Kindle Unlimited Ruled Illegal in France

Kindle Unlimited Ruled Illegal in France Amazon 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).

Kindle Unlimited Ruled Illegal in France Amazon

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

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: He's here to chew bubble gum and fix broken websites, and he is all out of bubble gum. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills at the drop of a hat. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

13 Comments

  1. Daniel Vian19 February, 2015

    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.

    Reply
  2. puzzled19 February, 2015

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

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder19 February, 2015

      It is funny, isn’t it?

      Reply
  3. […] by mgallowglas [link] […]

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  4. […] Hoffelder at Ink, Bits and Pixels points out, “To be clear, the subscription model itself is not illegal; a publisher could launch a […]

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  5. […] France Curbs Kindle Unlimited (Ink, Bits & Pixels) Authorities determine the subscription ebook program is illegal under the country’s laws that ensure French publishers’ prerogative to set book prices, effectively forcing Kindle Unlimited and several subscription-based competitors to rethink their current models. […]

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  6. […] Quelle: The Digital Reader […]

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  7. […] “Kindle Unlimited Ruled Illegal in France” by Nate Hoffelder at Ink, Bits & Pixels (formerly The Digital Reader) – February 19, 2015 […]

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  8. […] A The Digital Reader-en jelent meg a hír miszerint a Kindle Unlimited, és a hasonló el?fizetési elven m?köd? helyi e-könyv disztribútorok a francia törvények szerint illegálisan m?ködnek. A helyi könyvekkel foglalkozó ombudsman állásfoglalása szerint a könyvek kiskereskedelmi árát mindig a kiadó határozza meg, így az el?fizetési modellek m?ködése nem felel meg a jelenlegi francia szabályozásnak. (link) […]

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  9. Ag2 March, 2015

    W 1981 r. we Francji wprowadzono tzw. Prawo Langa – czyli ustaw? o sta?ej cenie na nowo?ci ksi??kowe. Od tamtej pory Francja jest regularnie przywo?ywana jako przyk?ad kraju, który z powodzeniem wprowadzi? regulacj? na rynku wydawniczym. Dyskusja o przyj?ciu podobnych rozwi?za? toczy si? obecnie w Polsce, o czym pisa?am tutaj.
    Jednym z argumentów przeciwników sta?ej ceny jest to, ?e Prawo Langa przyj?to we Francji w zupe?nie innych czasach, gdy rynek by? inaczej ukszta?towany i dzi?, w dobie nowych technologii, nie ma sensu kopiowa? tych zasad w Polsce. Jak si? okazuje – maj? racj?. Mimo wieloletnich do?wiadcze? ze sta?? cen?, francuski rynek wydawniczy ma w?a?nie nowy problem.

    19 lutego br. francuska minister kultury Fleur Pellerin og?osi?a, ?e wszelkie serwisy oferuj?ce nielimitowany abonament na czytanie e-booków, takie jak Kindle Unlimited, Youboox, YouScribe, Izneo (odpowiedniki polskiego Legimi) ?ami? przepisy o sta?ej cenie na nowo?ci ksi??kowe. Chodzi o to, ?e ceny e-booków w tych us?ugach s? ustalane przez serwisy, a nie przez wydawców. Tym samym – dzia?aj? nielegalnie. Oficjalny raport na ten temat (w j?zyku francuskim) znajdziecie tutaj.
    Francuska minister kultury Fleur Pellerin na konferencji prasowej. Zdj?cie: ActuaLitté CC BY SA 2.0?atwo zauwa?y?, ?e w tym wypadku Prawo Langa dzia?a na korzy?? starego modelu sprzedawania ksi??ek/e-booków, blokuj?c powstawanie nowych form dost?pu do tre?ci. Wiele osób uwa?a, ?e tak jak Spotify zmieni? rynek muzyki, tak serwisy subskrypcyjne zmieni? sposób, w jaki kupujemy i czytamy ksi??ki. Dlatego prawnik Youboox Emmanuel Pierrat próbowa? interpretowa? przepisy na korzy?? e-booków. Jego zdaniem Prawo Langa obejmuje tylko ksi??ki papierowe, poniewa? odnosi si? do kupna fizycznego przedmiotu – w zamian za op?acenie okre?lonej ceny stajemy si? w?a?cicielami egzemplarza ksi??ki. Tymczasem w modelu abonamentowym wykupujemy zaledwie licencj? na przeczytanie cyfrowej kopii. Rzeczywi?cie nie jest to do ko?ca to samo – jednak z punktu widzenia prawa – i minister Pellerin – wa?niejszy wydaje si? by? w?a?ciciel praw do ksi??ki ni? jej forma (zreszt? podobne rozumienie problemu Francuzi pokazali w przypadku VAT-u na ksi??ki drukowane i e-booki, co si? akurat chwali).
    Oznacza to, ?e gdyby to wydawca za?o?y? swój w?asny serwis subskrypcyjny zamiast wspó?pracowa? z kolejnym dystrybutorem, jego biznes by?by ca?kowicie legalny. Warto te? zaznaczy?, ?e ustawa o sta?ej cenie ksi??ki nie obejmuje ani self-publisherów, ani ksi??ek opublikowanych przez zagranicznych wydawców – a jedynie tytu?y wydawców francuskich. I tu pojawia si? problem, a na imi? mu Amazon.
    Prace nad raportem dotycz?cym legalno?ci dzia?ania serwisów subskrypcyjnych zacz??y si? w styczniu 2015 r., nied?ugo po wprowadzeniu we Francji przez Amazon us?ugi Kindle Unlimited. Wcze?niej inne, ale francuskie, serwisy dzia?a?y od lat. Rz?d stara? si? wi?c przede wszystkich ochroni? rodzimych wydawców przed konkurencj? ameryka?skiego giganta. Tyle ?e mo?e odnie?? skutek odwrotny do zamierzonego. Amazon podobno pracuje nad za?o?eniem w?asnego domu wydawniczego we Francji, co pozwoli?oby mu omin?? niewygodne prawo. Firma mia?aby skupywa? prawa do ksi??ek i – ju? jako wydawca, nie dystrybutor – sprzedawa? je w modelu abonamentowym. Na takie rozwi?zanie nie sta? ich konkurencji. Warto te? zauwa?y?, ?e wiele tytu?ów w Kindle Unlimited to tytu?y self-publisherów. Czy Amazon rzeczywi?cie planuje taki ruch? Zobaczymy – wszystkie serwisy maj? trzy miesi?ce na dostosowanie swoich us?ug do prawa.
    Wi?cej w artykule „Bad News for Kindle Unlimited in France?” w serwisie Publishing Perspectives
    oraz w artykule „Kindle Unlimited Ruled Illegal in France” w serwisie Ink, Bits & Pixels.
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  11. […] that subscription ebook services were legal under France's fixed price book laws. Those doubts solidified into a legal opinion in February 2015 when Laurence Engel, la Médiatrice du livre, ruled that all the existing […]

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