Campaign of the French Publisher's Association - A DRM-Locked E-Book Cannot Be Compared to a Printed Book

The French Publisher's Association (SNE) just launched a campaign entitled “A book is a book” [fr], advocating that printed books and electronic books should be treated equally. April would like to point out that an e-book locked by DRM cannot be compared with a printed book: the reader of a "digitally handcuffed e-book" is deprived of essential freedoms.

The SNE campaign takes place in the context of the dispute which opposes the French Government to the European Commission, concerning the reduced VAT rate on the supply of electronic books. On this Thursday, March 5th, 2015, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) rendered its decision and ruled that France cannot apply a reduced VAT rate to the supply of electronic books, contrary to printed books. This dispute had in particular been mentioned by the French Government during the discussion in the National Assembly on the issue of applying the full VAT rate to DRM-locked e-books.

The SNE campaign features a lesson taught by Professor Livro, explaining that an e-book is equivalent to a printed book. However, the campaign totally overlooks the fact that DRM (“digital handcuffs”) greatly reduces readers' rights, precisely making e-books unequivalent to printed books. With a DRM-free e-book, the user has essentially the same rights as with printed books (ability to lend them, to read them as many times as she wishes, anywhere and on any devices, etc.), while a DRM-locked e-book only offers limited rights.

“Let's put aside the VAT issue; a DRM-locked e-book can't be compared with a printed book, as its reader is denied some essential rights. The SNE campaign gives the floor to the good Professor Livro, while shadowing Mister DRaMa and hiding that restricted books are no longer real books. It would be illogical to deprive readers from more rights through DRM, and then come back and claim that the outcome should be treated the same way as the original”, said Frédéric Couchet, April's executive director.

About April

A pioneer of Free Software in France since 1996, April is a major player in the democratisation of Free Software and open standards, and in their spread to the general public, professionals and institutions of the French-speaking world. In the digital era that is ours, it also aims to inform the public on the dangers of an exclusive appropriation of information and knowledge by private interests.

The organisation is a non-profit and it has over 4,000 members, who use or produce Free Software.

For more information, you may visit, contact us by phone at +33 1 78 76 92 80, or use our contact form.

Press contact:

Frédéric Couchet, Executive Director, +33 6 60 68 89 31