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Book Chapter

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Contrefaçon in French copyright law examines the scope of French copyright through the lens of remedies. Contrefaçon is the act to which certain civil and criminal sanctions attach. Viewed from this angle, the history of French copyright law tells a tale of the slow emergence of a unified concept of the wrongful act, covering not only the manufacturing of copies but also public performances, live and through transmissions. The emphasis on contrefaçon reveals the continuity of the revolutionary authors' right of 1793 with the ancient régime of printing regulation, with unauthorized production of physical copies of books remaining the essence of the reformulated wrongful act. By the same token, the early treatment of the playwright's exclusive right of public performance shows how far French law was from a general conceptualization of authors' rights. The regime of the performance right, introduced in 1791 as a coda to new regulation of theatres, long remained distinct from the reproduction right, particularly regarding its enforcement. Indeed, nineteenth-century legal commentators struggled to bring performance rights within the remedies for contrefaçon by recharacterizing a public performance as a kind of publication.

The 1957 French copyright law, which finally replaced the 1791 and 1793 laws and their ensuing amendments and judicial interpretations, also finally synthesized authors' rights, with contrefaçon providing the all-purpose remedial structure. The story does not end there, however, for the pressures of recent technological developments now threaten the coherence of contrefaçon.


Intellectual Property Law | Law


This material has been published in "Copyright and Piracy: An Interdisciplinary Critique", edited by Lionel Bently, Jennifer Davis, and Jane C. Ginsburg. This version is free to view and download for private research and study only. Not for re-distribution or re-use.