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Apple's iPads, iPhones could be subject to new French 'culture tax'

Apple products like the iPhone and iPad may soon be subject to a new "culture tax," as France ponders levying such a fee on technology giants in order to help preserve its cultural products.

Smartphones and tablets are at the center of new proposals from former Canal Plus CEO Pierre Lescure, whom France's socialist government tasked with finding new ways of funding French cultural projects in the face of an economic downturn, Reuters reported on Monday. Lescure, noting that consumers are spending more money on hardware than on content, proposed a one percent tax on the sale of Internet-compatible devices.

The new tax would target iPhones and iPads from Apple, but also Android tablets and Amazon's Kindle Fire devices.

Lescure's plan would likely yield roughly 86 million euros per year. That revenue would go to support cultural industries creating French music, images, and videos, according to the proposal. Television users, TV and radio broadcasters, and Internet service providers already pay a similar tax.

In France, cinema, music, and other creative sectors fall under the "cultural exception," which largely protects them from foreign competition. France lobbies heavily for the protection of its culture, with officials from the country expected to push for the exemption of its cultural products from free trade rules in forthcoming talks.

The proposal, expected to go before parliament in the fall, has drawn criticism for contributing to the perception of France as an anti-business nation. As the global economic downturn drags on, France has repeatedly targeted the pocketbooks of the wealthy in order to fund its government and protect social and cultural institutions.

French officials are torn as to the future of the proposal, which some believe oversteps the bounds of the state's role with regard to the private sector. France's Industry Minister recently blocked an attempt by Yahoo to buy a majority stake in the country's video clip site Dailymotion.

The French government previously clashed with Google in 2010 following the proposal of a one percent tax on all online advertising expenses. French officials also this year proposed a tax on the collection of personal data from users.