The Toubon Law

Are You Selling Your Products In France?
Are Your Products Localized?
Is Your Marketing Material Localized?
The Law Requires It!

The Toubon Law

The law of August 4, 1994 relating to the French language usage replaces the law of December 31st, 1975, by extending its field of application and reinforcing its provisions.

… This text … imposes the compulsory, but non exclusive, usage of the French language in specific fields in order to guarantee to the citizens the right to use their language on certain occasions in everyday life.

Applies to:

All documents used to inform the user or the consumer: labeling, leaflets, catalogues, brochures, and other briefing documents, …, certificates of guarantee, instructions, …

Operating procedures that are integrated in computer and game software and containing screen displays or sound messages are considered as instructions. Consequently, operating procedures for application software and operating system software must be established in French, whether they are on paper or integrated in the software…

All written, spoken, or audiovisual advertisements concerning goods, products or commercialized services.

Goods and products brought into the national territory before March 7, 1995 … may be commercialized under their initial presentation until the selling of the stocks, at the latest up to March 7, 1996.

The Prime Minister

La Loi Toubon (French Version)

La loi du 4 août 1994 relative à; l’emploi de la langue française se substitue à la loi du 31 décembre 1975 dont elle élargit le champ d’application et renforce les dispositions.

… Ce texte… impose l’usage obligatoire, mais non exclusif, de la langue française dans des domaines déterminés en vue de garantir aux citoyens le droit d’utiliser leur langue dans certaines circonstances de leur vie courante…

Sont concernés :

Tous les documents destinés à informer l’utilisateur ou le consommateur : étiquetages, prospectus, catalogues, brochures et autres documents d’information, …, certificats de garantie, modes d’emploi, …

Les modes d’utilisation intégrés dans les logiciels d’ordinateurs et de jeux vidéo et comportant des affichages sur écran ou des annonces sonores sont assimilés à des modes d’emploi. En conséquence, les modes d’utilisation des logiciels d’application et des logiciels d’exploitation doivent être établis en français, qu’ils soient sur papier ou intégrés dans le logiciel…

Toute publicité écrite, parlée ou audiovisuelle concernant les biens, produits ou services commercialisés.

Les biens et produits qui ont été introduits dans le territoire national avant le 7 mars 1995 … pourront continuer à être commercialisés sous leur présentation initiale jusqu’à écoulement des stocks, et au plus tard jusqu’au 7 mars 1996.

Le Premier Ministre
Alain Juppé

Also, Some Recent News on the Wire:
November 24, 2004
PARIS, France (AP) — General Electric employee Nadine Meslin says dealing with computer software in any language is tricky, but it’s even worse when you’re French and the jargon is in English.

French court weighs limits on English on Internet: A Paris court faces the question Monday of deciding whether French laws aimed at promoting the French language and culture can reach into cyberspace. The court is to hold a hearing on a legal challenge by two private French groups against a site on the global Internet computer network set up by the French campus of an American university, written entirely in English. Officials of Georgia Tech Lorraine, part of the Georgia Institute of Technology, say the Internet site is in English because all its courses are taught in English and all its students are required to be fluent English-speakers.

June 9, 1997
Georgia Institute of Technology has added multilingual translations to the web site for its French campus even though a court in Paris Monday rejected a lawsuit that claimed the site’s exclusive use of English had violated French law.

The Court rejected the suit because the organizations filing the law suit did not precede the suit with the filing of a complaint with the police, a requirement of the 1994 linguistic law.

The lawsuit centers on a rarely enforced 1994 law which bans advertising in a foreign language, unless it is accompanied by a French translation, manufacturers cannot sell goods without French instructions, and television and radio cannot use English words if a French equivalent exists. The law states that the police has to be notified and investigate before a civil suit is filed.

The lawsuit was brought by two French language watchdog groups, the Association for the Defense of the French Language and the Future of the French Language, both of which are partially funded by the French Ministry of Culture.

The groups sued Georgia Tech Lorraine, the French campus of Georgia Tech located in the city of Metz in eastern France, demanding that Georgia Tech Lorraine offer bi-lingual Web-pages. Georgia Tech is based in Atlanta (Georgia).

Georgia Tech Lorraine operates a site on the World-Wide-Web (WWW) which is in English only, except for the directions to the campus, which are in French. Under French law Georgia Tech Lorraine can face fines of up to $4,300 (25,000 francs) for every time an English-only page is accessed.

Georgia Tech Lorraine argued that its Web-pages have to be in English only, since that is the language in which the entire curriculum is taught.

It is estimated that 85% of all the pages on the World-Wide-Web are in English, and about 2% in French.

The two groups stated that they will appeal the court’s decision and are planning to file similar suits against restaurants with English-only menus. The groups also sued a British cosmetics chain, Body Shop, for selling products with English-only labels, and an electronics store, Inter Discount, for selling video games with English-only instructions.

Body Shop lost the law suit last year, and translated the labels on its products. In the Georgia Tech Lorraine case, the court did not mention whether the law was violated, it refused the case on the technical grounds that a police report was not previously filed.

CNN 6/9/97

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