French artists back levy

Many support Culture Minister Tasca's idea of copyright tax

PARIS — France’s artistic community — from filmmakers to musicians — has rallied to defend Culture Minister Catherine Tasca’s controversial idea of slapping a copyright tax on computers and digital recording devices.

At Midem on Monday, France’s national music editors union, Syndicat National de l’Edition Phonographique, unveiled a petition signed by dozens of top artists including Charles Aznavour and Nana Mouskouri.

“We will fight any attempt to undermine our rights,” the petition read. Herve Rony, managing director of SNEP, told Daily Variety: “There will be more signatures in coming days.”

Artistic endorsement

Helmer Pierre Jolivet (“My Little Business”), vice president of ARP, France’s politically powerful association of authors, producers and directors, told the newspaper Le Figaro on Saturday that the levy would be “faithful to France’s cultural policy.”

Tasca was forced to backtrack last week after political outcry over her remarks that the tax would be a “logical extension” of France’s copyright levy on blank audio and video tapes. That levy has existed since 1985 to compensate artists for private recordings on which copyright fees could not be collected.

In an about-face, Tasca told Parliament the next day that while the levy would apply to blank CDs and DVDs as of Monday, it would not be imposed on recording devices.

But the debate is far from over. France’s Brun-Buisson copyright tax commission will consider a tax on hard disks later this year. Germany introduced a similar measure this month.

Those in favor of the levy say it will protect artists’ rights in the new digital era, when growing piracy will deprive copyright holders of their due. Computer manufacturers and consumer associations complain a levy would penalize people who do not use hard disks to record artistic works.

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