This is an un-authorized, un-official translation of the executive summary (pp. 38-41) of RAPPORT SUR LA NUMÉRISATION DU PATRIMOINE ÉCRIT. Remis par. Marc Tessier au Ministre de la culture et de la communication le 12 janvier 2010
If you have objections, suggestions, or corrections, please contact Karen Coyle: kcoyle at kcoyle dot net.
Rapport Teissier's Executive Summary
The prospect of mass digitization of printed books -- regardless of
their copyright status -- is an opportunity for an increased exposure
of French culture. However, this requires an overhaul of public policy
in the area of written culture, particularly vis-à-vis the general
public who will have new modes of access to books, both for research as
well as for personal use. It is this increased public access that is at
stake as we engage in the process of digitizing books.
Mass digitization has its constraints and limitations:
- the constraints arise from the tension between the industrial
approach to the activity, on one hand, and on the other hand the
quality requirements that must be defined in terms of standards
adoption and of the reliability of digital files, their indexing and
- the limitations are that it should not overshadow other modes of
digitization, indexing and searching that are required by specialist
users (researchers, academics, professionals ...) or disabled audiences
(visually impaired ...).
The extensive program undertaken globally by Google has given a
decisive impetus to digitization programs. Any public policy, as
ambitious as it is, can not ignore the advances made by this private
company, both globally and in Europe. Some methods used by the company,
including its relationship with publicly funded libraries and with
publishers, however, lend themselves to criticism. In this regard, the
constraints on the dissemination of files received by libraries, the
duration of market exclusivity clauses, the vagueness of technical
options selected, and the confidentiality of the contracts with
libraries are not acceptable conditions for a national library. It is
therefore important for France to maintain control of the process of
digitization and especially of the distribution of digital content.
The decision of the President of the Republic on the funding of
digitization policies creates the foundation for a national policy that
can act independently and is respectful of the rights of all parties
concerned. It is also necessary that each institution, whether public
or private, make the necessary effort to contribute to the emergence of
a French language offering that could compare to the platforms of
research and marketing built by global groups, such as Google,
Microsoft, Amazon ... The organization of the entire digitization chain
must be designed in light of this ambition. This change of scale will
indeed have great implications, not only quantitative but also
qualitative: it will require us to rethink the size of the
infrastructure, given the scale of the operation, but also the
evolution of methodologies and the acquisition of new skills.
Three tracks are proposed by the commission, which are not exclusive of each other:
- build on the existing tool, Gallica, established by the BNF, thoroughly revising its management and its features
- propose to Google a different form of partnership based on the fair dissemination of digital files without restrictions
- boost European leadership, both at the level of the other European
libraries involved and of the common cultural portal, Europeana.
The commission wishes to emphasize that priority must be given to the
value obtained by making written heritage available on digital networks
and to its visibility to users worldwide. The other program activities
(scanning chain, storage and maintenance of digital files), which are
of significant importance and are also the most expensive, may still be
managed by existing institutions, including the BNF. It would be
desirable in this regard to benefit from the physical concentration at
the BNF of books obtained through the legal deposit program, and to use
these to initiate a process of mass digitization, not only for
non-copyrighted heritage, but also for out-of-print books and orphan
works. This depends, of course, on the signing of an agreement between
publishers, rights-holders and public authorities that governs the
conditions of this digitization and subsequent use of files.
The primary mission is the establishment of a cooperative entity combining publicly funded libraries and trade publishers
in a public-private partnership.This entity must also be have a role
for right holders and other stakeholders in the book value chain.
The entity would be responsible for designing, building and operating a
common platform where all works could be accessible for Internet
searching and, if desired, may be browsed. This cooperative entity
would be responsible for arranging access to books and for developing
interfaces with other platforms, such as community sites, search
engines, marketing sites ... Finally, using its position at the border
between cultural heritage works and works currently under copyright, it
would play a role as a platform for dissemination and use of orphan
works when the code of intellectual property allows these to be
provided as digital documents.
To this end, the commission advises the adoption of a new direction,
continuing the work that has enabled the BNF, via Gallica, to take a
position on the Internet, but radically changing the future direction.
The ambition must be to establish a database of digitized works in the
French language with a quality comparable to that of Google Books for
the English language. It is only in this way that France can avoid an
unbalanced face-off with global companies and have a positive effect in
The commission was not charged with defining the details of the legal
status of such a cooperative entity and its position vis-à-vis the BNF.
That said, there are conditions that must be met: collective decision
making, and transparency of marketing methods that must be authorized
by each partner involved.
The Internet world is organized on a distributed basis. Therefore, each
partner must be able to maintain its own site, or organize direct
marketing of books which it holds, as per their needs and goals.
However, to access public financial aid to digitization, each partner
must submit to several obligations:
- put files on the cooperative platform
- adopt formats and technical standards compatible with those defined by the platform
- delegate to the platform the right of indexing and public browsing of
the files or, where appropriate, authorize the commercial exploitation
of some of these files on the platform, without interfering with the
commercial exploitation by trade publishers themselves, via the
shopping portals of their choice.
The possibilites offered by the public/private partnerships will be a dramatic improvement.
Instead of agreements that are by their nature often inherently
unbalanced when the sole funding is supplied by the private party, we
will henceforth be able to engage in "reciprocal trade", increasing the
document holdings of both sides, avoiding duplication in the digitizing
process and promoting the visibility of the French language corpus. For
example, French books would be widely referenced in Google Books, while
the national platform would be enhanced by the inclusion of previously
digitized books by Google, in particular those available in foreign
The commission has attempted to define a framework for such reciprocal
agreements and conditions, before any mandates are given to
negotiators, with regard to copyright, protection of privacy and the
limitation in scope and duration of possible exclusivity clauses.
In the case of a possible negotiation with Google, the mission is not
able to assess the availability of that company for a discussion in
these terms, despite its obvious interest in broadening its French
corpus base. Negotiating on behalf of France, however, would have two
- highlight to the eyes of our European partners that we will search for
balanced partnership with a company whose presence in Europe is strong,
- in case of refusal, put the other party in the position of having to
clarify its strategy and its objectives regarding the written heritage
The committed financial resources will strengthen the advanced position of France
regarding Europe's digital written heritage. It is essential to take
advantage of this situation to create a ripple effect, either at the EU
and Member States level, or in public or private institutions, by
advocating the sharing of technical means and the platform developed by
France. Google is now able to offer a proven framework at unprecedented
economic conditions. The initiatives taken in France can help bridge
this gap and create an alternative to the benefit of all European
The commission proposes moving forward in these three areas:
- give the European partners opportunities of economies of scale from
French investment, by offering interested European libraries to pool,
possibly via cooperative platform and the BNF, the entire digitization
- continue and enhance Europeana
- develop a charter governing the public-private partnerships in the wake of
already initiated discussions between several major national libraries.
The online visibility of the written corpus of the French language is
an important objective that requires a sharing of a wide range of
skills and experiences.
The ends, i.e., open access to materials, and the means, namely the
quality of digitization and the relevance of indexing, should be placed
on the same plane. Some think that Google favors the ends at the
expense of quality, while libraries would focus primarily on quality at
the expense of mass access. These are gross stereotypes. They
nevertheless point out the importance of designing a mode of
organization and partnership which preserves the balance between
quality and access. That is the vision that the commission has tried to