Kindle Unlimited Ruled Illegal in France

4895160589_271c32605d_m[1]In a move that surprises no one, the government of France announced today that subscription ebook services, including Kindle Unlimited, violated France's fixed price book laws.

Laurence Engel, la Médiatrice du livre (the Mediator of Books, kind of a leagal ombudsman for France's book pricing laws), has released a legal opinion which says that Kindle Unlimited is not legal under French law. This opinion also applies to KU's local competitors Izneo, Youboox, and Youscribe, and effectively requires them to reevaluate how they operate.

Kindle Unlimited launched in France in early December 2014 with 20,000 French language titles out of a catalog of around 700,000 titles (now 830,000 plus titles). Its competitors had been operating for years, but the launch of KU brought the subscription ebook model to the attention of Fleur Pellerin, the French Minster of Culture. She proclaimed that it was illegal, and sought a legal opinion from Engels.

According to Le Figaro, KU in particular is illegal because it violates the French laws which require that publishers set the retail prices for their books.

To be clear, the subscription model itself is not illegal; a publisher could launch a service with just their own titles and pass legal muster. Another possible example would be a service which sold credits which could be applied to read ebooks in a catalog, or a service which let readers pay to subscribe to specific publishers (similar to premium cable channels).

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Following the release of the legal opinion, the various operators will have a month to discuss the legal issues with the mediator of books, and 3 months to bring their services in compliance with French law.

Curiously, Pellerin told Le Figaro that self-published ebooks as well as books by foreign publishers would not be affected by this opinion, just books published by French publishers.

Given that KU draws upon primarily non-French sources, that would give Amazon an advantage. The point concerning self-published books, however, adds a complication.

While we may say that the majority of ebooks in KU are self-published, that's not completely accurate. The ebooks are drawn from KDP, Amazon's ebook distribution portal, but since that platform is used by both publishers and the self-published it is a little hard to distinguish between the two groups.

Actualitte, Le Figaro

images  by Mike LichtOsbornb

About Nate Hoffelder (11598 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

3 Comments on Kindle Unlimited Ruled Illegal in France

  1. The logic of the French minister escapes me. Since publishers voluntarily put their books into the subscription service, they are effectively controlling the “retail price”. So what is the fuss about? If, on the other hand, a subscriber service offers books not volunteered by the publisher, that is something different. France is opposed to lending libraries of any kind (print or ebook) that lend books without publisher approval. Fine. KU is not such a lending library. Any book in KU is in there by publisher agreement implicit after enrolling the book in Kindle Select. Any publisher in KU that does not want their book in the KU lending library, can take their book out at once.

  2. Once again, a government tries to go against Amazon, and issues a ruling that will give it a competitive advantage.

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