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.
http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/jopdf/common/jo_pdf.jsp?numJO=0&dateJO=20120302&numTexte=1&pageDebut=03986&pageFin=03988

Full-text of the bill and links to legislative history materials are available at
http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/13/ta/ta0865.asp

Some authors’ groups have already criticized the bill for ignoring copyright law. For example, see the petition circulated by writer Yal Ayerdhal:
http://www.petitionpublique.fr/?pi=P2012N21047

Additional commentary on the bill from the Rue89 blog
http://www.rue89.com/rue89-culture/2012/03/03/numerisation-des-livres-quon-nedite-plus-qui-y-gagne-229855

For Whom Does the Google Bell Toll? Not libraries

I ran across an interesting article by way of a tangentially related Google search today.  The June 12, 2008 issue of The New York Review of Books includes the following item, “The Library in the New Age,” a lengthy discussion of changes in information technology (from the dawn of the written word through Internet search engines), which culminates in an eight-point discussion of how Google Book Search will make physical libraries “more important than ever.”  Written by Robert Darnton, it’s an interesting addition to the scholarship of the digital age.