French Law 2012-287: Database of Digitized 20th Century Books

Law 2012-287 was published in the Official Journal of France on March 2, 2012. The law, which amended France’s Intellectual Property Code, proposes building a free, public database of digitized books that were published in the 20th Century and are no longer in commercial distribution. The Bibliothèque national de France (BNF) would be in charge of creating and administering the database.

Publishers and rights holders will have 6 months to challenge inclusion of a book in the database. It also appears that after raising a challenge, publishers have three years to demonstrate a market for the book, or that they have created their own digitized version.

I did not see a specific appropriation of funds in the bill, so it is unclear to me how the BNF will finance the project.

Reaction on French law librarian mailing lists and blogs has been positive, but muted. Wait and see seems to be the prevailing sentiment.

Whether this bill leads to a free database or not, let’s hope that it spurs debate in France, Europe, and across the Atlantic, about the role of digitized books in society.

Law 2012-287 relative à l’exploitation numérique des livres indisponibles du XXe siècle.

Full-text of the bill and links to legislative history materials are available at

Some authors’ groups have already criticized the bill for ignoring copyright law. For example, see the petition circulated by writer Yal Ayerdhal:

Additional commentary on the bill from the Rue89 blog

Virtual International Authority File

Transliteration and romanization of foreign authors is often an obstacle in FCIL research. The rise of online book databases, such as HeinOnline’s Legal Classics and Gale’s Making of Modern Law, has exacerbated these problems. Many times, these databases use variations of surnames that are not used by OPACs or print bibliographies. Likewise, spelling variations can complicate searches in foreign library catalogs, especially those that do not follow AACR. Fortunately, OCLC, the Library of Congress, Deutsche Nationalbibliothek and the Bibliothèque nationale de France have teamed up to create the Virtual International Authority File. One can look up individual authors and find alternative spellings using the 400 field (tracing of personal names). This is a great free resource. The only drawback is that it does not reproduce the names in the vernacular languages and alphabets, hence no Chinese characters or Semitic alphabets.

Virtual International Authority FIle