back to article France: All your books are belong to us

If the phrase "digital pirate" conjures up a lone socially challenged male with a large collection of Manga comics and Cory Doctorow ravings, think again. Some of the biggest "pirates" in the world are nation states. Last week France passed a law that permits the state to seize authors' rights on out-of-print books published …


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  1. James 51 Silver badge

    France is just getting crazier and craizer.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Hasn't anyone told Sarkozy...

    ... that standing on e-books will not make him look taller.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Just One Of Their Brainfarts

    ..which will duly be eliminated by the EU. Just taking away property rights to books completely incompatible with human rights, which include the right to property. I guess that will be the argument of the EU courts when they rubbish that law.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Just One Of Their Brainfarts

      "Just taking away property rights to books completely incompatible with human rights"

      Well, MY books are safely stored in a case made of wood in my living room. Problem?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Re: Just One Of Their Brainfarts

        I was talking of Book Authors.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Re: Just One Of Their Brainfarts

      The French goverment controls the EU. It will ignore any instructions to cancel this law, and then ignore any subsequent orders from the EU courts.

    3. SW

      Re: Just One Of Their Brainfarts

      France won't be too worried about any EU laws put in place - they do their own thing anyway irrespective of an EU law being in place.

      France always picks and chooses which EU dictates to abide by - until such time as it no longer suits them.

  4. Ali on the Reg


    A Zero Wing reference - what's it been, 10 years?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mad French Laws

    They appear to deliberately create these laws just to piss everyone off whether they're Turkish, French or whatever.

  6. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    droit d'auteur ?

    This one sounds more like droit de seigneur to me.

    Wonder if it affects software source code as well, it's usually covered by copyright... Imagine if all big companies that do software development in France suddenly didn't own their code any more.

  7. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    I am completely gobsmacked...

    Just how much influence do the publishers *have* with the legislature? Might one suspect (whisper it) "Oh, Monsieur, of course we will be delighted to publish your political memoirs. Perhaps you could perform a small service for us?"

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Belated revenge for Dreyfus

    Take that, M. Zola!

  9. orpy

    Another Hundred Years War

    All your books are belong to the British Library as they have developed a new digital copying process that automagically gives them copyright:

    The Empire may be gone but the world can still be ours, all ours through Cultural Imperialism.

  10. Tony W

    Copyright is not a thing that people own

    It is a right given by the state so I suppose it can equally well be taken away by the state.

    Which is not to say that's a good idea. At a time when it is getting harder and harder for authors to make money (let alone a living, few have ever done that) it looks as if this could make it even more difficult.

  11. Usually Right or Wrong

    It's a normal function of gubment

    This is just nationalisation. In the current climate, gubments are normally selling off their silver to raise cash, (airwaves seem to be the latest silver), so nice to see one on an acquisition spree, though I didn't read they were actually spending money.

    Now, if they could just extend this to music and films and bring back the guillotine, we would have an end to media piracy, in France at least. Three strikes and we really cut your internet connection.

  12. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    The state grants you "copyright", the state takes it away.

    "Publishers are the big beneficiaries."

    Only if the publisher gets a monopoly grant for issuance of said work. Otherwise FTP servers can spring up anywhere. Does he? Possibly. Not clear.

    "And the French Free Software movement, recognising the freedoms of software libre depend on strong copyright"

    Oh yeah? Howzzthat then? I would rather think it depends on strong copyleft.

    1. Vic

      Re: The state grants you "copyright", the state takes it away.

      > I would rather think it depends on strong copyleft.

      Copyleft depends entirely on copyright. It is the only way to enforce the licence.


  13. Hollerith 1

    Here we go again

    As a published author, I have been fighting for the past many years against this and that company or organisation who think that they should have control and rights over my work (and indeed, own my work). If I were making shoes or cars, no one would think they could just help themselves to my product and that, indeed, it was a right ('cars want to be free'). Yet music and writing, because of their nature, are somehow different and up for grabs. They must have some value, or all these organisations and companies wouldn't be seeking to control them. I just wish i could capitalise on this value, but I am the last to see a penny.

    So thanks, France...

    1. P Saunders

      Re: Here we go again

      I suppose the difference here is that a car actually has to be manufactured each time it is purchased new by someone while books and music, well, we know how easy it is to produce copies. Whoever controls those digital copies stands to make a fortune without much overhead.

  14. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Of cnourse the Pirate Party objects to creative workers being ripped off by middlemen publishers. They should be ripped off by consumers, Pirate Party customers viewing, reading, hearing and playing everything that they want free of charge. Not by middlemen!

  15. ObSolutions, Inc

    ǝןqɐןıɐʌɐun ʎןןɐıɔɹǝɯɯoɔ

    It would have been nice if the article pointed out that the law specifically regards "commercially unavailable books of the twentieth-century" as per the linked blog post.

    In other words, the Frenchies want to make available books that publishers for one reason or another have decided to discontinue.

    I, for one, applaud that.

  16. The BigYin


    ..., if it was even required, that Big Media is just out to screw the artist over.

    Artists face various issues, and in order these are:

    1. Obscurity

    2. Big Media gatekeeper exploitation



    10. Copyright infringement

  17. Colin Miller

    Congratulations! I don't know how you did it, but you managed to get two inextricably opposed enemies to unite against you.

  18. CD001

    I assume I'm missing something here...

    Last week France passed a law that permits the state to seize authors' rights on books published before 2001


    What exactly is the difference, in practical terms, between this and say a 12 year copyright expiration? Is it not just that any copyrighted books, published before 2001, are being put into the public domain? Isn't that what always happened once copyright expired (Disney made a fortune on making films of books that had passed into the public domain)?

    The only difference being that this has an opt-out?

    1. Peladon

      Re: ǝןqɐןıɐʌɐun ʎןןɐıɔɹǝɯɯoɔ

      Recognising I'm an Idiot - my interpretation is a little different.

      "the Frenchies want to make available books that publishers for one reason or another have decided to discontinue."

      I would interpret it as:

      "the Frenchies want to make available books that whoever owns the copyright (such agent being potentially a publisher, author or estate of a deceased rights owner) for one reason or another has decided to discontinue."

      Or, to put it another way:

      The French have decided that even if I own the rights to a work, whether I wrote it or not, I can't decide whether I want that work to be commercially available, or the price at which it should be sold.

      It sort of qualifies the whole 'own the rights to a work' thing, no? And in this day and age, 'published books' do not necessarily have 'publishers' (in the sense of large organisations who don't happen to have written the book). They may be self published.

      Of course, my interpretation may be total canine excrement. I am most definitely not a lawyer. Nor, to this date and to the best of my knowledge, am I published in France. So do I care?

      You're damn right I do.

      1. Keeees

        Re: Re: ǝןqɐןıɐʌɐun ʎןןɐıɔɹǝɯɯoɔ

        Sure you can decide whether a work is commercially available and at what price. Sell it and name your price.

        If you choose not to sell it, kinda by definition you're not losing any sales with this plan.

    2. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Proof...

      Book publishers are "big media"?

      You need to meet a few.

  19. Desk Jockey

    International treaties?

    The author might know, but hasn't France signed up to the big international treaties on copyright? If so, I think this law is going to get a kicking from the relevant international body as well as the EU. The Yanks in particular will go nuts and probably advise US companies not to trade in France.

    This is about French politics. I cannot honestly see this proposal actually become law as the French would be shooting themselves in the foot as no one would want to trade with them.

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: International treaties?

      You mean the Berne Convention.

      Yes, I'd find it hard to believe that France wasn't a signatory, because if they weren't we'd have all sorts of "issues" with them. And this new law is completely incompatible with the Berne Convention. Two areas come to mind :

      1) "it is prohibited to require formal registration"

      This new law effectively imposes a requirement for your to register your 'opt-out' of losing control of your rights. Incompatible.

      2) "all works except photographic and cinematographic shall be copyrighted for at least 50 years after the author's death"

      Not any more, under this new law, (some) authors will effectively lose their rights within their lifetime, and the estates of deceased authors will also lose rights before the 50 years is up. Incompatible.

      France would have to withdraw from the Berne Convention - and that would cause a s**tstorm of problems for them. It would mean no other country signed up to the Berne Convention would need to honour copyright on French works. And I'd expect (as another commentator said earlier) a sudden raft of "not to be exported to or published in France" clauses.

  20. Fenris

    Thomas Jefferson and copyright and patents...

    Thomas Jefferson:

    "It has been pretended by some, (and in England especially,) that inventors have a natural and exclusive right to their inventions...

    ...the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself

    but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one...

    Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.

    Society may give an exclusive right to the profits arising from them, as an encouragement to men to pursue ideas which may produce utility,

    but this may or may not be done, according to the will and convenience of the society.."

    This is how america was founded and developed, in the last years there is a huge PROPAGANDA to make people think that

    copyrights and patents are property, which THEY ARE NOT (even in the bill of rights).

    The are a artificial MONOPOLY to encourage the society to develop, thus, every country should decide when is good for them to accept this monopoly.

    1. Sean Timarco Baggaley

      No Shit, Sherlock. (Was: Re: Thomas Jefferson and copyright and patents...)

      That's why the relevant laws refer to "Copyright"—i.e. the Right to Copy—and not "Burglary" or "Theft".

      Only morons refer to copyright infringement as "theft". The correct term is counterfeiting, and is frowned upon for the same reasons we're not allowed to slap £100 notes into a photocopier and use the copies to pay our bills.

  21. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    But available in French

    So then basically irrelevant to the rest of the world!

    It's like making all the worlds MP3s available in my own unique compressed format - for which there is no reader. But I do get very good compression if it's write only!

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Coming soon, 'Not for Sale in France'

    I forsee most Authors will simply give "Deux doigts" to their publishers if they suggest that their work is published in France.

    As an author myself, I will insist on this.

    This is clearly another of those crazy french laws designed for the sole benefit of the French themselves. I wouldn't be surprised if there was some small print in the law that exempted books that were first published in French and in France (as opposed to Quebec).

    As has been said, there is an election coming.

  23. Bill Stewart

    If the state steals your copyright, it's not piracy.

    It's <i>privateering</i>. Yarrr!

  24. The Sheppard

    Is this law a damp squib?

    UK based publishers have allowed for 'electronic rights in their contracts with authors for decades - and I bet French publishers have too. But every publisher in France can protect their authors by making all the back list titles available as POD productions - and therefore 'commercially' available.

    The seizures will certainly by contested through the courts too.

  25. Babou

    More accuracy and more information

    Some of the information in the article is not quite correct (authors do not lose moral rights, they also keep their property rights, but can no longer manage them themselves where digital publishing is concerned), though the law may be seen as worse, as it is very destructive of copyright itself. One aspect of it is that publishers who stopped publishing the book keep a right to up to 50% of the royalties intended for the author when the book is published digitally under this system.

    Authors can get out, but the conditions for getting out are such that it may be very difficult. It is all too complex to explain in a few words. Not to mention the complex set-up to actually implement the law, which is probably more than borderline regarding financing and control structure of the industrial set-up.

    The information was sent in November on various lists, including A2K.

    Three free software associations undertook to defend copyright and even published a press release in English:

    2011-11-14 • The French Senate proposes to legalize piracy of the French 20th century printed heritage

    Since then, what little improvement was brought to the law (such as free access to the database listing concerned books, for example), is essentially due to the action of these three free software associations, sending amendments and documentation to members of parliament. This is one irony.

    The other irony is that both the Chamber and the Senate voted unanimously, many in good faith believing they were protecting copyright against Google, and not realizing they were doing much worse. They have been brainwashed for 3 or 4 years against Google by publishers, not to mention the incompetent management of the French National Library and the ministry of Culture.

    As it was in the case of the Google settlement agreement, this was an initiative of a publisher organization and an author's organization.

    Just keep protesting. It may help up repeal this nonsense with the next presidency. This is why we wrote the first press release, but got no attention.

    There is also a good chance that le law will be repealed by the Conseil Constitutionnel (read Supreme Court) when it is brought to it. It may be also judged not conforming with the European legislation by European bodies. Just keep protesting.

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