Without much noise, France recently adopted Act Nr. 2012-287 of 1st March 2012 relating to the digital exploitation of unavailable books of the 20th century. Contrary to past initiatives from the French lawmaker, the Act does not relate to orphan works, but rather to out-of-commerce works. Or, more precisely: books.
According to the explanatory memorandum to the Proposal, France is the first country in the world to put in place a modern and efficient mechanism to regulate the use of unavailable works, which forms today’s biggest obstacle to the digitization of cultural heritage. The French solution is presented as offering a response to the rejected Google settlement in the United States.
A new proposal of law on the digital exploitation of (commercially) unavailable books of the 20th Century (proposition de loi relative à l’exploitation numérique des livres indisponibles du XX° siècle) has been introduced quasi-simultaneously in the Senate and in the National Assembly.
According to the preamble of the proposal, about 500 000 books published during the 20th Century are out of print (for commercial and economic reasons) and only available in libraries. To ensure their dissemination, their digitisation becomes necessary. However, a major uncertainty subsists concerning their copyright status and ownership. Most of the publishing contracts, which are granting rights of exp [...]