Agents and authors beware: Foreign rights sold to France

Some of you may be aware of this, but I figure that most of you don't. Since March 1st, 2012, a new law has been passed in France which takes away an author's intellectual rights regarding some of his literary works.

Indeed, if you have at some point sold foreign rights of your novels to a French publisher prior to January 1st, 2001, and if some of those books are out of print and have not been reprinted since, it turns out that such works are now fair game to anyone who wishes to create digital editions of those novels.

The way the new law is conceived, this means that the author will not receive any advance or royalties from the sales of such ebooks...

France, the cradle of democracy. And now, they have just made online piracy (à la Google) legal.

Unbelievable! =(

For more information, read this article (in French only).

16 commentaires:

Kventino said...

Well, uh, I din't say it's not true, but AgoraVox is a conspirationist website in which anyone can write what he wants ... I think it would be more believable if there were any other link ... It rather looks like a late april fool ...

Funksoul123 said...

So basically after 11 years if you haven't got your shit together you might lose the copywrite on your book?
I'm curious to how many years fair copywrite agreements should be 1000? 1 Million, 25?
I wish I had a job where the work I did today could continue to pay me 11 years from now.

Patrick said...

Kventino: It created a lot of waves in France, so it's not an April's fool thing. The law was passed on the sly, at night, which has pissed off a lot of people in the industry.

Funksoul123: If you labor for years to create something, then it should belong to you for as long as humanly possible. Why should anyone else be allowed to profit from a novel you have written, with you getting not a dime out of the deal?

Matt said...

Pat, are you aware some of us might agree with this? Copyright applying to virtual representations of physical media is a questionable area for a lot of people already, and after ten years saying that an electronic version of a book is free is not so ridiculous. I think it's great actually.

But then, I'm anti SOPA and just about any law that restricts internet and digital freedom.

And how long should books belong to their author? Should we have estates where children inherite intellectual properties? Copyright is way too far reaching in today's society.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great idea to me- better than perpetually extending copyright every time it looks like Steamboat Willy will enter the public domain.

Marko said...

Well, speaking as someone who is working in the industry and considering how little an average writer earns, especially considering how much work they put into creating their works most of them live off royalties and foreign sales and not the advances.

Don't think of all the Martins and Rothfusses who are pretty few and far between, laws like this will not affect them. It will affect mid list authors who would appreciate every penny they earn and to have their works published without paying them a dime is, well pretty douche thing to do.

As far as the how long the copyright should last, I think that until the death of the author is pretty reasonable.

Anonymous said...

"France, the cradle of democracy"?

1. I wonder what democracy and copyright have in common?
2. Greece is the cradle of democracy.
3. England and the USA had democratic institutions and ideas before France:
Glorious Revolution 1689 (England) The "Declaration of Independence" 1776, French Revolution 1789
Why should France be the "cradle of democracy"?

TheMoose65 said...

I understand that literary estates should only extend so far, but copyright and book royalties are far different from any other job. The author does not get paid hourly for writing a novel. He makes his money on royalties and whatnot. He works to write it, and then whenever someone wants to read it, they buy it, and he makes money. Sure, he makes a lump sum when he sells it to a publisher, and they in turn actually make most of the money from the books being sold.

But what about an author who writes to support his wife and children. When he dies shouldn't they at least be entitled to his literary estate? JRR Tolkien created Middle-Earth, why can't he pass that legacy down to his family to benefit from? The man who, instead of writing a novel started a business is entitled to pass on his legacy for his family to benefit from. That business doesn't become fair game upon his death.

I'm anti-SOPA and most regulation laws as well. But what's going on in France is pretty crappy. Now companies can jump on these books, and THEY can profit by making them available, and the man or woman who actually wrote it gets nothing, when it is actually they who did all the work.

Romain said...

as a French I agree with you that France is not the cradle of democracy and that definitely Greece is. Still it is with the age of enlightenment, that the ideas of democracy, freedom and human rights were "re"developed. And this age has always been linked to France and its philosophers which were at the forefront and participated to the writing of the encyclopedie. This influenced a lot of latter "revolutions" and democratic events like the ones you mentioned. Then again Locke and Newton and Rousseau were definitely not French ! To conclude we can say that France is the cradle of a really stupid law (not the first one, not the last one).

Anonymous said...

Apples and Pears. Being from America and an English speaking country comes with a lot of perks as far as books are concerned. The market is HUGE, so reprints are not that uncommon. France is smaller, still a decent market, but only around 60 million people. When you look at smaller countries with maybe 10 million inhabitants the picture changes even more and the copyrights on books becomes a real problem (especially pre Ebook). With 10 million potential customers, reprints are RARE and companies focus on new releases. This means that there might only be one print of a book in a certain language; unless it sells really well, and even then reprints usually only occur a few years after the initial release.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t disagree with authors getting paid for their work and I don’t think that everything should be free on the internet. But let’s face it, the author is not going to see a dime from sales if there are no reprints, the only difference being that with this law people can get to enjoy the books. I understand the position that a lot of people take on the issue (piracy etc.) but it seems to me that one important point is being overlooked and that is that this is a big problem in many smaller countries around the world, you just can’t find a book that have a few years on its neck. With a lot of luck you might be able to find it in secondhand bookstores, but often even that option is not available. Most often the books printed in the last few years are printed in such a crappy quality that they only hold together for a read or two. I’ve for instance been searching for “Herman Hesse - The Glass Bead Game” for a few years now in my own tongue with no luck.

I do agree that authors should get paid if the company reprinting the books gets paid, no question about it.

/just a different perspective

Gerd said...

As far as I understand it, the work is only free to publish if it went out of print and isn't available anymore. That means the author isn't making money from it anyway.

But to the readers (and to society in general) the work would be lost otherwise. They would have to take great efforts trying to get it from a library or used book seller if they can get it at all.

But now someone like Google, Project Gutenberg and whoever can scan the book and make it available again.

Society wins and the author does not lose anything.

Russ said...

Well said, Gerd, but....

I have never been able to quite grasp the argument of those that draw some vague line between intellectual property and real property.

Please explain how a year of my labor writing a book is any different to me or my heirs if I spent that year building a house on my land?

Where do you draw the line? Do we move from books and music to food I grow in my garden? To furniture I make with wood I cut off my land?

I suspect many of the digital property kids would say there is no end. Gimme, gimme, gimme. Mine, mine, mine. "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need," indeed.

Spoiled; entitled and many have no clue what it is to work year after year to build anything.....except Xbox achievements.

Anonymous said...

"As far as I understand it, the work is only free to publish if it went out of print and isn't available anymore. That means the author isn't making money from it anyway."

Why should a company reissue a new printing? When they can wait and get to publish it without paying any royalties.

Of course this affects authors who are not best sellers the most. The type of author who really needs those royalties.

"But then, I'm anti SOPA and just about any law that restricts internet and digital freedom."

So your a cheap fuck who can't pull nine bucks out of your pocket to support an author?

Anonymous said...

As usual on AgoraVox, the article contain as many true informations as false ones.

It is true that this law was passed in less than optimal and democratic conditions.

It is also true that this law create a right to create a numeric copy of unavailables books.

If it can lead to ripping off authors, some safeguards are organized by the law.

First of all, authors can object to the inscription of their book on the "unavailable" books database.

Furthermore the authors can be paid for the numerisation of their work (article 134-3 III 5° and 6°).

Finally authors can object to the numerisation. If their work is already on the database and a company want to numerise and sell it, they can say no.

It's true that the length of time for this opposition is rather short (six month) if you're not aware of your book being "seized", but at least their is one.

So Pat, I don't think things to be as black and white as described in your post, since safeguards are provided by the law, and the works concerned by this law are books you can't find anymore, on which the author isn't perceiving any rights, and therefore may lead to the rediscovery of his work, and in the best cases to a reedition of his book(s) (because let's face it, paper books are so much better than digital ones...)

Tarun R Elankath said...

The time period here (11 years) is a bit short and could be increased to 25. But that should be the absolute upper limit.

Perpetual Copyright and Perpetual Patents are horrible things for civilization. You can pass on the money you have earned in 25 years to your children. Beyond that anyone should have the right to reprint and re-distribute.

Otherwise what history has shown again and again is that some publisher will buy the rights away and then use that as part of their 'copyright and IP portfolio' to control the market.

Anonymous said...

Hi Pat !

You should be more cautious with AgoraVox article. I encourage you to read this article which explains that the article you quote is full of errors and lies !

Here is an excetpt of this article in french :

Manipulation !

Un article publié sur AgoraVox, intitulé “Suppression des droits d’auteur“ soulève de nombreux commentaires indignés.

Il faut reconnaître que l’article a de quoi indigner. Jugez-en plutôt, rien que d’après son introduction : Depuis le 1er mars 2012, après un vote obtenu à la nuit tombée par une poignée de députés de la majorité présidentielle, les droits d’auteur sur les oeuvres publiées avant le 1er janvier 2001 et non rééditées sont supprimés dans le cas d’une diffusion numérique...

Une poignée de députés de la majorité, un vote de nuit… sauf que…

L’article est bourré d’erreurs, ou devrais-je dire de mensonges ?

Reprenons les faits.

La loi n° 2012-287 du 1er mars 2012 relative à l’exploitation numérique des livres indisponibles du XXe siècle a été publiée au Journal Officiel du 2 mars.
Elle n’a donc pas été votée en catimini dans la nuit du 1er mars.

La proposition de loi du sénateur Legendre a été déposée le 21 octobre 2011, la commission a rendu son rapport le 30 novembre et le texte a été adopté en première lecture au Sénat (à majorité de gauche) le 9 décembre.
La commission des affaires culturelles de l’Assemblée a rendu son rapport le 18 janvier et le texte a été modifié en première lecture par l’Assemblée nationale le 19 janvier.
La commission mixte paritaire a rendu son rapport le 2 février.
Le texte définitif a été présenté en seconde lecture au Sénat le 13 février, la rapporteur était Mme Bariza Khiari (PS) !

Extrait des débats :
Mme Dominique Gillot (sénatrice PS du Val d'Oise) : Il ne s’agit en aucune façon de créer une nouvelle exception au droit d’auteur, comme certains ont pu le craindre, ou de porter atteinte au modèle économique du dispositif d’ensemble, dit “de longue traîne“, qui trouvera son équilibre sur le très long terme. C’est d’ailleurs ce qui justifie son éligibilité au programme d’investissements d’avenir. Il s’agit simplement de permettre, au bout de dix ans, une gratuité de licence non exclusive pour les bibliothèques publiques, qui auront le droit de mettre à disposition de leurs usagers abonnés, sous forme numérique, les ouvrages devenus indisponibles dont les ayants droit ne se seraient pas manifestés et dont elles détiennent un exemplaire dans leur fonds. On voit bien que si cette mesure représente une avancée pour la lecture publique, qui est une compétence des collectivités locales, elle ne touchera qu’une partie somme toute minime des œuvres inscrites au catalogue numérisé.
Mme Marie-Christine Blandin, présidente de la commission de la culture, de l’éducation et de la communication (élue Europe Ecologie - les Verts) : La commission de la culture se félicite de l’aboutissement de cette initiative du Parlement qui prend acte de l’évolution des pratiques culturelles, désormais indissociables de l’usage des outils numériques.

Le texte est adopté à l’unanimité (et non par un poignée de sénateurs de la majorité).


Je n'ai volontairement retenu que des interventions d'élus de gauche, pour montrer que ce texte faisait l'unanimité.

Cet article n’est donc, ni plus, ni moins, qu’une sordide manipulation d’un public peu curieux d’aller au fond des choses.