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Commons:Copyright rules by territory/France

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Location of France



Countries, areas, and entities Standard copyright term
(based on authors' deaths)
Other copyright terms
(based on publication and creation dates)
Copyright exemptions Notes

  France copyright overview
(  Copyright law of France)
70 p.m.a.: life + 70 years (except posthumous works, musical works,[1] and works whose author "died for France", which are protected for an additional 30 years)
  • Anonymous works: 70 years after publication (if author never disclosed)
  • Posthumous works: 25 years from publication
  • Berne/UCC: yes
  • Until year end: Yes
{{PD-old-auto|author died 1947 or earlier}} {{PD-EU-no author disclosure}}

France Overview

The relevant laws are in the first book of the Code of Intellectual Property, or CPI (English version). The code includes dispositions transposed from the 1993 European directive on Copyright. France also enforces the Berne Convention.

The normal duration of copyright is 70 years following the end of the year of death of the author (or the death of the last author for multiple authors); if the work is anonymous, pseudonymous or collective, it is 70 years following the end of the year of publication of the work (unless the authors named themselves). This applies only if publication occurs within 70 years of creation (see Article L132-3).

See below for important extensions to copyright.

Images from public web sites

Note that French government services often use professional photographers who are not government employees to make official photographs. These photographers then typically sell usage rights of the photograph to the government. In such circumstances, the government does not own the copyright to the photograph, and thus could not give us a license to use it even if it wanted to.

The rules for protection of works by the government are somewhat fuzzy, and one should assume by default that anything from a government entity is copyrighted. One should refer to:

Laws, decrees, court decisions and other similar government texts (but not the translations or commentaries thereof), possibly found on Légifrance, are in the public domain. This seems acknowledged by Légifrance's copyright terms.

Unless you really know what you're doing, please abstain from copying photos from French government web sites to Commons. Thanks.

Video, text and graphics published on the site are licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY 3.0 FR). Be careful, this does not apply to photographs, however, it is possible to import images taken from videos. Please use {{}}

Wartime copyright extensions

On February 27, 2007, the Court of Cassation, supreme jurisdiction, first civil chamber, ruled in the Hazan case (arrêt n° 280 du 27 février 2007) that articles L123-8 and L123-9, extending the duration of protection to compensate for wartimes, were not applicable to works for which an extended protection period (beyond 70 years) had not started to elapse on July 1, 1995.[2][3]. The judgment regarding Giovanni Boldini's work was broke too, by the same court : [4].

In practice, only subsist extensions for authors "Mort pour la France", but even this is subject to debate.

Previously, French law granted extensions to copyright because of the World Wars (see CPI L123-8 and following). The extensions were:

  • 6 years and 152 days for World War I
  • 8 years and 120 days for World War II
  • 30 years for people who died for France ; this includes, for instance, Alain-Fournier (1 January 1915 +50+30+6+8 years +152+120 days = 30 September 2009), Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Jehan Alain.

Several extensions were added together.

It was previously assumed that the European directive on copyright did not necessarily suppress these extensions:

Article 10 - Where a term of protection, which is longer than the corresponding term provided for by this Directive, is already running in a Member State on the date referred to in Article 13 (1), this Directive shall not have the effect of shortening that term of protection in that Member State.

According to the French Ministry of Culture, the legal status of these extensions, adopted when copyright was 50 years after death, was unclear in the context of the new 70-year law; the Ministry called for erring on the side of caution and assuming they are valid. [5]

It was also assumed that copyright holders do try to enforce these extensions. In 2005, right holders demanded payment for a movie where a character whistled The Internationale, whose author died in 1932. (See also Template:PD-Internationale for further information.) On the other hand, the Paris Appeal Court ruled against applying the extensions in 2004 [6], but on 12 October 2005, another section of the same court applied the extension so that the works of the painter Giovanni Boldini who died in 1931 will not enter the public domain before late 2016 [7].

Works of arts, including architecture, exhibited in public spaces

The architect of a notable building owns copyright over the representations of that building, including postcards and photographs. For instance, the architect of the pyramid in the courtyard of the Louvre Museum may claim copyright over images of the pyramid. This, for instance, extends to the designer of lighting systems; for instance, the company operating the Eiffel Tower claims copyright of images of the tower when lighted at night.

However, ruling #567 of March 15, 2005 of the Court of Cassation denied the right of producers of works of arts installed in a public plaza over photographs of the whole plaza:

Because the Court has noticed that, as it was shown in the incriminated images, the works of Mr X... and Z... blended into the architectural ensemble of the Terreaŭx plaza, of which it was a mere element, the appeals court correctly deduced that this presentation of the litigious work was accessory to the topic depicted, which was the representation of the plaza, so that the image did not constitute a communication of the litigious work to the public

The court draws a distinction between depictions of a work of art, and depictions of whole settings of which the work of art is a mere part, and denies the right of the artist over such images.

While architects may have rights to works derived from their work of art, this is not the case of the owners of works of art or buildings, in general. The summary of the conclusions of a May 7, 2004 ruling by the Court of Cassation was:

The owner of a thing does not have an exclusive right over the image of this thing; he or she can however oppose the usage of this image by a third party if this usage results in an abnormal disturbance to him or her."

In this decision, the court excluded that the owner of a hotel, who had made extensive repairs and enhancements to the buildings at high costs, could claim exclusive rights to the image of that hotel: merely demonstrating that the costs supported did not demonstrate that the publishing of images was an abnormal disturbance.

The Court already ruled on June 5, 2003, that the right of property comprised absolutely no right to the image of this property. However, they also upheld the right to privacy of the homeowners: in this case, not only a photograph of a house was published, but also its exact location and the name of the owners. Earlier rulings (May 2, 2001) similarly rejected requests based on ownership without a justification of an abnormal disturbance.


  1. wartime copyright extensions may apply to musical works: + 6 years 152 days for musical work published through 1920 (Art. L123-8); + 8 years and 120 days for musical work published through 1947 (Art. L123-9); these extensions are cumulative with each other and with the "died for France" extension: [1]

See also

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