France: The Business of Multimedia - A Legal Viewpoint from France No. 1

Last Updated: 7 November 1995
In a series of articles we will be focusing on 2 sets of issues which are relevant to the business of multimedia. First, intellectual property rights and rights clearance. Second, structuring and financing new businesses.


Overview - copyright under pressure
Almost every multimedia product will attract copyright protection of some form but copyright laws are struggling to keep up with technological change, to meet the phenomenon of digital convergence, and to suit the needs of an increasingly international marketplace. Technological change in itself is not new to copyright - questions such as whether a 1950's film rights licence includes video and cable/satellite transmission rights are common. What is new is the fact that products of all the copyright based industries can now be distributed globally in digital form on the identical carrier medium, such as CD-ROM or CD-I, or down a telephone line or fibre optic cable.

For over one hundred years reciprocal agreements have existed through which foreign works are protected by copyright in many countries. Best known of these are the Berne and Rome Conventions. This has been achieved on the basis of "national treatment" i.e. the rights which a foreigner obtains are the same as those of nationals. If nationals get less than, or something different from, the protection available in the foreigner's home country, the foreign work gets the same protection as the local products, rather than the greater or different protection to which it is entitled at home. National treatment is much better than nothing, but differences between the national systems can produce significant difficulties in rights clearance, control over distribution, and enforcement of rights. Examples of these national differences include the much greater emphasis on the moral rights aspects of copyright in France and a number of other European countries than in, say, the USA or the United Kingdom (see further below). At their extreme, these differences may even lead to wide variations in the extent of copyright protection available, such as the absence of adequate neighbouring rights protection in certain countries (1) and the wide divergences in the extent to which factual or functional items are protected by copyright in different countries. This is problematic for international trade.

Within Europe, it has been recognised that these differences have a distortive effect on trade between member states, contrary to the aims of the European Union. Consequently, the European Commission has initiated various legal measures aimed at harmonising specific areas where there were clear and significant discrepancies between the copyright laws of the member states. The first of these was the 1991 Software Directive (2). Since then, Directives have been adopted in the area of control over rental and lending and aspects of neighbouring rights (3), copyright aspects of cable and satellite broadcasting (4) and the duration of copyright (5). In the particularly complex area of protection of collections of factual data in the electronic age, a proposal has been pending since 1992 for harmonisation of the treatment of electronic databases and their contents (6). Other possible areas of reform include a "private copying" levy on e.g. blank tapes, moral rights, collecting societies and harmonizing the level of originality required for copyright protection in the Member States.

These harmonisation measures tend to facilitate some aspects of cross border activity. In other respects, they have only served to reinforce one of the current problems with copyright law - the fact that it has developed and evolved over time to suit the needs of new areas of industry as they have emerged by creating, to greater or less extent, specific rules for specific industry sectors. As copyright-based industries converge through the development of technology, the differences in copyright law as it apples to different industry sectors increasingly give rise to problems, aggravating the strains caused by the rapid pace of technological change. To give one example, the EC Software Directive does not give a definition of what is a computer program (save to say that it includes preparatory design materials). Most multimedia products will involve computer program elements, but may very well involve other elements which are not, or which may not be, computer programs. The Software Directive prescribes a series of rules specifically applying to computer programs, such as the so called "reverse engineering right" and the right to make back up copies where necessary. How do these rights apply to the extent that a multimedia product is not or may not be a computer program? The issue is unresolved, but potentially very significant. Similarly, national laws apply different tests to determine who owns the rights to a copyright work, depending on the type of work. Lack of national and international harmonisation can produce complex and sometimes surprising results in the area of rights ownership unless this issue is carefully addressed in appropriate contracts with all the potential rightsholders, so increasing the complexity and cost of rights clearance.

In Washington, Brussels, Geneva and elsewhere, legislators and technologists are considering how best copyright should evolve to address the needs of the information society. It seems inevitable that harmonisation both of the treatment of works at the national level, and internationally, must be the ultimate result. However, that leaves open substantial issues about how best to achieve this in the short and medium term, particularly while the emerging technologies continue to undergo rapid change. 1995 will be an important year for defining the future trends in copyright.

(1) i.e. protection for sound recordings, performances, etc.

(2) Council Directive of 14 May 1991 on the legal protection of computer programs (91/250/EEC).

(3) Council Directive 92/100/EEC of 19 November 1992 on rental and lending right and on certain rights related to copyright in the field of intellectual property.

(4) Council Directive 93/83/EEC of 27 September 1993 on the coordination of certain rules concerning copyright and rights related to copyright applicable to satellite broadcasting and cable retransmission.

(5) Council Directive 93/98/EEC of 29 October 1993 harmonizing the term of protection of copyright and certain related rights.

(6) Proposal for a Council Directive on the legal protection of databases, as amended, COM (93) 464 final-SYN 393.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions