5.1.7 Copyright provisions
The principle of the protection of authors' rights is laid down in the Intellectual Property Code. The creator is central to the provisions contained in the code: "The author of an intellectual work, by virtue of having created that work, shall enjoy exclusive rights to incorporeal ownership [of the work]. These rights include moral, intellectual and patrimonial attributes." Ownership is deemed to cover the actual creation of the work and not the material object containing the creation: authors' rights are independent of the rights to corporeal possession covering the material object. The French system of authors' rights is thus different to that of the copyright system practiced in English-speaking countries.
The creator enjoys ongoing and permanent moral rights, whereas exploitation rights are accorded to an author for a limited period of time. After a maximum period of 70 years following the death of the author, the work enters the public domain and, subject to respect for the moral rights of the author, can be exploited at will and free of charge. The Intellectual Property Code also accords legal protection known as "neighbouring rights" to certain collaborators in the exploitation of the creation. These include performing artists, sound and video recording producers and television companies.
Authors' rights and neighbouring rights are administered by some thirty collective management societies, which collect and distribute rights. Following a series of complaints by members of certain of these organisations, a Control Commission was set up in 2001 to audit the accounts of societies that collect and distribute the rights of authors, performing artists and producers.
Over the last several years, author's rights have been central to numerous disputes: legal and commercial wrangles on authors' rights versus copyright in GATT and WTO negotiations; the debate on lending rights in public libraries; the MP3 and Napster affairs. The Ministry of Culture's policies on authors' rights and neighbouring rights were framed to respond, on both domestic and international levels, to two basic challenges: the globalisation of trade and the development of new networking technologies. The policies of the different culture ministers since 1997 have been based on the same set of principles: creative works are not tradable commodities and creative effort is not simply the economic act of producing a marketable item.
Within the context of the adaptation of the legal environment to the development of digital content, the Council for Literary and Artistic Property (Conseil supérieur de la propriété littéraire et artistique) was created in May 2001 as a consultative and evaluation body focussed on the problems associated with literary and artistic property linked to the information society, the internet and multimedia in particular. The Council's work programme includes:
Presentations on some of the above themes can be found at the following address: http://www.droitsdauteur.culture.gouv.fr/.
The Council for Literary and Artistic Property has also included the following subjects in its work programme: literary and artistic property and individual freedom; literary and artistic property and applicable legislation.