The French Publishers Association
The French Publishers Association (SNE) is France’s trade association of book publishers. It represents approximately 670 member companies whose combined business endeavors account for the bulk of French publishing.
The SNE’s missions
- Advocating publishers’ interests,
- Supporting creativity by defending freedom to publish and promoting the respect of intellectual property rights,
- Promoting and defending the fixed book price,
The SNE represents the French publishing profession as a member of both the Federation of European Publishers (FEP) and the International Publishers Association (IPA). The SNE is led by a group of representatives from member companies. It extends membership to businesses that are officially registered as publishers (full members), as well as to those who count publishing as a secondary activity (associate members).
Freedom to publish
The SNE defends freedom to publish in France and abroad and is undertaking several actions in this area: State publishing (the issue of competition of state publishers towards private publishers) Interventions at the international level via the Freedom to Publish Committee of the International Publishers Association (IPA)
- Authors-Publishers’ agreement on the publishing contract – 2013
- Copyright exceptions
- Public lending right
- Remuneration for private copy
- Combating piracy
- Copyright at European and international levels
- Orphan and out-of-commerce works
Fixed book price system
According to the August 10, 1981 French law concerning the fixed book price system, any person publishing or importing a book in France is required to set a fixed retail price for the book. This price must be respected by all retailers, who are required to limit discounts to a maximum of 5% of the retail price fixed by the publisher. The regulation on fixed book pricing aims at:
- Promoting the equality of all citizens vis-à-vis a given book, which is to be made available at the same price throughout the country;
- Preserving a dense and decentralized distribution system that is present in disadvantaged zones as well as more prosperous areas;
- Supporting pluralism in creative endeavors, and particularly in publishing, of more demanding books.
Today, this regime is widely accepted and enjoys popular support in France. Its conformity with European law was confirmed by the European Court of Justice in 1985. The SNE actively promotes cultural diversity and in particular the fixed book price system within various international fora. This system was extended to eBooks in 2011.
An open conception of cultural diversity
The SNE promotes an open conception of cultural diversity, that is to say one which does not aim at isolating cultures behind rigid protectionist measures. Indeed the precondition for cultural exchange is that each culture should be allowed to develop in its own way with the support of public cultural policies. In France, books are therefore benefiting from the fixed book price system, a reduced VAT rate as well as certain government subsidies.
The SNE’s Social Committee represents publishers via joint committees, in which union members are also part. The first agreement on publishing collectives was signed in 1936 between the SNE and relevant unions and has been revised several times since then. A National Joint Conciliation Committee is responsible for interpreting the agreement and examining both individual and collective disputes. In addition, a separate joint Committee is responsible for implementing regulations in the field of employment and training. Publishers and unions meet each year to negotiate salaries.
The SNE Economic Committee focuses mainly on studies and statistics, on the book trade as well as on accounting and taxation issues.
VAT and E-Books
The number of available books in digital form is constantly increasing (200 000 books are already digitally available, representing 5% of publishers’ revenue). France extended the VAT rules applied to physical books to digital books, considering that a book is a book, regardless of its support. SNE and FEP have been working together to keep this reduced VAT rate, on the ground of fiscal neutrality. On December 2016, the European commission proposed a directive enabling Member States to apply the same VAT rate to e-books and paper books.
At the international level, the SNE and French publishers are active members of the TIGAR/ABC project (under the auspices of the WIPO) that allows cross-border exchanges of adapted books for blind and visually impaired people.
Standards and interoperability
The standardization of the digital environment (exchange formats, clear rules of identification) is one of the main issues for publishers. In France, the SNE and the book chain are constantly conducting studies on those issues.
Libraries are privileged spaces for the promotion of books. In that regard, publishers are experimenting ways to lend digital books, without penalizing the growth of digital books market. In France, 154 000 digital books are available for lending in libraries as of January 2018.
Out-of-commerce (OOC) works
On March 1, 2012, the French Parliament passed a law on mandatory collective management of out-of-commerce (OOC) works (on any format and any edition) concerning works published in France in the 20th century for their reproduction and to make them available. Since March 21st, 2013, four annual lists of potentially OOC works have been published, with possibilities for right-holders to opt-out. This results in 219.000 titles now being listed in the online registry called ReLIRE. The sale of digitalized books started on September 4th, 2015 and 24.000 books are now available for sale via 170 e-booksellers (independent booksellers, French pure players as well as Amazon). However on November 16th, 2016, the European court of justice (ECJ) assessed that the French mechanism was not compliant with EU copyright law.
Open Access (OA) movement
Over the past few years, with the growth of digital economy, science publishers tried to renew their access models to scientific publications. In 2017, France adopted the “Digital Republic Law” which entered into force on October 7th. It includes:
- The establishment of a secondary publication right for authors like in Germany, allowing them to deposit the version approved by the publisher after 6 months in STM (science, technology and medicine) and 12 months in HSS (humanities and social sciences). In the framework of the government’s plan to support the transition to OA, a specific committee, including publishers, will follow up the enforcement of this provision and undertake studies on their impact.
- A text and data mining (TDM) exception to the copyright and database rights for the reproduction of texts (all publishing sectors) and data out of a legal source, for the needs of scientific research as long as this is not for commercial purposes.
The encouragement of books and the fostering of reading habits are at the heart of SNE’s statutory missions. Although French people are, according to several studies, very attached to books, the social gap in reading habits is increasing. For this reason the SNE has launched in 2012 a reading challenge mostly intended for young people. Young children will have to read out loud a text in front of their teachers and fellow students and the winners of the regional rounds will be invited to the national final. This event is supported by many institutions and companies among which the Ministry of National Education, Radio France, France Télévisions, La Poste etc.