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French culture minister backs tablet tax plan

Text by Adam Mitchell

Latest update : 2013-05-14

France's culture minister on Tuesday backed taxing tablets and smartphones to provide funding for artists. Aurélie Filippetti also warned that she and many of her European counterparts opposed the inclusion of cultural products in EU-US trade talks.

France’s culture minister on Tuesday defended plans to tax tablet computers and smartphones to help fund support for the country’s culture industry, and said that France will not allow trade talks with the US to undermine the way it supports filmmakers and other artists.

France has long provided support for artistic production in the country, an approach it calls the “cultural exception,” which insists that culture be treated differently from other commercial products.

On Monday, a report on cultural policy commissioned by the French government, and written by former TV boss Pierre Lescure, put forward plans including a 1% tax on tablets and smartphones.

Speaking on France Inter, a public radio station, Culture Minister Aurélie Filippetti lamented a “harnessing of the value of the riches created by artists … to the benefit of those who make hardware”.

This “transfer”, Filippetti said, “is happening to the detriment of our French industries and artists.”

While the cultural sector employs a million people in France, the country tends to import the hardware used to view content, Filippetti said. She stressed that people increasingly view or listen to content through streaming, rather than downloads or other forms of hard copy.

“There needs to be a contribution that can allow us to get the new players in digital technology to participate,” she added.

France already has a “private copy” tax, instituted in 1985, Filippetti also noted. The tax, targeted at devices allowing people to make private copies of files, came into being as video recorders were becoming commonplace. It still applies to electronic goods such as tablets, Filippetti said, adding that the new tax could end up replacing this old one.

Filippetti also fired a shot across the bows of UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who said on Monday in Washington that talks on a new trade deal between the US and the European Union ought to encompass all areas of commerce between the two.

“We are 14 and he is alone,” she said, referring to a joint letter signed with thirteen other European Union culture ministers, including her counterparts in Germany, Spain and Italy, asking for audiovisual products to be excluded from any new trade pact.

Filippetti emphasized the economic, as well as cultural, importance of creative industries, which she said account for 3% of the EU’s GDP and 3.5% of jobs in the bloc.

Date created : 2013-05-14


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