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France: Digital Book Pricing Law

(July 1, 2011) The French Parliament recently adopted Law 2011-590 of May 26, 2011, on the price of digital books (Loi n° 2011-590 du 26 mai 2011 relative au prix du livre numérique, LEGIFRANCE (last visited July 1, 2011).) The Law provides that “any person established in France who publishes an e-book for distribution in France must set a sale price for this book.” The price will have to be respected by whoever is selling the e-book. The price also must be made known to the public. (Id. art. 2.)

The Law further provides that retailers offering e-books to buyers located in France, including retailers located abroad, must comply with the sale price set under the conditions provided in article 2. (Id. art. 3.) Some have argued that this provision may violate European Union competition law. (Le Parlement approuve la loi sur le prix du livre numérique, LEMONDE.FR (May 17, 2011).) The Law also guarantees a fair and equitable price for e-book authors. (Id.; Law 2011-590, art. 8.)

The new Law is consistent with an earlier law of 1981 that mandates a single price for paper books. The aim of the previous law was to protect small book shops from large bookselling chains that would otherwise discount books and drive the small independent shops out of business. (LEMONDE.FR, supra.)