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COVID-19: Stars including Olivia Colman call for ‘gadget tax’ to fund the arts

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Olivia Coleman and Imelda Staunton are among dozens of high-profile artists calling for a levy on tech devices to help boost the creative industries battling to recover from the effects of the pandemic.

The arts industry has been hit hard by COVID-19.

It is worth £10.8bn a year to the UK economy, but the coronavirus crisis has caused venues to close, events to be cancelled, and left thousands of jobs at risk.

Organisers behind the proposal say the Smart Fund could raise up to £300m a year from payments of between 1% and 3% of the sales value of gadgets including mobile phones, laptops and PCs.

The money generated would be paid into a central fund which would be used to “fairly reward creators and performers in making a living from their content,” they say, and boost the wider economy.

Similar schemes – made up of groups representing visual artists, writers, performers and directors – exist in 44 countries, according to the Smart Fund.

Backers include Oscar, Bafta and Turner Prize winners including The Crown star Colman, Vera Drake actress Staunton and artists Sir Frank Bowling, Rachel Whiteread and Yinka Shonibare.

Gilane Tawadros, chief executive of the Design And Artists Copyright Society (DACS), one of the groups backing the Smart Fund, said: “Working with the tech industry and innovators in this sector, we want to support creators and performers, to rebuild and enable the UK’s world leading cultural heritage, tourism and creative industries and contribute to its soft power and international standing.

“The arts provide sustenance to the engine room of cultural regeneration, recovery and renewal for the whole country.”

Shonibare said: “The Smart Fund is a no brainer. Currently there isn’t any effective way for creators to be recompensed when their work is downloaded and stored by audiences.

“This remains one of the largest untapped opportunities for creators and performers.

“The Smart Fund provides a way to invest in creative talent of all ages and backgrounds and their communities.”

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