Published on 24 July 2012 (Updated 24 July 2012)
Today, with the democratization of image retouching and DTP software, anyone can create their own correspondence or communication materials.
However, this fashion for Crea’ too often overlooks the fact that there is a real know-how and a great deal of knowledge to be acquired in order to practice this profession. The world of advertising and commercial communication is highly regulated, and the graphic designer’s career is punctuated by a large number of mandatory requirements.
We’d like to review some of the obligatory information we mustn’t forget to include on our paper and print materials. Of course, this review is not exhaustive, as the regulations are vast, precise and detailed for each case…
Identity of the publisher in the mandatory disclosures
The first information to be included on any printed or written matter made public is the identity of the person or organization publishing it (individual, association or company).
By law, this includes the name, registered office address, corporate name and business name of the individual or legal entity responsible. Commercial entities must also mention their registered capital and SIREN number. Their registration number with the Registre du Commerce et des Sociétés (RCS + city of registration) must also be mentioned. The penalty for non-compliance is a fine of €750.
Please note: the law makes an exception for correspondence (business cards, letterhead, envelopes, etc.) and small-scale printing for personal use (invoices, announcements, etc.).
Press publications, periodicals and books
Printed matter intended for the public from press organizations (periodicals, etc.) and documents subject to legal deposit (books, etc.) must include other mandatory information, in addition to that concerning the identity of publishers and printers:
- Periodicals must include the name of the director of publication, the name of the editor, the date of legal deposit and the ISSN (International Standard Serial Number).
Art. 6 and 11 of the Law of July 29, 1881 on freedom of the Press.
- Books must bear the date of completion of printing. They must also show the date of legal deposit, the price in euros and the ISBN (“International Standard Book Number”) or ISSN number.
Printer’s identity as part of mandatory information
The name and address of at least one of the printers involved in the production process must be specified on all publicly available printed matter. Except for letterheads and bundles. Penalties for non-compliance: a fine of €3,750.
For printed services provided by professional resellers, mentioning the identity of only one of the publisher’s service providers (a communications agency, for example) may be tolerated to a certain extent for confidentiality reasons. When the publisher prints his own documents, the inscription “IPNS” (“Imprimé Par Nos Soins”) replaces the printer’s compulsory indications.
Mandatory copyright notice
Any work of authorship used in printed matter (photograph, illustration, text quotation, etc.) must be accompanied by its name and that of its author. This is the author’s moral right. It is unlimited in time and inalienable. Unlike economic rights (the right to exploit a work), no contract or authorization for transfer can be valid or accepted.
The use of the Copyright © symbol (“all rights reserved”) has no legal value in France. It is therefore not compulsory to include it in the reference. It is tolerated and used for informational purposes only; its absence in no way implies that a work is not protected!
What if the author is unknown…?
If, after several searches, the author of a work remains unknown, it is advisable to contact the Sociétés de Perception et de Répartition de Droits d’auteurs (SPRD) before any use: the Société des Auteurs dans les Arts Graphiques et Plastiques (ADAGP), the Centre Français d’Exploitation du Droit de la Copie (CFC), the Société Civile des Auteurs Multimédia (SCAM), etc.
We can add obligatory precautionary notices such as “DR” (“Droits Réservés”) or a phrase indicating the withdrawal of the work (image or text) in the event of a dispute. However, these messages have no legal value; moreover, the use of works by unknown authors implies non-respect of economic rights, since no authorization for exploitation can be requested. For these reasons, it’s best to use only works by well-known authors to be on the safe side.
Mandatory mentions of any translations
In all advertising and commercial communications for a product or service, the use of the French language is mandatory. Thus, messages written in a dialect, patois or language other than French are only authorized and tolerated by law if accompanied by a legible and intelligible French translation. Penalty for non-compliance: a fine of €750.
Preventive messages or mandatory information
The government intervenes in the advertising and commercial communication of specific products or services that contain dangerous characteristics. This helps to remedy social problems (health, addiction, debt, etc.). Certain fields of activity are therefore obliged to comply with heavier and more specific regulations. In particular, the latter impose highly restrictive preventive information on printed matter.
Here are a few examples:
1 – Health messages
- Food products: any commercial communication concerning manufactured products or beverages containing added sugar, sweeteners or salt must be accompanied by a health message such as “For your health, eat at least five fruits and vegetables a day” (various messages provided for by law). The advertiser may waive this requirement by contributing to the tax authorities. Penalty for non-compliance: payment of a tax amounting to 1.5% of the net investment in the advertising campaign. Art L 2133-1 of the French Public Health Code.
- Alcoholic beverages: commercial advertising of alcoholic beverages is highly regulated by the Loi Évin, and must include the statement ” Alcohol abuse is dangerous for your health. Consume in moderation”. Please note: not all types of print media are authorized for alcohol advertising, and the targets are also restricted. Art L 3323-4 of the French Public Health Code.
2- Caution and prevention messages
- Medicines: the commercial communication of treatments for which advertising is authorized must contain certain mandatory information. These include the name of the drug, its generic nature where applicable, information concerning its use, an internal reference number (deposit), a statement encouraging the public to read the package leaflet and a message of caution (consult a health professional). Certain messages are also prohibited: Art R 5122-3 and L 5122-6 of the French Public Health Code.
- Bank credit: printed advertising for bank credit must include detailed and precise information. This covers the total amount of credit, the duration of the contract, the total amounts due and those of the installments. This information must appear in a larger font size than the other information. A precautionary statement such as “Credit involves a commitment and must be repaid. Check your ability to repay before committing yourself” must also appear; certain messages are also forbidden. Art L 311-4 and L 311-5 of the French Consumer Code.
- Gambling: a warning message such as “Gambling involves risks: debt, addiction… Call 09 74 75 13 13 (toll-free)” must be included in all commercial communications from gambling operators. This message must represent 7% of the advertising surface of the printed matter, in a horizontal space. Art 1 and 4 of Decree no. 2010-624 of June 8, 2010.
3- The case of “Do not litter”
Despite common usage and rumor, there is no law requiring this statement to be included on printed material intended for the general public. This widespread practice is in fact a call to good citizenship. This precaution is particularly important in terms of the publisher’s criminal liability.
Indeed, the publisher is legally liable in the event of littering. It’s therefore best to use this message to encourage targets to respect environmental rules. This is a good way of demonstrating good faith in the event of a dispute. Art R 632-1and R 635-8 of the French Penal Code.
Legal notices: Precautions for every situation
Not all printed matter must include legal notices, depending on the type of medium, purpose, field of activity or target audience. As the law remains rather vague on this point, the definition is left to be assessed and interpreted more or less freely.
In view of the multitude of existing mentions, current practices and misuses, it should be remembered that this summary of the various mandatory messages is not exhaustive. Indeed, the law is precise in each case, and many exceptions exist.
It’s essential to make sure you’re fully aware of the regulations in force before any communication action. In case of doubt, it’s a good idea to enlist the help of professionals in the fields of graphic design and communications law, in order to avoid any disputes.