Mr President, Madam President of the Committee on Cultural Affairs and Education, dear Michèle Tabarot, rapporteur, dear Hervé Gaymard, ladies and gentlemen,
The bill before us today is, I believe, a step
major for the development of a legal offer of digital books,
an attractive, diversified offer, an offer that is also remunerative for
As you know, since my arrival at the Ministry of Culture and
Communication, digitization of heritage, including heritage
written, but also the accompaniment of the book industry in this new
Environment is one of my main priorities.
I would therefore like to welcome the sustained attention of the National Representation,
in this assembly, to address such issues. It has
translated not only by a work of instructions and hearings conducted
by the committees concerned, but also through different
initiatives, including the one that brings us together today.
This proposal for a law on the single price of e-books has been
on the desks of both chambers. It is fully
in line with the requirements of several important reports:
the Patino report submitted to Christine Albanel in June 2008; the report
Creation and Internet of Messrs Zelnik, Toubon and Cerruti, which was
delivered in December 2009; finally, Christine Albanel’s report on the book
delivered to the Prime Minister in April 2010. It
expressed by the President of the Republic. On January 7, 2010, he
expressed his wish that such a law could be passed quickly for the
“homothetic” e-book - the digital version of the
paper book, possibly with accessories
specific to digital publishing.
This bill is the result of a long process of
reflection. It was prepared by interprofessional discussions
that were held under the aegis of my department. Following
the adoption of the text unanimously in the Senate last October,
exchanges have also started with the European Commission - there
will return in a moment -, regarding the scope of this measure to
Community competition and market policy
The goal shared by all participants in the discussion
was to arrive at a balanced text, a text that
preserves the action of all actors in the book chain - authors,
publishers, booksellers, librarians - without stifling the will to innovate
entrepreneurs and the demand of Internet users.
I know that there are many opinions on the text we are discussing today, and
questions, or even some concerns. This is legitimate; it is
the translation of a healthy and quality debate in the face of a major
next years for our book policy. I wish to face this
debate and I want, ladies and gentlemen, to clarify the position
which will be the Government’s role in these debates.
We know how much the balance of regulation introduced by the Lang Act
1981 single price book, this “sustainable development act”
of the book industry, is positive. The report submitted in 2009 by the
rapporteur Hervé Gaymard, illustrated it with remarkable precision.
I am convinced that most of the objectives of the 1981 Lang Act
remain relevant to the e-book. I am convinced that
also that rapid regulation of the price of e-books is
necessary, both to preserve cultural diversity and to ensure the
market development in the best security conditions for
Indeed, both for the «homothetic» e-book and for the book
The physical effects of price competition are proven.
This is evidenced by the exacerbated price war between the major
digital book sales networks in the United States in 2009-2010. This
led some operators to practice considerable discounts
or sales at a loss on best sales, to the detriment of
the whole chain of books.
In this context, it is first of all a question of preserving the diversity of creation
editorial, thanks to price control by the publisher to avoid
the collapse of the best selling price and thus finance the
It is also a matter of preserving a diversity of retailers and
sale, in the digital universe as in the physical universe, avoiding
the risk of market concentration in the hands of a few
actors. This situation is a source of impoverishment of the supply
editorial. It would call into question the essential role of cultural mediators
played by booksellers, for whom the book is not only a product
on the contrary, thanks to the single price, competition between bookshops
is exercised not by the price but by the quality of service, service on which it
We’ll have to think about it and go with the booksellers.
In my mind, the promotion of editorial diversity must be based on
the complementarity between physical and digital networks. On
finds that discoveries are most often the result of
independent booksellers, large networks only amplifying the
movement once it is launched. This has been the case, for example, in
France, with the international success of the trilogy Millennium, discovery and
first launched in a network of independent bookshops.
Like the head of the Harvard library, the great historian
American Robert Darnton, I believe in the virtue of a mixed model, printed and
digital, where each version of the same work, with its advantages
its own way of transmitting to audiences sometimes
the same history, the same trajectory of meaning and symbol.
The regulation proposed by this text will also help to preserve
a stable base for the remuneration of rights holders, in particular
authors, who must fully benefit from this “new frontier”
of the publishing world.
Finally, the proposed law will help create the conditions for
development of abundant legal supply, ending uncertainty
which penalizes the French digital book market. The
power of the legal offer is all the more important as the
illegal downloading is growing, as seen in
of concern in the US market.
Make no mistake about it. The purpose of the act is not to keep it as it is
book chain or freeze established positions or interests. It is likely
that the arrival of digital will be accompanied by transfers of
the advantage of new players. However, it is important to ensure that
this transformation does not result in an overall decline in value
produced as was the case for music. It should be avoided that
strong retailers do not impose unfavourable conditions on
the whole chain of books.
In this perspective, this law accompanying the transition
a simple and flexible approach. It is a law that
regulated, but it is a law that is attentive to the reality of the market, while
respecting new models that may appear.
In the first place, the law applies only to the homothetic book, that is to say
to the book that can be printed without being distorted, without substantial loss
in spite of possible incidental enrichments peculiar to
the digital publishing.
Of course, the development of e-books will go beyond the book
but the object of the text today is not to regulate what
does not yet exist. Moreover, it is likely that the book market
will essentially be a homothetic book market in
the next four or five years. This is the horizon of the law: it does not claim
regulating the market for the very long term and assumes a form of
reasonable modesty, in the presence of an economy under construction.
The text applies essentially to the book trade unit which
market in the medium term. But the
bouquets are in no way forbidden and can develop as soon as
now, when there is agreement between publishers and operators on the
The law applies only to actors established in France. Undoubtedly this
does it concern the French players in the sale of books.
They fear that the large Internet operators, established outside our
for mainly tax reasons, benefit from
more advantageous commercial terms.
I would like to respond to these actors, as their concerns are
In my view, it is perfectly normal and desirable that the
publishers are able to control the value of the book, regardless of the
location of the broadcaster, thus preserving fair competition
between them. I therefore fully support the objective that the
distributors established in France can play on equal terms with those
outside our borders. Yet we need to take an approach
more relevant, the most skillful, it seems to me, to achieve this objective which
is shared, I still had the confirmation today, by a
large part of the industry.
As you know, this subject is being followed with great attention by the
Commission, which delivered two very reserved opinions on the
French law proposal and for which the extraterritorial application of the law
would be a leading element.
After having transmitted to the European Commission the various
text, I have discussed this subject at length with the Commissioners
most concerned by visiting them recently in Brussels. I believe the
have convinced of the interest of legislating the price of books in France
digital, and it wasn’t easy to achieve that. But I know
also that by going beyond our territory, we would expose ourselves very
of the Commission before the judge of
the Union in breach of our Community obligations, in particular the
respect for freedom to provide services in the Union area
In those circumstances, and in the present state of Community law, to apply
this text beyond our borders would go head-on against
the objective sought. This would not be a legal framework
the sector, but would create a context of insecurity
legal. Moreover, the Lang law itself was not validated by the judge
in so far as it did not apply to import operations
and export of French books to our territory.
Our objective must therefore be pursued in other ways:
for operators not established on national territory. These
modalities now exist, they have demonstrated their relevance and
Indeed, the application in France of the single price of the e-book,
does not exclude relationships between our publishers and broadcasters
on the model of the mandate contract, as is done
across the Atlantic and across the Channel with major sales operators
This contractual tool, which ensures price control by the publisher, is in
route of generalization on the American and English book markets
digital, where publishers have imposed it on large online distributors,
which ended the “discount” pricing policy for books
The mandate contract certainly has the effect of reducing the autonomy of the
retailer. This is precisely what leads to privilege for our territory
the legislative route being debated today, the only way to guarantee the role of
cultural mediation of booksellers. But this model has proven
In particular, the United States, where it gives satisfaction to
Internet operators. For France, it has been validated
in principle by the Autorité de la concurrence, in its opinion of
December 2009. The European Commission, in its two opinions,
of the proposed law, does not in any way challenge its
So there is every reason to believe that the mandate contract will
equalizing the selling prices of French books regardless of the broadcaster.
There are also all the reasons to consider that the relationship between
part, the French publishers, who I have no doubt will present a front
united, because that is their interest, and on the other hand, the great
operators established outside France, will operate on a balanced basis. The
I have received assurances from publishers.
Finally, I would like to stress the importance of the appointment clause
provided for in section 7 of the proposed law. On a subject of such a
the importance of, and in the case of, a text whose elaboration
efforts of all national actors in cultural policy, the
the most regular and thorough dialogue between Parliament and the
Government is definitely the best thing.
Ladies and gentlemen, you have shown that
your attention to the digital book policy, but also to
several times, a very strong reactivity as for example in the matter
VAT applicable to the e-book. I know that you will demonstrate the
same attention and responsiveness, in the monitoring of the application of the
law, in particular as regards the conditions of competition between
In view of the questions which have arisen concerning the scope of application
I also mean the very strong attention that will be given to the
Government on this point. I will make our political voice heard,
I will do so with the European Commission but also with the
European parliamentarians. The European framework needs to be developed
on this point, but it must be done, I believe, by a real
The Court of Justice is the Court of Justice.
Know that the Government will also be attentive to what the
Remuneration of players in the digital book chain
I will ensure that the introduction of a single price serves this
In this perspective, the Government will support the
amendments which, without substituting for the field of
negotiations between professionals, are in the direction of compensation
“fair and equitable creation and authors”.
This bill finds its place – an eminent place – in the
Comprehensive e-book strategy that I implement and that I
would like to briefly remind you of the main points.
The lowering of VAT on e-books is one of the
priorities. As you know, the eBook, analyzed
as a service provided electronically, cannot currently
benefit from the reduced rate enjoyed by the book when it is marketed
on a physical medium.
It is clear, however, that the VAT rate for a work should be identical,
regardless of the medium used or the route chosen for the transaction, as
when the work is essentially identical. This extension of the rate
digital book, including provided electronically, is of
a necessary condition for the indispensable development of a
legal supply of works under the law. Indeed, market development
of e-books notably through a lower public price offer
physical books. However, it is difficult for publishers and
distributors to offer for e-books prices below
those of physical books whereas the VAT rate of the former is
more than 14% higher than the latter.
I therefore welcome the courageous step taken by Parliament,
in the wake of an amendment by rapporteur Hervé Gaymard,
during the discussion of the 2011 finance law, which will allow a
application of the reduced VAT on 1 January 2012.
The Government also gave Jacques Toubon a mission
“ambassador” to the Commission and the Member States for
plead this case. I had, for my part, a few days ago a
very encouraging exchange with three European Commissioners -
Ms. Vassiliou and Ms. Kroes and Mr. Michel Barnier
they a high quality of listening on this subject and even a clear support.
Another essential project I intend to carry out concerns the adaptation of
the traditional digital bookstore.
The traditional bookstore has fallen behind in the commercial market
physical book electronics. In contrast, the book market
electronic, still in its infancy, can allow it to take positions
The website 1001libraires.com which intends to federate, on the Internet, the offer of the most
large number of booksellers, should be strongly encouraged. The Centre
National Book accompanies this project with a loan of 500,000 euros,
alongside the Association pour le développement de la librairie de création
(ADELC) and the Cercle de la librairie.
I will also work to support the review of this very advanced project
as part of future investments in the national debt.
The continuation of an ambitious policy of digitization of books constitutes
of course, you will have understood, a major axis of the action of my
The development of the legal offer is supported mainly by
on the market for new products published as e-books.
However, I am convinced that the digitization of older corpus
and literary heritage will also contribute to this
remarkable. As you know, France is the only country in Europe to have
set up an ambitious financing system for the digitisation of
books, through the assigned taxes collected by the CNL.
Operational since 2007, this device has made it possible to digitize the funds
copyright-free assets of the National Library of France
(BNF) for a total of 300,000 documents to date and over 22 million
expenses. It also made it possible to digitize paper catalogues
“Live” publishers, representing a total of 600,000 titles.
This mixed scheme combining heritage aid and aid to the sector
merchant is a genuine originality envied by the actors
The system remains fully up to date and the CNL wishes to
strengthen its aid to publishers' catalogues, by directing them to
preference for small houses.
Finally, I am committed to promoting an innovative and controlled adaptation of
copyright in the digital world.
Between heritage books in the public domain and current production of
in digital format, the 20th century represents a territory
largely unexplored by digital. A large part of the titles published
in the 20th century, still protected by copyright, are today
unavailable in bookshops and places where the book is distributed, account
particularly given the difficulty of updating contracts in such a way
simple and convenient for publishers.
At the end of a year of preparation, I had the joy of being able to sign,
a few days, with René Ricol, Commissioner General for Investment,
Antoine Gallimard, President of the Syndicat national de l'édition, Jean-Claude
Bologna, President of the Society of Writers and Bruno Racine,
President of the National Library of France (BNF), a framework agreement
of scope that seems to me historical on the digitization of these books
unavailable. This agreement will give new life, under
digital form, to a corpus of 500,000 books, which can be
sales over the next five years. This project has a
considerable: in terms of Google’s strategy, this initiative is a
answer, a French way in the field of digitization of works
written. It marks an essential step as it translates the
rights holders' ability to be heard and paves the way for a
settlement on this ground.
These books will in fact be exploited as part of a collective management
ensuring that publishers and authors, represented on a par, have
equitable remuneration with strict respect for moral rights and
heritage. Because it now requires the development of the
of intellectual property, this agreement today demonstrates our
ability to promote the digitization of works through solutions
innovative legal systems while respecting copyright.
Is the cultural object more precious than the book, the most sacred, the most
unassailable and most personal of all properties», for
use the words of Beaumarchais? Preservation and
dissemination of these works of the mind in the digital age is our responsibility
responsibility. This is a considerable responsibility, at a time when the
electronic means of communication multiply the possibilities of
the tool Gutenberg set up more than five centuries ago.
Taking into account all the elements that were recalled and the
the main axes of my policy in favour of digital books,
I am, as you can appreciate, very much in favour of the bill, which
we are debating today.
I am convinced that this law is an effective companion to the
digital. It creates the conditions for an evolution
the entire sector, particularly to the benefit of
consumers, whom I personally prefer to call readers, those to whom
the writer allows to «understand the world as a question» for
Milan Kundera. For the invention of economic models of
tomorrow, the legislator must not only be present, but
also to be as far-sighted as possible. In the field of
digitization of the written word, ladies and gentlemen, anticipating,
it’s probably giving ourselves the means to choose between what we
and what we must and cannot suffer.