Internet companies must fund creativity, claims French minister

French culture minister Frédéric Mitterrand has said internet companies must contribute more to financing creativity.

Setting the tone for the e-G8 forum, to be held in Paris May 24-25, he said in an interview with the Saturday edition of daily newspaper Le Figaro: "It is unreasonable to think that the internet giants will build prosperous economic models, thanks to the presence of content and cultural works (and) without participating in their financing."

This first ever e-G8 will be attended by the CEOs of all the major internet players from around the world and is aimed to fuel discussion by the G8 heads of state and government when they meet in Deauville on May 26-27.

Mitterrand said the French government talked frequently with the likes of Google, Apple and Amazon. He said: "Clear rules must be established to prevent the law of the strongest taking hold and to ensure cultural diversity."

He added it was urgent for the European Union (EU) to draw up a policy on e-books, and that the positions of Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain over a new policy were "close" to that of France.

Last week, the French parliament passed a law allowing publishers to fix prices of all ebooks sold in France, regardless of where the retailer is based. Acknowledging that the cross-border element would upset the European Commission, Mitterrand said the government’s arguments to convince the commission that the law was justified were based on the need for cultural diversity.

He added that digitisation still does not hold a central place in EU cultural and media programmes, and reiterated that VAT rates should be the same for paper and digital books across the EU.

Separately, Christophe Girard, a socialist Paris deputy mayor in charge of culture, has called for digitisation to be added to the culture and communications ministry after the French presidential and legislative elections next year. He said: "France should no longer be afraid of the internet. (It) has wasted too much time, terrrified by the new order created by the internet."