Saturday

22nd Jan 2022

France considers tax on search engines

The French government is considering taxing search engines such as Google and Yahoo and internet service providers as a way to support the production of music, films and journalism in the digital age.

A report commissioned by the country's culture ministry issued this week proposed a tax on online advertising that could then be put toward subsidies or vouchers for artistic and other cultural works.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Record signing by Danish indie band Mew: The report was drafted by the head of Europe's indie record label federation (Photo: Wikipedia)

Just one of 22 measures in the report, the levy is described by its authors as a "Google tax" but would also be applied to the likes of Yahoo, Microsoft and Facebook, as well as the telecommunications companies that hook up households and businesses to the internet.

The precise form and amount of the tax was not outlined, but the report's authors suggested that the tax be "reasonable" and could initially bring in around €30 million a year.

They hoped that such measures could be constituted not just in France, but across Europe.

The document, drafted by Patrick Zelnik, the head of Impala, the European federation of independent record labels, former culture minister Jacques Toubon and Guillaume Ceruttie, the director of Sotheby's France, argues that such companies have received "enrichment without any limit" on the backs of cultural producers.

Other proposals in the report, long awaited by the music, cinema and book world, include a music voucher system for young people dubbed "Music Online" that would see the sale of cards allowing those aged 15-24 to buy tracks and albums at a discount. The cards would cost from €20 to €25 but be worth €50 in digital downloads. The government would back the scheme up to €20 per card, with record companies financing the remaining cost.

Similar platforms could be developed for films via subsidised video-on-demand subscriptions and ultimately digital books as well.

In another recommendation, music and video streaming sites such as Deezer, YouTube and Daily Motion would be treated in a similar way to radio, with the institution of a licence they would have to purchase that would allow unlimited access to content catalogues.

The Zelnik report also suggested that a commission be constituted to consider methods of compensating journalists for their work provided free on the internet. Newspapers have been some of the hardest hit cultural products as their advertising revenues have plummeted in the wake of the advent of the online world.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy backed the report in a speech on Thursday, although he did not explicitly endorse the Google tax.

He did say however "the possibly dominant position Google has acquired in the online advertising market" should be investigated by competition authorities.

The report was delivered to the Culture Ministry this week, which must now consider its recommendations, although Mr Sarkozy said that he hopes the music card scheme could be up and running by the summer.

The SACD society of authors and composers welcomed the document while Google France for its part emphasised the need for cultural producers to develop new business models rather than depend on taxation for support.

"There is an opportunity here to promote innovative solutions, rather than extending the attitude of opposition between the internet world and the cultural world, for example through the approach of taxation," said spokesman Olivier Esper, according to AFP.

Pressure mounts on EU cloud deal as deadline looms

The European Commission is under pressure to keep to its self-imposed September deadline to publish an EU cloud computing strategy, as new evidence revealed widespread public confusion about it.

News in Brief

  1. 'No embargo' on meetings with Putin, EU says
  2. Austria to fine unvaccinated people €3,600
  3. MEP: Airlines should start paying for CO2 sooner
  4. Twitter forced to disclose what it does to tackle hate speech
  5. EU watchdog calls for ban on political microtargeting
  6. MEPs adopt position on Digital Service Act
  7. Blinken delivers stark warning to Russia in Berlin
  8. Hungary's Orbán to discuss nuclear project with Putin

Analysis

Hydrogen - the 'no-lose bet' for fossil-fuel industry?

The EU plans to label natural gas as 'green' in sustainable investment rules. From 2026 it will have to be blended with low-carbon gases like green hydrogen - but many scientists warn this is inefficient, costly and damaging to health.

Opinion

Macron's vision will hit EU Council veto buffers

President Emmanuel Macron's address to the European Parliament championed a bold and ambitious pro-European agenda. There is one problem though - the plans rely on a system of governance that has gridlocked the EU for over a decade.

Latest News

  1. Lawyers threaten action over new EU gas and nuclear rules
  2. MEPs urge inclusion of abortion rights in EU charter
  3. EU orders Poland to pay €70m in fines
  4. Dutch mayors protest strict lockdown measures
  5. Macron promises strong EU borders
  6. MEPs to crackdown on digital 'Wild West'
  7. Macron calls for new security order and talks with Russia
  8. Macron's vision will hit EU Council veto buffers

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us