On February 22nd, 2012, the French Parliament passed the law on compulsory collective licensing in relation to out-of-commerce works for their reproduction and making available. According to the new legislation, the key elements are as follows:
Rightholders will be able to exploit the work themselves at three stages, and authors will always keep their moral rights:
1. before the scheme comes into force, the publisher and the author will have six months to possibly opt-out by committing to exploit the work within a two-year period;
If not, the rights for the reproduction and making available (including downloading) of out-of-commerce works will be transferred to the collective management organisation (CMO) to be designated by the Ministry of Culture.
2. after the work falls into compulsory collective licensing, the publisher of the paper edition will have two months to use its priority right to get an exclusive licence for ten years for the digital or paper exploitation from the CMO to be undertaken within a three-year period. However, the author can oppose this if he/she can prove that the contract with the publisher was terminated.
In case the publisher does not want to exploit the work, the CMO may grant non-exclusive licences for a five-year period to third operators (i.e. other publishers or distribution platforms) for these books.
3. At any time, the publisher and the author can decide, by contract, to exploit the work again on a paper or electronic format, within an eighteen-month period after notification of its change of status to the CMO. This exploitation can take place in parallel with licences provided to other actors until the expiry of the term and then become exclusive.
If the rightholders of a work have not been identified and located after 10 years after the first licence has been granted to third parties, libraries which have it in their collections will be able to use it for free, except if the collecting society disagrees or if one of the rightholders reappears.
Gallica will provide all the bibliographic references of these books digitised out of the BNF collections, allow searching inside them and redirect users to e-distributors for the acquisition of e-books.
Regarding the determination of the list of books to be included in the project, it is being considered to use ARROW to check the out-of-commerce status of the works.
Regarding the business model, the Cercle de la Librairie (structure governed by publishers and booksellers, and publishing the Electre database and the Livres Hebdo magazine) will play a role along with the Government Investment Committee to manage, finance and exploit the mass digitisation.
The PROPOSITION DE LOI (in French) is available here.
A press release on the matter by the French Authors Association (Société des gens de Lettres/ SDGL) and the French Publishers Association (Syndicat national de l’édition/ SNE) is available here (in English).