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France's 'Culture Tax' Could Hit YouTube and Facebook 314

PolygamousRanchKid writes with this excerpt from BusinessWeek: "Should YouTube subsidize le cinéma français? France's audiovisual r.egulator thinks so. In a report this week, the Superior Audiovisual Council (CSA) says that video-sharing websites should be subject to a tax that helps finance the production of French films and TV shows. ... Although the CSA report says that videos posted online by private individuals should not be subject to taxation, it contends that video-sharing sites increasingly have become 'professional' content providers. ... Separately, France is considering a tax on smartphones, tablets, and other devices as another source of revenue for cultural subsidies. The proposed tax would raise an estimated €86 million annually that would be used to finance the 'cultural industries' digital transition,' France's Culture Ministry said at the time."
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France's 'Culture Tax' Could Hit YouTube and Facebook

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  • Kickback time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrDoh! ( 71235 ) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @04:44AM (#45803867) Homepage Journal
    "That's a nice video streaming business you have there, you should speak to my cousin, he runs a french language film production company, sure he can help you..."
    • ...except when the state does it, it is legal.

      I don't see a problem with the YouTube tax. According to TFA, YouTube would be subject to the already existing tax on video-on-demand. This means they would have to pay a percentage of whatever people pay them to watch YouTube (on paid channels), just like their competitors.

      The tax on smartphones etc is more problematic. It may lead to smartphones that disable or cripple video streaming just to avoid the tax. If you're wondering why your cellphone or digital cam

      • Re:Kickback time (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @10:56AM (#45805211)

        I don't see a problem with the YouTube tax

        I do... Youtube's not a French company. The idea that any country in the world can levy a tax on you if you're an internet company, would be crippling.

        How about a "Mohamed" tax from muslim countries, on any depiction of Mohamed in a video? The tax amount? $1 Million dollars, per viewer of each such video.

        • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @11:48AM (#45805491)

          Youtube's not a French company.

          Yes they are. I guarantee you that Google (who owns YouTube) is incorporated in France and can be taxed there. The fact that the parent company is in the US is not important here. France absolutely can tax the French subsidiary of Google. There probably are taxation angles via the EU as well.

          The idea that any country in the world can levy a tax on you if you're an internet company, would be crippling.

          It would be if they could collect the revenue. If you don't actually do any business in France they cannot tax you even if they pass laws which try. They simply cannot collect the money.

  • Not Culture (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mfwitten ( 1906728 ) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @04:53AM (#45803893)

    If you have to subsidize it, then it ain't culture; it's history.

    • Re:Not Culture (Score:5, Informative)

      by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @05:21AM (#45803951)

      But everyone does it. The UK has a system of subsidies for movie production (Lottery money, mostly). Uwe Boll's financial success came from exploiting the German system of subsidies to make films that were subsidised for more than their production cost, making it impossible for them to do anything but profit. The US approach is less open subsidies than tax breaks, both official and a policy of openly tolerating accounting practices that would be considered illegal in any other industry.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        But everyone does it.

        Do you actually think that is a reason? . . . or are you trying to hold everyone else accountable? I learned at a pretty young age that when I tried to use the phrase, "but all my friends are doing it," that I was *still* accountable for being responsible and doing the right thing - which meant that I reaped the consequences of the stupid thing I just did that I tried to use that excuse to escape.

        Check your language - whenever you use that phrase you should seriously question your log

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        And don't forget the Pentagon. Whenever you see a two bit tv show featuring, say, an aircraft carrier, it is subsidized by DoD. Strings attached of course, so it is effectively outsourced propaganda.

      • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

        Imagine you want to make a movie.
        One the one hand, you can fund it yourself or try to find investors who you'll have to pay back if the movie makes money.
        On the other hand, you can just take some free government money and keep all profits for yourself.
        Just because everybody does it, doesn't mean they can't do without.

        • On yet another hand you can propose the idea directly to the consumers. If they think the idea is any good they can choose in aggregate to fund the production. Since you just got paid to do work, you let everyone download the product for free -- It's in infinite supply, thus has zero price regardless of cost to create (that's why you charged up front). You want more money? You create more works. Bonus: No piracy can exist, that's free publicity.

          Now, you're not going to start out making a hundred millio

      • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @11:24AM (#45805359)

        Uwe Boll's financial success

        That settles it right there. If France doesn't subsidize culture, then they'll face the dreaded Uwe Boll gap. Can't let Germans win the culture war!

    • by isorox ( 205688 )

      If you have to subsidize it, then it ain't culture; it's history.

      Like the lord of the rings film? NZ$300 million in subsidies. Iron man 3 got $20m.

    • If you have to subsidize it, then it ain't culture.

      Isn't a lot of the US cultural institutions subsidized via donations and fund raisers so that rich folks to mingle and be seen with other of their ilk also pretending to be socially/culturally concerned by donating a tiny fraction of their wealth and then write off the donations on their taxes? The difference is that in socialist Europe we cut out the middle man by taxing directly and then distribute to directly to theaters, museums, art projects, movies and so forth.

      Culture being subsidized is hardly anyt

    • "Culture" has to be commercially viable? Consign it to the dustbin of history of it's not? Nah - you're doing it wrong.
    • I beg to differ: If you don't need to subsidize it, then "it ain't culture"; it's industry
    • If you have to subsidize it, then it ain't culture; it's history.

      Agreed. Anyone who says otherwise is a dumb ape who doesn't grok basic post-scarcity economics. Information is not scarce; It is in near infinite supply. What is scarce is the ability to create new information. You can charge for the work to create information, or the work to deliver information, but not the information itself: Economics 101 says that which has infinite supply has zero price regardless of cost to create; Thus you extract payment for the creation process. This is the Information Age, an

  • FTS:

    The proposed tax would raise an estimated €86 million annually that would be used to finance the 'cultural industries' digital transition,' France's Culture Ministry said at the time.

    If they're now thinking of a tax (which probably takes years to implement) to fund (more time to implement) the digital transition of the cultural industry, those industries are really well behind the times.

    They should be well on the way by now, if not finished already, with this digital transition.

    • by rusty0101 ( 565565 ) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @05:23AM (#45803953) Homepage Journal

      You're making the assumption that french culture is independent of the french govornment. While this may be true for those artists that are earning a living on the art they produce, the govornment of france feels that they are responsible for maintaining french culture, and as a govornment agency have mandated studies that have determined that this is the cost of making this transition, and as a result have instigated other studies that have recommended that taxes on these artifacts of the digital transition should cover that cost. The fact that the cost has already been bourn by the artists and art viewers as they have made the transition independent of the studies of the state does not eliminate the requirement that the state collect those fees, to make the transition.

      When all is done, every artist in France is likely to be given a 2 Euro digital camera that does not capture more than 6 images at VGA quality or lower, at a time, and does not support any of the various flash media storage formats that are in circulation, To allow them to transition to 'digital'. any remaining incidental funds recovered by the temorary taxation will be used to cover the costs of distributing those cameras.

      • The French (capitalisation) government (spelling) has (singular verb) initiated (not instigated) ... and so on. What price culture?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Some of you will say it has already started. And in some ways, it already has. However, as these 'small' little seperators wiggle their way into the legal framework, country by country, the Net is going to become a legally convulated hell for personal media, personal information, and copyright. It's pretty grey now, however this is just going to murk up the waters more.

    Net neutrality was a half-assed attempt to stopgap it in the US, but the FCC, however contadictory politicized and impotent, sure as hell is

  • Nice try. (Score:5, Informative)

    by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Saturday December 28, 2013 @05:03AM (#45803915)

    Just like last time when they tried to save the french film industry from the pirates, they created a new agency to stop piracy.

    After a couple of years and a for a budget of 13,7 million dollars a year, they actually had exactly 2 users convicted, 1 user slapped on the wrist and 1 user who got a fine of 150 Euros.

    This will work exactly the same, not at all. []

    • Very true. The French constitutional court gutted most of the legislation regarding "illegal" downloading and streaming so they've basically given up.

  • In more general terms, what they are saying is that successful businesses should be taxed to pay for their unsuccessful competition to catch up.

    • by DrEasy ( 559739 )
      Because the quality of art and culture can be measured by its financial success?
      • No, but you seem to be saying is that bureaucrats are capable of determining what is art and culture and thus funding it. Have you seen any of Uwe Boll's movies? They exist because the German government decided to subsidize art and culture.
  • by Charcharodon ( 611187 ) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @05:11AM (#45803933)
    They could just post videos on the web just like everyone else. Last time I checked its not exactly expensive to do.
  • Some of the posters are saying that France produced this and that movie and Americans just ripped them off - and that somehow makes this culture tax justifiable. Well, if these movies "were" ripped off, then what you need are stronger copyright laws. The various countries have their own copyright laws that are connected with international treaties - lobby to have them strengthened. My "guess" is that while there may be a "few" movies that were "ripped off", this culture tax would try to "recover" much more
    • I think you're misreading the talk about remakes - they were in response to the claim that France has no culture, not an excuse for the tax.

      The remakes are not "rip offs", Hollywood is pretty serious about not getting involved in "Intelectual Property" disputes with anyone with enough money to pay for serious lawyers. I think you'll find that the people who own the rights to the original film get paid before the remake is made.

      • by phayes ( 202222 )

        Indeed. The people who sell the rights often make more off the bad Hollywood makeover than they do off the original.

    • Good God - don't encourage ANYONE to strengthen copyright law! Outrageous, draconian copyright law already inhibits artists. Real artists that is, not the media whores who sign those big corporate contracts.

  • What a catastrophe, Youtube and DailyMotion are supposed to pay a tax of 1% or so on the business involved in France! I'm certain, this 1% of their revenue will make the difference between going bankrupt or being the pride of capitalistic success.

    Seriously, to corporations like Google or Amazon, taxes and tariffs are just regular business to be dealt with as appropriate, just like road traffic is to be dealt with when driving around the city. It really doesn't matter whether its called VAT or some other nam

    • So, if I make an indie game, and I self publish, and someone in France pays me to download a copy over the Internet we both already pay to access... I should pay the French government? For what? For their ability to farm their citizens? No, if you want to farm people, then tax the purchasers. If you want more French gamedevs, just because I made a game, it's my fucking fault -- All the resources are free and available online: Compilers, Engines, Assets, Tutorials, etc. Just like anyone else. It's lik

  • Classic France (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pablo_max ( 626328 ) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @05:46AM (#45804019)

    Seriously, this is classical French behavior. Over the years they have put various taxes on this or that to protect this or that industry. Think taxes on blank media which should go to the record companies. Not a cent to artists mind you, but I digress.

    Actually, the only real way France will learn is to simple ignore them. By ignore them, I mean completely pull out of the France. No french versions of websites. No, french youtube, no French google or bing.

    I wonder how long it would take for the French people to freak out for being cut off from any meaningful content?

    Alternatively, for French versions of websites, you have have a "pay to enter". On youtubes page, there can be a sign saying due to the ridiculous cost of operating in France, you will need to pay 5€ per month in order to watch any videos.
    The same on google and bing and yahoo. Want to search? 15 cent per search.

    I say call their bluff and pull out of France. Now, if we could just get those surrender monkeys out of the EU....

    • by jareth-0205 ( 525594 ) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @09:22AM (#45804765) Homepage

      Actually, the only real way France will learn is to simple ignore them. By ignore them, I mean completely pull out of the France. No french versions of websites. No, french youtube, no French google or bing.

      I'm trying to think of a more subtle way of saying 'fuck you', but I can't. You realise how outstandingly arrogant you sound? That you would have foreign corporations put such massive pressure on a government to act in a way that they want?

      I don't particularly think this tax is a great idea, and it's likely to limit what gets offered to France, but guess what, it's up to *France* to make their decision on the tradeoff and then *Google* etc to decide whether it's worth it to do business in that country. And you can bet your life that they still will. Just because you have an anarchist / libertarian / bully hardon for making governments do your bidding, doesn't mean the real world works like that.

  • Last week, there was news that, although economic growth is picking up nearly everywhere in the EU ( the 2008 crisis seems finally over ), France is lagging behind, and we hear more and more often the epithet "sick man of Europe". I studied and worked in France, hence I know that society pretty well. The problem has always seemed, to me, that the average Frenchman expects the French state to provide him with anything he needs: health, safety, a job, a pension, vacation. Add to this the curious "cultural e
  • How about we agree to it for French videos originated in France (not Quebec, Louisiana, or elsewhere)?

    If it was uploaded from France, it's subject to the tax, otherwise it's not? If it's a French Culture Tax, then obviously, it's because of the value to the world of the French Culture, right?

  • People will whine about how the French government should not tax stuff to support local culture.

    But any movie produced in any country larger than France (for instance US, India, China) can be paid for in the local market and then basically given away for free or as close to free as needed to kill the local production.

    Add to this that the US is rabidly promoting "patriotism" which is a form of nationalism so that anything "foreign" is automatically suspect.
    The various programs promoting this are ways to clo

  • While this might affect or whatever, it can't affect the main youtube site, or one costed in Canada, which could still be french-speaking

  • by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @11:22AM (#45805349) Homepage Journal

    Maybe it's the language that causes brain damage, because here in Canada, we have the Quebecois with that same perverse "protectionist" mentality about their language and culture.

    Or maybe they just can't accept the fact that the days of empire are over, and that they no longer matter all that much on the world stage compared to when they were in their glory days.

    What I do know is that protectionism and isolationism don't save anything; they just create isolated backwaters that aren't connected with the global culture and the rest of the world.

    Stupidest example I can think of: In Quebec, you're supposed to yell "Quatre" on the golf course. The problem with that is "Fore" is short for "Forewarned", not "Four."

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