France proposes non-Windows tablet levy

The French government has proposed a pro-copyright levy on tablet PCs that would see devices with 40GB or more of internal storage taxed €12 to compensate rights holders - but only if the tablet isn't running Windows.

The strangely pro-Microsoft proposal is an extension of the country's existing levy on blank media, which sees a charge added to the sale of blank CDs, DVDs, and other storage devices which purportedly goes towards compensating artists or "rights holders" for all the illicitly-obtained music and video you'll no doubt be filling the discs with as soon as the government's back is turned.

While this guilty-by-default stance already has its detractors, the government's latest wheeze has caused some serious ripples in the tablet industry: according to coverage on French-language site Numerama, the government plans to extend the charge to include all tablet PCs - with the largest devices, defined as having 40GB or more of internal storage, seeing €12 added to their sticker price.

There's an exception to the rule, however - and one that leaves us thinking that there's been a bit of Microsoft-funded lobbying going on in the background. While tablet devices running Google's Android, Apple's iOS, or supplied without an operating system at all will be charged the full amount, tablets running Microsoft Windows get a free pass.

The reasoning, if it can be called such, is that Windows-based tablets are considered 'full PCs' and thus should be treated the same as any other computer, whereas tablets running mobile-centric operating systems are considered souped-up smartphones or portable media players and thus are more likely to be filled with copyrighted media.

It's an interesting argument, but one that the manufacturers of non-Windows tablets are keen to refute. Archos, which makes a range of Android-based mini tablets, is particularly vehement that the government's plans are unfair - and has joined a lawsuit founded by a French industrialists' union to petition the government to change its mind.

Henri Crohas, chief executive of Archos, is reported to have exclaimed: "Comment peut-on dire sérieusement qu'une tablette sous Windows est moins à l'origine de copie privée que celles sous Android?" which we are reliably informed means: 'how can we seriously say that Windows tablets are less the cause of private copying than Android?'

With interest in tablet devices burgeoning, even a small levy on the sale of such devices could seriously impact the bottom line of companies hawking their wares in la belle France.