France: The Business of Multimedia - A Legal Viewpoint from France No. 3

Last Updated: 5 December 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.


Clearing rights for multimedia products
Because of the differences between national copyright systems, and the principle of "national treatment" explained above, rights have to be cleared in each territory where the product is to be distributed. Each territory's laws governing who owns the rights, how long they last and how they can be licensed or acquired may differ, sometimes significantly. So it is necessary to assess which territories are important to the product so that further research and investigation of the rights position can be undertaken.

A multimedia work such as a CD-ROM product can incorporate various categories of material, some or all or which will be protected under various rules such as copyright, performers' right and moral rights. Below is a description of the main types of works that are likely to be included in a CD-ROM or CD-I product, and an indication of some special problems that may arise in clearing their usage.

Computer programs: In developing a multimedia product for publication it is necessary to draw a distinction between those programs that are used purely while preparing a product for publication and those that are actually part of the finished product. For example, video and graphics editing programs will normally be used in production process for a multimedia CD in order to prepare and compress the video clips and graphics but would not normally be distributed as part of the finished product. By contrast many multimedia authoring tools will not only be used in the process of developing the product but will also include a "player" or "runtime" component which will need to be included on the CD as part of the system which will run the finished product. In addition to the player, various other programs will normally be found on the finished product. These will include the scripts and other program objects which are developed as part of the product development process and which control the player/runtime component. In addition, because of the increasingly "open" nature of many authoring tools, there may be third party programs which extend the functionality of the basic authoring tool. These may provide, for example, video codecs, faster graphics handling or special sound or text manipulation features.

From the publisher's or producer's point of view, the crucial issue is to ensure that the appropriate licences have been obtained from the owners of the rights in all of these programs. In the case of tools used only in the production process, whoever is using the programs will need an "end-user" licence and its terms should be checked to ensure that it does not contain any unusual restrictions. Extra care needs to be taken in the case of programs such as authoring tools and third party extensions to ensure that you obtain a licence to distribute the components, normally on a worldwide basis. Naturally the fees payable and ease of licensing will be a factor in the producer's choice of programs.

The programs and scripts created in the course of development of the product will themselves be protected by copyright in most jurisdictions. It is important for the producer to ensure that ownership of the rights lies in the right hands. In many jurisdictions, computer programs written by employees will belong to their employer but this will not always be the case for programs written by freelance contractors. As national rules can diverge, it is best for the question of ownership to be dealt with specifically by contract.

Films: the use of video clips is becoming more popular. National rules on ownership of rights in films vary significantly between countries and are often overlaid by relatively complex contractual arrangements. Many films will have undergone changes of ownership following their initial production, perhaps as the result of financing transactions or library sales. The CD rights may have followed. Alternatively, the relevant rights for certain territories may have been sold outright to a distributor (often a video distributor for older films although contracts nowadays tend increasingly to differentiate the CD rights from the video rights). There is no central clearance society or organisation for these rights. The rights have to be cleared directly with the actual owner. Most mainstream films will not be difficult to trace, but for more obscure films, it may be possible to trace through AGICOA, the European society which clears cable retransmission of films. They maintain a database of rights information but these cannot be accessed by the public so the request should be through a member. There are other national collecting organisations in other European countries (such as the Centre National de la Cinematographie in France) that may have copyright information on films.

The original ownership position for films is set to change in the EC for new films with the passing of the European Directive harmonising the term of copyright. The principal director must now be considered as one of owners of the film copyright, though each EU member state remains free to designate others as co-owners so harmonisation is only partial. Pan-European distribution of new film clips will therefore remain complicated as publishers will have to ensure that they license the necessary film copyrights not only from the distributor, but also from all the other designated co-owners, which could include screenwriters, composers and other main creative contributors.

Many countries protect individual frames of films through copyright, so permission will be required for single frame reproductions.

Musical works: clearing musical works (as opposed to sound recordings of musical works) is fairly straightforward by comparison with other categories of work. Most European countries have collecting societies which are responsible for granting licences for the use of music in recordings, and through reciprocal representation agreements clear the rights for rights owners from other countries.

Sound recordings: these can be more difficult to clear. Rock and pop records can often be cleared directly with the record company or sometimes through the organisations which represent record companies (such as BPI in the UK). Because of the expense involved, it is preferable to avoid the use of rock and pop records if possible. There are several production music libraries which maintain a wide range of music for use as background and production music, and it is generally cheaper minute for minute to use this type of music.

Stills: many stills are distributed by picture libraries, who will grant what are generally known as "reproduction rights". Obtaining stills from a picture library is no guarantee of clearing the rights to the picture itself, as there are many library stills in which the copyright is owned by a third party, and most picture library terms and conditions expressly disclaim responsibility for copyright clearance. The actual copyright owner will have to be traced independently although the library may have the requisite information. If the still is of a work of art, there may be a separate copyright to be cleared for that work, although there are organisations (such as SPADEM/ADAGP, BILD KUNST, and DACS) through whom art works can be cleared. Works such as designed items of clothing, or film or theatre sets, which can have separate copyrights, may need to be cleared as well.

Text: pre-existing text is generally cleared direct with the author or the author's assignee, and it would be wise to obtain a publisher's release from the author's publisher as well, covering any rights or consents that may be needed from the publisher. Specially-commissioned text should be cleared through the commissioning arrangements with the author. If an author of specially-commissioned text is represented by a publisher, a publisher's consent would be prudent.

Employee/freelancer issues: Check the status of creative talent who are involved in developing new copyright works such as graphics, text, or programming lines. If they are not actual employees of the business developing the product there is a risk that the creative talent may retain copyright ownership of what they create, unless they have signed an agreement to the contrary. The development company may rely on an implication that, as it has paid money to the creative talent, it was intended that copyright would transfer, but it is normally not safe to rely on this. Because of the considerable amount of image sound and text manipulation which is involved in a CD product, it is also important that the creators have waived their moral rights to their work. If physical copies of the CD product are to be exploited by rental, the rental rights of the author under EC Directive 92/100 (see legal Viewpoint No 1) will be a factor, and all contracts with employees and freelancers should by now have begun to deal with the issue. The directive requires that authors (amongst others) receive an "equitable remuneration" for rental of their work. What is equitable has yet to be clarified by national legislation implementing the directive.

Performers' rights: along with copyright, those whose performances appear in films and sound recording must give their consent to the use of that performance in a CD product. With luck, the production company will have obtained wide performers' rights clearance before original production of the film (similarly for sound recordings), but this cannot always be guaranteed, and needs to be checked.

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”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
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
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). 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 & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd 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 or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.