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Science

France to start Carte Musique digital music subsidy plan

France hopes to change young shoppers' habits by subsidizing the sale of music with a "Music Card." But the government has not yet said which online services people will be able to use to make purchases.

A hand holding an iPod

France said the Music Card program will subsidize music

The French government said Tuesday that its Carte Musique, or "Music Card," plan to subsidize digital music would begin on Thursday and also unveiled a some of the plan's details. The move comes two weeks after the European Union approved the French music subsidy.

The Music Card subsidy lets French residents between the ages of 12 and 25 purchase a 50 euro ($70) Music Card for only 25 euros with the state paying the remaining 25 euros. Credit on the card can then spent on online music subscription services. French officials have said the plan would last for two years and that people would be able to buy one subsidized card per year.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy first proposed the plan at a speech in Paris in January, where he argued that French youth don't pay for music because they are accustomed to getting everything online for free.

The government statement published Tuesday also said a "substantial portion" of the tracks available under the subsidy plan should be for French-language music, or music sung in one of France's regional languages, such as Corsican, Basque or Breton.

The statement added that the music platforms must be "hosted in France, in the European Union, or in a signatory state of the European Economic Community."

The government, however, still hasn't said exactly which sites or online services the Music Card will support, although previous reports suggested that it would be for subscription services, and not for individual download services, like Apple's iTunes.

Industry says piracy hurts profits

A person holding an iPod sitting in front of a computer

The record industry said French artist album releases have plummeted due to piracy

The music industry has said piracy is slowing down their business, especially in France, where it has said illegal downloading of copyright-protected material is widespread.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry reported in January that France has seen local artist album releases fall by 60 percent between 2003 and 2009. The federation links this drop to its statistics showing that one-quarter of the French online population illegally downloads music.

Last year, a report by former Virgin France director Patrick Zelnik said for every track legally bought online in France that there are 20 tracks downloaded illegally and that many people currently downloading music illegally would be willing to pay if the price of digital music was lower.

But the Music Card also has some detractors. The plan amounts to nothing more than a handout to the music industry, and it is unlikely to convince people to buy music when the subsidy runs out, according to Jeremie Zimmerman, a spokesperson for the French online advocacy group La Quadrature du Net.

"There is no evidence that this would be useful to anything but bringing a bit more money in the pockets intermediaries of distribution of digital music," Zimmerman said in an interview earlier this month with Deutsche Welle.

Author: Cyrus Farivar

Editor: Sean Sinico

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