French court orders Apple to pay $6.5M copyright tax on iPads, country mulls future cultural levies

Apple(s aapl) must hand over 5 million euros in copyright fees it collected on iPad sales in 2011, a Paris court ruled last week. The ruling on the fees, which were eliminated in 2012, comes at a time when France is considering whether it should impose new cultural taxes on connected devices as a way of subsidizing artists.

The Grand Tribunal ruling, which was announced last week by Copie France, found that Apple must hand over a percentage of its iPad sales to Copie France even though the agency’s authority to impose the fees is uncertain. The 5 million euros, which is a provisional amount until the court makes a final ruling, is a drop in the bucket for Apple but is a symbolic victory for the copyright society.

“This is already a victory over an emblematic actor,” the head of Copie France told Le Monde. The French newspaper added that Apple and other device makers are frustrated with the copyright levy system, which raises around 200 million euros per year through taxes on blank CDs and other media, on the grounds it distorts prices between different European markets.

While the device makers successfully lobbied the French government not to expand the blank media levy in 2012, that could change in the coming months. As part of a review on how to update the country’s “cultural exception” rules, which give special status to items like books, a report last month suggested that France consider taxing devices produced by retailers like Amazon(s amzn), Apple and Google(s goog).

Private copying taxes are a source of dispute within the EU where some countries view them as obsolete while others, especially France, view them as a way for consumers to contribute to the art and music they enjoy. The question of an “iPod tax” is also a hot-button issue in Canada.

The iPad tax ruling also comes at a time that France is preparing to soften its controversial anti-piracy laws, known as Hadopi, which called for disconnecting repeat file-sharers from the internet.