Uproar Surrounds Possible French Tablet Tax That Would Exempt Windows-Based Tablets

A proposed French law (well, an expansion of an existing law) has supporters of Android and other non-Windows operating systems slightly upset. The law would make it so that France’s private copying levy applies to all non-Windows tablets, that is, Android tablets and the iPad. The private copying levy was first introduced several years ago and adds a “copying fee” to several forms of recordable media, including blank audio CDs and portable media players of a certain size. The question becomes, what’s so special about Windows-based tablets that would exempt it from the law?

Certainly Archos would like to know the answer to that, being one of the few French tech companies you could name without having to google “french tech companies.” The company’s CEO, Henri Crohas, came out against the proposal [French], arguing that its tablet PCs are merely small computers, despite the fact that they run Android. Since the French private copying levy doesn’t apply to plain ol’ computers, Crohas says the new law shouldn’t apply to its products.

It’s all to do. The private copying levy was first enacted in order to ensure that artists and related parties wouldn’t go broke as a result of the digital music revolution. A sort of, “Sure, you can buy that stack of blank CDs, but we’re going to have to tax you extra because we’re going to assume you’ll be using them for nefarious ends.”

The question here is twofold. One, should the law apply to tablets in the first place, and two, if so, then why are Windows-based tablets exempt? Could it be that French politicians are trying to cosy up to Microsoft? Comments and message board rants would seem to indicate just that.

Starting with the first question, why should the law even apply to tablets in the first place if plain ol’ computers are exempt in the first place? Other than physical size, what’s the difference between an iPad and a Dell laptop? It seems artificial to apply the levy to tablets but not “regular” computers.

And if we accept that, that it’s fine to apply the levy to tablets, then why should Windows-based tablets be exempt? As Archos asked, what’s the difference between Android and Windows? They’re both operating systems, right? And given that Android is basically a tricked out version of Linux, does that mean the levy should apply to all Linux PCs?

It seems to be a case of creating artificial distinctions between nearly identical devices in order to curry favor with one group or another. You don’t want to see that.

The final decision will be made at a January 12 meeting.