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Italian Writers Union Calls for New Tax on Phone, Computers

The proposal from SIAE would use money raised by the fee to pay royalties to writers of films, TV programs, music, books or plays.

ROME -- The head of Italy's leading union of authors and publishers is calling for a new tax on smartphones, tablets and personal computers, with the proceeds going toward royalties for the writers behind content accessed on such devices.

Gino Paoli, the 79-year-old singer and songwriter who heads SIAE, the Italian Society of Writers and Publishers, is calling for a fee of around $7.10 (€5.20) added to the price of each new smartphone sold in Italy and around $8.20 (€6.00) added to the cost of each new computer.

The money, he said, would help support the writers of new works -- whether films, television programs, music, books or plays -- in Italy.

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"We must remember that 5 percent of Italy's GDP stems from culture," he said.

Paoli said the fee should not be looked at as a tax but rather as a fee that should be paid, not by the consumer who buys the product but by the producer of the product that is made more attractive because of the content available on it.

"When we take a taxi ride and pay the driver, we don't say we are paying him a tax," he said. "It is a fee for services rendered, and this is the same thing."

It is not clear how much the proposed levy would raise each year.

According to the Italian media, the SIAE proposal has support in parliament and could become law this year.

Twitter: @EricJLyman