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The French out-of-commerce books law in the light of the European Orphan Works Directive

Alexandra Bensamoun

Keywords: orphan work; out-of-commerce book; digital library; registration in a database; collective management; opt-out system; diligent search; French National Library (BNF)

An online digital universal library: that is a dream! Some projects exist in that way (Europeana, Google Books), but legislations about copyright prevent the initiatives from succeeding. One of the challenges particularly concerns the dormant heritage of orphan works, which are protected by copyright, but without an identified or located right-holder, and of out-of-commerce books, which are out-of-print works, but are also still protected by copyright. Hence the recent legislations address some issues. At the European level, the Orphan Works Directive (2012/28) aims to encourage the reproduction and the making available digitally of these immobilized works by specific institutions such as libraries, educational establishments, museums or archives, subject to certain conditions, particularly the diligent search for right-holders. In France, on 1 March 2012, the law concerning digital exploitation of out-of-commerce books of the twentieth century allowed mass digitization and making certain books available. The two texts seem different, but in reality the categories overlap and the French law is an answer to the European Directive.

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