French publishers and authors compromise on e-rights

French publishers and authors compromise on e-rights

An e-rights agreement between French publishers and authors has finally been hammered out, a year after negotiations collapsed.

The government and the French publishers association (Syndicat National de l’Edition, SNE) announced on the eve of the Paris Book Fair, which opens today [16th March] for four days, that a basic agreement has been reached with authors on e-rights and should be completed in April. 

Few details were given, but authors’ representatives told The Bookseller that they believe the compromise accord was even-handed. Some 20 meetings "lifted the ambiguities", said Paul Otchakovsky-Laurens, founder of Editions P.O.L and the main negotiator for the SNE.

The compromise includes criteria for a "permanent and followed" availability of titles and for authors to be able to revoke e-rights clauses if the criteria are not respected. Specific periods have been set for authors to recover their rights without notice if their manuscripts have not been published electronically, said Jean Claude Bologne, president of the French writers union (Société des Gens de Lettres, SGDL) and the main authors’ negotiator. "This was capital for us", he said.

Another major step is that the code of practice for e-books would be binding on all authors and publishers, not just on members of the signatories’ organisations, as is now the case with the code on physical books. "This way we will be armed against publishers who do not respect the rules", he said.

Authors will also be able to request a revision of pay and conditions four years after signing their contract. If no agreement is found within two years, the case will go before a conciliation committee and, if still not resolved, then before a judge. By contrast, authors failed to obtain separate contracts for e-books and a limited duration for them, Bologne added. 

"Three years ago we were on parallel roads," noted Marie Sellier, co-president of the the authors’ umbrella organisation, the permanent writers council (Conseil Permanent des Ecrivans, CPE).
To break the deadlock last year, the council for literary and artistic property (CPLA), an advisory body to the Culture Ministry, took charge of the talks between the French publishers association (Syndicat National de l’Edition, SNE) and the CPE.
The agreement will be implemented on a voluntary basis until after France’s spring presidential and legislative elections are over, and parliament adopts an amendement to the intellectual property code to make it compulsory.