The French Publishers Association
The French Publishers Association (SNE) is France’s trade association of book publishers. It represents approximately 660 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,
- promoting literacy.
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 compelled to set a fixed retail price for the book in question. 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 be allowed to develop in its own way with the help of public cultural policies. In France, books thus benefit from the fixed book price system, a reduced VAT rate and 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 a digital format is constantly increasing (200 000 books are already digitally available, representing 5% of publishers’ revenue). France extended the VAT the rules applied to physical books to digital books, considering that a book is a book, regardless of his support. SNE and FEP have been actively working together to keep this low rate of VAT, on the ground of fiscal neutrality. On December 2016, the European commission proposed a directive giving the possibility to Member States to apply the same VAT rate to e-books and paper books.
On an international scale, 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 partially sighted 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 developing studies about these topics on a regular basis.
Libraries are privileged spaces for the promotion of books. Publishers are experimenting ways for them to lend digital books, without penalizing the growth of digital books market. In France, near 110 000 digital books are available for lending in libraries.
Out-of-commerce (OOC) works
On March 1, 2012, the French Parliament passed the law on mandatory collective management of out-of-commerce (OOC) works (on any format and any edition) of the 20th century published in France for their reproduction and making 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 passed “Digital Republic Law” which entered into force on October 7th. It includes:
- The establishment of a secondary publication right for the author like in Germany, allowing him/ her 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 plan to support the transition to OA, a specific committee, including publishers, will follow up the application 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 reading is at the heart of SNE’s statutory missions. Though French people are (according to several studies) very attached to books, the social gap in reading practices is increasing. For this reason the SNE has launched in 2012 a contest event mostly intended for young people. Young children are invited to read verbally a text in front of teachers and fellow students : the final takes place on a national scale, and many institutions are active partners of this event : the Ministry of National Education, Radio France, France Télévisions…