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France’s ‘Google Tax’: Sarkozy Threatens to Levy Internet Search Engines

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is mulling a recommendation to impose a tax on Internet ad revenues in France. The proposal is aimed at helping the French culture industries survive the new digital age. But critics say it is absurd, unworkable and will do little more than prop up failing business models.

France has never been shy when it comes to protecting its culture and heritage, with quotas for French-language chansons on the radio and massive subsidizes for its home-grown film industry. Now it could be about to take on perhaps the greatest symbol of the globalized, and increasingly Anglophone, world: Google.

On Thursday evening French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that he would get his Finance Ministry to look at a controversial proposal to impose a tax on the online ad revenues that Google and other search engines generate in France. He also said he would ask the national competition authorities to look at whether Google had an unfair market dominance.

Sarkozy’s comments, made during a speech to culture officials at the Cité de la Musique in Paris, came the day after his government was presented with a report commissioned to look at ways to protect French cultural industries in the new online world. The most controversial proposal was a tax, dubbed the “Google tax,” that would take a small percentage of the big Internet players’ online ad revenues. It is the latest rallying cry in France’s war on the infringement of its cultural identity, something the French president is keen to be seen defending. Continue reading

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