy a majority stake in French video clip site Dailymotion.

The run-in reignited a debate on state intervention in the economy, angered the firm's French parent company and exposed discord between Montebourg and Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici, who denied having approved the move.

Lescure's report said taxes on sales of smart-phones and tablets, namely Apple's iPhone and iPad and Google Android products, could help fund culture because consumers were spending more money on hardware than on content.

The proposed tax would mirror fees already paid by television users, TV and radio broadcasters and Internet service providers to fund art, cinema and music in France, but which Google, Apple and Amazon are now exempt from paying.

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

Hollande's office said in a statement that he wanted lawmakers to review legislation based on the report's recommendations by the summer. Parliament goes into recess at the end of July and returns in mid- to late September.

Filipetti added that the "culture tax", which she said would be "minimal and widely distributed", was likely to be included in a budget law to be submitted to parliament in November.   Continued...

French President Francois Hollande (R) waves goodbye at journalists in the courtyard of the Elysee Palace in Paris May 10, 2013. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes