French Government Suggests Taxing Google, Yahoo, Facebook to Offset Costs of Illegal Downloading

French Government Suggests Taxing Google, Yahoo, Facebook to Offset Costs of Illegal Downloading
In the "are you frickin' kidding us?" department comes a report that the French government is suggesting web portals such as Google, Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo and Facebook be taxed in order to help the dwindling music and entertainment industry, and combat the effect of illegal music downloading.

The report, which was commissioned by the French government and presented to their culture minister last week, calls for the web giants to be taxed on their online advertising revenues in France to fund legal outlets that sell music, books and movies online, according to the Associated Press.

Patrick Zelnik, a French record producer who helped to spearhead the report, told the French newspaper, Liberation, that the plan "seemed inevitable to us if we want to maintain a certain pluralism in the culture world" and cited the desire to prevent two or three world players "imposing their cultural formatting on us."

And maybe there's something lost in translation here, but we have a hard time understanding what Mr. Zelnik is on about here. We think he's saying that illegal downloading is crippling the entertainment industry and web bigwigs like Google and Yahoo are somehow responsible because that's where people initially go to search for illegal downloads?

Google, for one, seems hesitant about making a statement about the report, which could ultimately cost them money, but their French public affairs director, Oliver Esper, told the Associated Press they are looking for "cooperation between Internet players and the cultural fields to develop new models."

Esper also said they are interested in innovative solutions as opposed to "continuing on a path that opposes the Internet and the cultural worlds, for example the path of taxation."

The French proposal is still in development and doesn't say how much tax the web biggies would have to shell out, although it's estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars.

Critics of the plan are quickly coming out in droves, one of which is Mark Mulligan, vice-president of Forrester Research, an independent technology and market research company located in North America and Europe.

"Where does it start and stop? The argument is that Google has culpability for declining music revenues because people start searches for illegal files often by Google," Mulligan told AP. "But what about the computers? Because without the computer, people wouldn't be able to download. And then what about the electricity that powers the computer?"

Mulligan added that the report "encourages laziness from the music industry, because ultimately they are saying, you don't have to dig your way out of the problem, we'll let other companies do that for you."