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Conseil d’Etat forces change to French plan to protect access to audiovisual works

France’s Conseil d’Etat has nixed a government plan to require regulatory authorisation for the sale of audiovisual catalogues as part of legislation designed to protect public access to cultural works in the digital era, according to French financial daily Les Echos.

The proposed change to the law, initially put forward in March, would have given the ministry of culture the right to authorise or refuse the sale of catalogues of French works. However, the Conseil d’Etat has ruled that such a change would be counter to European rules mandating the free movement of capital.

The government had wanted to put in place measures that would see any sale of catalogues such as that of StudioCanal subject to regulations to ensure that the works remained accessible to the French public. The Centre National du Cinéma et de l’Image Animée (CNC), which is responsible for administering public funding for content creation, had pointed out that catalogues have often involved the use of public funds and should therefore be subject to government intervention.

The plan for prior authorisation has now been replaced by a ‘prior declaration’ whereby producers must state their intention to sell works at least six months in advance. The declaration must include documents showing that rules on ‘continuing exploitation’ of works to which French producers are subject will continue to be respected.

The revised text would enable the government to place obligations on continued access on the buyer, including international buyers, but could not prevent a sale.

The move to protect access to works comes against a background of growing interest in acquiring catalogues from international digital players who will be subject to new European rules requiring them to have at least 30% EU-originated content in their offerings.

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