French law would force Apple to open iTunes Music Store to non-iPod devices

“France is pushing through a law that would force Apple Computer Inc. to open its iTunes online music store and enable consumers to download songs onto devices other than the computer maker’s popular iPod player,” Astrid Wendlandt reports for Reuters. “Under a draft law expected to be voted in parliament on Thursday, consumers would be able to legally use software that converts digital content into any format.”

“It would no longer be illegal to crack digital rights management — the codes that protect music, films and other content — if it is to enable to the conversion from one format to another, said Christian Vanneste, Rapporteur, a senior parliamentarian who helps guide law in France,” Wendlandt reports. “‘It will force some proprietary systems to be opened up … You have to be able to download content and play it on any device,’ Vanneste told Reuters in a telephone interview on Monday. Music downloaded from Apple’s iTunes online music store currently can only be played on iPods. The law, if enacted, could prompt Apple to shut its iTunes store in France, some industry observers say, to keep from making songs vulnerable to conversion outside France, too.”

“‘The person who will have converted iTunes songs will be able to make it available elsewhere,’ Marc Guez, head of the French Collecting Society for Music Producers rights (SCPP) told Reuters. Apple officials in France and Britain did not return calls seeking comment. The law would also mean that other online French music retailers such as Fnac, part of PPR, would have to make iTunes songs available on their Web sites.”

Full article here.
Are the French going to pass a law that forces Sony to release PlayStation games for Microsoft’s Xbox on the same day? Who’s writing the law that requires Autodesk to release the French version of AutoCAD for Mac OS X or the one that forces French website developers to stop developing Microsoft Internet Explorer-only websites?

A song is a song is a song. If you want the latest Britney Spears song to play on the Creative or iRiver player that Grandma mistakenly got you for Christmas, what’s stopping you from buying it from, shudder, Napster or whatever outfit still happens to be in business? And what about exclusives? How would the French handle that one? If iTunes – or Napster for that matter – has a deal to offer an exclusive song from an artist to drive customers to their stores, how “exclusive” is it? Remember, in Apple’s case, iTunes exclusives are also there to sell iPods. If those songs can be played anywhere (let’s pretend that the songs aren’t stripped of their DRM and up on P2P within minutes anyway), doesn’t that damage the exclusivity agreement beyond repair?

This unjust law would unfairly damage one party, Apple, that has worked hard and fairly to win the market while disproportionally benefitting all of the loser outfits that couldn’t compete with Apple in the open market. How would France compensate Apple?

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  1. Re: MDN’s take. Um…gee, that’s stupid. There ARE some games that are BOTH on Playstation and XBox. There’s no DRM involved, since the games are coded differently from one platform to the other.

    If their take was that “this should also mean that music from Napster, Yahoo et al can play on iPods” then it’ll make more sense.

  2. This is a dumb law and will open up more than just one can of worms. As others have commented when do they release Xbox games for the playstation and vise versa. How do they expect to break the DRM that was given to them by the record companies that wanted them there in the first place? It seems France wants to break the whole DRM completely and make it a free for all. I think Apple would shut down there iTunes store in France before they let a stupid law like this go into effect that has no merits and actually breaks the DRM laws that are in effect now!

  3. Interesting take. However, games are games, music is music. Consumers have an expectation that music formats will not be closed and tied to one vendor’s hardware.

    Back when I had records, they worked on every record player (although they wouldn’t if Thomas Edison had his way). CDs worked in all CD-players. Then we had DVD-assinanity with DVD-r, DVD+R, DVD-rw, DVD+rw, DVD-ram, etc., in addition to DVDs that play in North America not working in Europe. Madness that’s still not fully sorted out.

    Anyone remember when 3.5″ disks had to be mac-formatted? Finally Apple said “fsck it” and let their disk drives work with IBM formatted disks. The world became a better place.

    Format wars are all about greed. Let the iPod work with any format, let the also ran players play Apple’s DRM-encoded AAC, let music stores sell music that works anywhere. This action is in Apple’s long-term interest anyway.

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