“Google Tax”: raising money for the arts, one ad-supported link at a time

France has become known for making novel steps toward fighting copyright infringement.  Like the proposed “three-strikes” rule, that would have kicked repeat infringes offline, few – if any – proposed legislation have actually become law.  Not being a country known to sit quietly, France has come up with a new plan to halt p2p activity while investing in arts.  With ideas like the “youth card“, which will subsidize music subscriptions for…well, the youth, France is thinking of a nifty way with raising funds to support the arts industry.

Dubbed the “Google Tax,” the proposed levy requires large website operators to pay each time a French internet user clicks an ad-supported link or banner.  The tax will place a levy on large website operators’ advertising revenue, even if the operator has no offices or subsidiaries in country.  Revenues from the tax will supplement the country’s dwindling creative sector, using funds to develop online music businesses and to subsidize digital music subscriptions for 15-24 year-olds.

Unsurprisingly, the targeted operators – such as the nick-namesake Google – are less than gung-ho about the proposed levy.  Of course a global, widespread Google Tax would ultimately have devastating effects on website operators, but should the concept of a Google Tax be written off?

According to Los Angeles Times writer Mike Boehm, “[t]aken together, the 50 states’ 2008-09 budgets include a pinch less for the arts than they did a year ago, down from $414.3 million to $412.5 million.”  During this same period, the national arts budget averaged $1.35 per capita.  Variety has reported that the arts index “fell in 2008 to a score of 98.4 even as the number of arts organizations grew…The current score represents a 4.2% drop from 102.6 in 2007.”

Taxing advertising revenues from website operators like Google – whose annual net profits rose 54%, totaling $6.52 billion by the end of the fourth quarter in 2009 – is a creative solution to reverse  and supplement the growing decline in the overall US arts budget.


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