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French Law’s Principle of Strict Interpretation

4 April 2018

From The 1709 Blog:

One of the cardinal principles of French copyright law is the principle whereby any license/assignment of a copyright interest by an author is to be strictly interpreted such that any right not expressly mentioned is not granted.

. . . .

A professional photographer had licensed the rights to one of his photographs to an advertising agency for use in a real-estate promoter’s brochure and website for the price of 844 euros.

He later learned that the photograph was used, without his authorization (but with credit, such that there was no issue regarding his right of attribution) in an advertising campaign, appearing inter alia in Paris Match, the well-known magazine.

. . . .

The Court started by recalling the provisions of Section L.131-3 of the French Intellectual Property Code pursuant to which the license (or assignment) of copyright is subject to the condition that each right be distinctly mentioned and that the license (or assignment) be delineated with respect to its scope, purpose, territory and duration.

. . . .

The license relates to the illustration of a brochure and there is no express mention of a press advertisement, such that use in Paris Match goes beyond the authorization that was given.”

Link to the rest at The 1709 Blog

PG says this is a refreshing change from the creative approach some publishers employ to conjure up the inclusion of electronic rights in old publishing contracts created on Selectric typewriters.

Contracts, Copyright/Intellectual Property, Non-US

2 Comments to “French Law’s Principle of Strict Interpretation”

  1. The flip side is no fair use.
    The underpinning theory is that anything not expressly permitted is forbidden.

    The opposite of english common law:

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everything_which_is_not_forbidden_is_allowed

    • But there is a difference between “licencing the rights” to a photograph for a particular use, and selling it outright for any future use. If you have a contract to do particular things at a given price, that does not let you do a whole lot of other stuff without appropriate compensation.

      Quite an appropriate situation for anything not expressly permitted is forbidden, as far as I can see.

      It puts some onus on the people wanting to use the photo to make sure the contract covers what they want.

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