France is part of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works of 9 September 1886, which is currently followed by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).
At national level, the Intellectual Property Code regulates copyright provisions. French law distinguishes between:
- patrimonial rights, which are the economic rights that proceed from the exploitation of works (art. L.122-1 and following of the Intellectual Property Code); and
- moral rights that protect the link between the author and his / her work (art. L.121-1 and following this, the Intellectual Property Code).
French law makes the creator the central element: “The author of a work of the mind shall enjoy in that work, by the mere fact of its creation, an exclusive incorporeal property right which shall be enforceable against all persons. This right shall include attributes of an intellectual and moral nature as well as attributes of an economic nature”. This property does not concern the tangible artefact in which the creative process is embedded, but the creation itself. This system is different from the Anglo-Saxon system of copyright.
70 years after the death of the author, the work becomes public. It can be freely used in respect of the moral rights of the authors. The Intellectual Property Code also recognises the “neighbouring rights” of performing artists, music and video producers and broadcasting companies.
The authors’ rights and neighbouring rights policy of the Ministry of Culture responds to two challenges: the globalisation of exchanges and the development of networking digital technologies. Since 1997 it is based on two constant principles: works of the mind are not commodity goods and creation is not a mere economic process of production.
Authors’ rights and neighbouring rights can be managed by dedicated societies (see chapter 7.2.4). Following some controversies and complaints about the functioning of some of these societies, a commission was set up in 2001 to supervise their activity (accounting, auditing). In 2016, the law on freedom of creation, architecture and heritage installs a Music Mediator (Médiateur de la musique) who is in charge of regulating the disputes between artists-performers and producers.
In 1985, a law sets up a commission of private copying levies (commission pour la rémunération de la copie privée). 75% of the collected sums are allocated to the beneficiaries, and 25% to cultural actions. In 2008, 43 million EUR were allocated for aids to creation, circulation of the performing arts, training actions for artists and cultural events such as the Avignon Festival, the Francofolies of La Rochelle or the Quinzaine des réalisateurs of Cannes (Cannes Directors’ Fortnight).
For years, the question of authors’ rights has been involved in different conflicts and controversies: opposition between authors’ rights and copyright conceptions in the framework of the WTO or the EU, a debate about library loans, creation of the HADOPI (High Authority for Transmission of Creative Works and Copyright Protection on the Internet), launching of the mission Culture Acte2, legal conflicts between Google and the press and publishing unions, etc. (see chapter 3.5.1).
In order to adapt authors’ rights to the evolution of digital technologies, a Conseil supérieur de la propriété littéraire et artistique (High Council for artistic and literary property) was installed in the Ministry of Culture. In order to regulate free access to creative works and to protect copyright on the internet, the French government created a dedicated public body in 2009: the Haute Autorité pour la Diffusion des Œuvres et la Protection des droits sur Internet (HADOPI: High Authority for Transmission of Creative Works and Copyright Protection on the Internet). This creation results from a long legislative process that started with the law of 1 August 2006 on authors’ rights and neighbouring rights in the information society, which itself proceeds from the European directive 2001/29/CE of the European Parliament and of the Council on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society. HADOPI was created by law n°2009-669 of 12 June 2009 promoting the distribution and protection of creative works on the internet, commonly known as the Creation and Internet law. The Constitutional Council demanded a revision of the constitutional validity standards of this law, especially regarding the disciplinary power of HADOPI, and a second law was necessary to comply with this demand and then finalise the HADOPI system: the law of 28 October 2009 on the penal protection of artistic and literary protection on the internet, called the HADOPI 2 law.