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France to tax recordable media

CD-Rs now - hard drives later, maybe

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The French government is to slap a levy on recordable digital media to help compensate artists for the potential use of tapes, CD-Rs, Flash cards, recordable DVDs and the like to duplicate their works without permission.

France has levied a tax on audio and video tapes for some time. The new tax, which the Government will begin collecting next month, extends that to media designed for the digital age.

Hard drives and recording devices such as CD-R units have not been included in the list of taxable media, but they are likely to be included at some point in the future.

Naturally, the French elecronics industry is none too pleased with all this and has already threatened legal action in an attempt to block the tax. However, with a precedent set by the tax on analog media, it's hard to see such a move proving successful.

Quite the reverse, in fact. We can imagine the music and movie industries, buoyed by the French move, lobbying to have similar levies imposed elsewhere in Europe. Germany has already begun collecting a similar tax - the levy kicked in at the start of the year - and also taxes recording devices, such as CD-RW units.

Last month, the German Government successfully forced Hewlett-Packard to pay a levy on all CD-R and CD-RW equipped PCs it had shipped since February 1998. Germany's latest tax covers hard drives, for which computer companies - and, ultimately, consumers - must pay a DM60 (£20) levy.

Of course, how far such a tax will go to cover the revenue artists lose to piracy remains open to question. The UK, for one, reckons it won't, which is why mooted legislation to tax tapes and other media has never been passed.

Indeed, only three-quarters of the money the French Government takes will be passed on to royalty management organisations for distribution among artists. The rest, said the French minister of culture in a Le Figaro interview, will be used to "encourage new talent", whatever the heck that means. ®

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