No breakthrough over author e-book rights in France ahead of fair

No breakthrough over author e-book rights in France ahead of fair

French authors have urged culture minister Frédéric Mitterrand to intecede in order to break the deadlock in their negotiations with publishers over electronic rights. For the second year running, the Permanent Council of Writers (Conseil Permanent des Ecrivains, CPE) and the French Publishers  Association (Syndicat National de l’Edition, SNE) have tried and failed to conclude an agreement in time for the Paris Book Fair.

Since a partial compromise has been found for only two of the six major points on the table, there will be no joint announcement as planned at this year’s fair, which opens on Friday for four days.

The two sides remain in "total disagreement" over separate contracts for e-books, limiting the duration of the contracts, and payment terms and conditions. The Bookseller was unable to reach the SNE for comment.

The partial compromise, reached after six months of talks, concerns authors’ signing off on files before distribution and continued follow-through in offering e-books. On the second point, two years after signing their contracts, authors would be able to insist that publishers make the book available again within three months. If not, they could recover their eletronic rights for the last approved version.

Mitterrand had indicated he might be prepared to intervene, but was waiting to see if the negotiations succeeded on their own, said Jean-Claude Bologne, president of the French writers union (the Société des Gens de Lettres, SGDL), one of the 17 creative organisations in the CPE. An alternative to Mitterrand’s entering the fray would be to revise part of the intellectual property code, the CPE has suggested.

Separately, a parliamentary bill to allow publishers to fix e-book  prices will be presented to the French Senate for a second reading on 29th March. The National Assembly amended the Senate’s initial text, including scrapping a clause on payments. E-books are a recurring  theme for the debates scheduled at the Paris Book Fair, which begins on Friday.