How The Google Book Settlement Becomes Law

Feb 06. 2012
© Lois Lammerhuber - Photoagentur Lammerhuber / LA COLLECTION. Austria. Vienna.

BySylvie FodorFrance is about to adopt a new law for scanning and selling out of commerce and orphan 20th century books. It is a bold law which mirrors the decried Google Book Settlement. Once again photographic rights are being ignored!

The bill is carried by a large consensus, both in the Senate and in the National Assembly. Authors and rights holders will have to hand over control of their rights to the benefit, not of Google, a private US company, but of collective management societies agreed by the government and with extended licensing powers.

The main provisions of the law are the following:

  • The law concerns 500.000 to 700.000 books published in print form before Jan. 1, 2001
  • The law lifts legal insecurity for libraries who may digitize their stock of "out of commerce" books ("livres indisponibles"). Along the lines of the recently signed EU Memorandum of Understanding, libraries will need to seek a license by a collecting society.
  • The scanning of the books will be financed with 40 million Euros from the so-called Big Loan that was launched in 2010. Le Cercle de la Librairie will scan and sell the books.
  • The titles will be registered in a database specially created to this effect and run by the BnF (Bibliothèque Nationale de France)
  • Authors who do not wish to have their book digtized will need to opt-out. However, the timeframe for publishers and authors is very short: only six months from the time of publication in the database!
  • No diligent search is required for orphan works - estimated at 20% of the 700.000 titles. This means that the bill is less protective of authors' rights than the GBS or the proposed EU Directive on Orphan Works!
  • There is no agreement yet as to whether libraries will be authorized to offer the books for free after 10 years when the author has not returned
  • The law says strictly nothing about photographic rights.

It appears, however, from the analysis of debates that the intention of the lawmaker is to handle the rights of the embedded images as a "package" together with the books via the agreed collecting society.


The main problem with this bold text is precisely its boldeness. Not only is the French bill less protective of authors' rights than the Google Book Settlement, but it is less protective than the proposed EU Directive on Orphan Works. This raises the question of its comptability with the European Directive. Moreover, from the perspective of the Image Industry, the discrimination of visual authors is shocking. Without any consultation of the representatives of this industry, rights over images are being handed over with no further ado to collective management. Undistributed funds are bond to be high and will not be used to remunerate authors - and in any case not picture agencies, even if they hold the rights, since in France they are for the most part excluded from any collective management payment scheme.

Vote on the text is scheduled for February 23rd.