European court bans sale of second-hand digital books

No discounts for the e-book.The European Court of Justice has ruled that it is now forbidden to sell second-hand e-books.The order issued on Thursday 19 December applies to all member countries of the European Union.The case involved Dutch book publishers versus a Tom Kabinet digital book platform.The first criticized this platform for allowing its users to resell their books at a lower price.

As reported on the frandroid site, the European Court of Justice has stressed that, unlike tangible books, “dematerialised digital copies of electronic books do not deteriorate with use and are therefore, in a possible second-hand market, perfect substitutes for new copies”.

Non-compliance with the law on the single book price

The Court found that in this sense, the sale of second-hand e-books was contrary to the 1996 World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty and that it “would risk affecting the interest of owners in obtaining appropriate remuneration in a much more significant way than in the case of books on physical media”.Clearly, neither publishers nor authors would receive any money from the sale of a second-hand product.

“If the sale of second-hand digital books had been authorised, in France this would have been a way of making unjustified discounts and circumventing the law on the single price of digital books,” Pierre Dutilleul, director-general of the Syndicat national de l’édition, told 20 Minutes.

Avoiding unfair competition

Indeed, just as the 1981 Lang law imposes a single price decided by publishers on new books, a similar law applies to digital books since November 2011.

“This avoids unfair competition.Within 5% you can find books at the same price everywhere,” explains the man whose syndicate today denounces the mentions “new condition” or “special price” on certain sales platforms, which can pass off a new book as second-hand and thus circumvent the law of the single price.

And lend an e-book?

In spite of the court decision, Pierre Dutilleul acknowledges that it is necessary to know how to live with the times and keep up with changing consumption patterns.”A physical book is for sale second-hand, it lends itself.That’s not possible with e-books,” says the union director, who fears that simply banning them will penalize the desire to read.

“You can’t promote reading on the one hand and prevent it from taking place with today’s new means on the other.We do not yet have a solution, but we need to think about a way to regulate the transmission of digital books.»