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It now faces a bicameral commission of seven deputies and seven senators who will meet on May 17 to seek a definitive text acceptable to both houses.

The bill was given its second reading in the Assemblée Nationale (lower house) on April 5, when an amendment called for Internet sales “of cultural goods” to come under the compass of the future law. The text, as voted by the Assemblée, also called for reproduction rights to be applied to auction catalogues.

Drouot President Dominique Ribeyre scoffed that “the parliamentary shuttle system has become a tango: one step forward, two steps back”.

But the main objections of both Ribeyre and Gérard Champin, President of France’s national auction body (Chambre Nationale des commissaires-Priseurs), centre on the amount of compensation commissaires-priseurs will receive for the loss of their auction monopoly. If the current figure of Fr900m is not raised, they say they will try and block the reform by appealing to the Conseil Constitutionnel, France’s supreme legal body, arguing that the reform is unconstitutional as it does not provide a “just advance indemnity” as specified by Article 17 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man.

An appeal to the Conseil Constitutionnel can only be lodged by 60 deputies or 60 senators, but commissaires-priseurs are confident that they can muster sufficient support among the (Right Wing) upper house for their appeal to be heard. Should the Conseil Constitutionnel uphold the appeal, the government would be obliged to redraft the reform bill and put it through the parliamentary process again, which would delay the reform by another year to 18 months.

If, on the other hand, the bicameral commission’s new text is acceptable to both houses and to the commissaires-priseurs, the reform is expected to become law this summer.