French National Assembly approves digital copyright bill; could affect Apple’s FairPlay DRM

“The French National Assembly approved a digital copyright bill on Tuesday that will require DRM (digital rights management) developers to reveal details of their technology to rivals that wish to build interoperable systems. The bill could affect the FairPlay DRM used by Apple Computer Inc. in its iTunes Music Store and iPod music players, and Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Media DRM, used by rival French music stores Fnac.com and Virginmega.fr to lock downloaded tracks to particular music players,” Peter Sayer reports for IDG News Service. “Deputies voted to approve the bill, ‘Authors’ rights and related rights in an information society,’ by 286 votes to 193. The bill now goes to the Senate for a second reading [expected to begin in early May], and a vote, before it becomes law.”

Full article here.

“Apple has so far refused to comment on the bill or on analysts’ suggestions that the Cupertino, Calif.-based company might choose to withdraw from the French online music market rather than share the proprietary technology at the heart of its business model. Representatives for Apple France did not return calls Tuesday,” Laurence Frost reports for The Associated Press. “Under the bill, companies would be required to reveal the secrets of hitherto-exclusive copy-protection technologies such as Apple’s FairPlay format and the ATRAC3 code used by Sony’s Connect store and Walkman players. That could permit consumers for the first time to download music directly to their iPods from stores other than iTunes, or to rival music players from iTunes France.”

Full article here.
Earlier this morning, MacDailyNews reader “john” wrote us with an interesting idea. “The French can’t specifically force Apple to give up selling AAC files specifically, but it can force it to find a way to make its iPod [and iTunes Store] somehow interoperable with other [services and devices] in France. Apple could provide its French customers exclusively with a collection of its iTunes catalog in the MP3 format in addition to providing the same catalog in the AAC format (MP3’s with whatever DRM that may or may not be required as per the music labels desire, since the music labels seem to be ok with this new idea). And in the iTune’s download interface for French users only, allow they to choose whichever format they wanted- be it AAC or MP3. If Apple’s competitors wanted to sell files that worked seamlessly with the iPod, all they’d have to do is to provide those files in the MP3 format. Beyond that, everything else would remain exactly the same. In all the ways that matters, Apple would be in full compliance with the new French law, Apple’s competitors would still not have direct access to either FairPlay or the iPod, and there’d be nothing the French could do about it.

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55 Comments

  1. ^Common sentiment on this board. Its odd, because the French are so much like Americans. They’re both criticized for arrogance. And there is the whole matter of the French being responsible for helping the Americans gain independence from Britain.

  2. If you look at the way that Emusic.com sells tracks it would be easy to see a way for Apple to get around this and put pressure on the labels.

    If you look at the eMusic catalog and the iTunes catalog there is some overlap with eMusic selling mostly independent labels. eMusic sells all their songs in unprotected MP3. What would stop Apple from selling those songs the same way, and make the argument that they are complying with the law. The burden then falls on the labels since they are the ones preventing music from being sold without DRM.

  3. Heyyy, come onnnn. I love de French. I mean, it’s like having a retarded little cousin — everybody loves them. Yeh-heh-hehesssss. Hey, listen, I don’t enjoy knocking the French. Really, they’re good people. I’m an American comic — it’s just my job.

    No really, I enjoyed my time in France a few years ago. ‘Course, Paris smelled like downtown Trenton on a hot summer day. And I swear I was de only one who smelled like soap. But you know de old joke, ‘What do you call someone in France taking a bath? A tourist’.

    Hey, I keed. I keed because . . .

    I hate de French people with a passion!

    YEH-HEH-HEHESSSSSSS! Bring it on, nerds, I got a million of them.

  4. Very interesting idea “reader john”. The French gov might not like it, but if it satisfies the law, then they can’t complain. The people that’ll complain will be MS, Sony et al. They’re salivating over the idea of getting Apple’s DRM legally even if it is just for one country. If Apple pulls out of France, then MS can easily open up it’s drm as everyone else (other than Sony) is using it anyway. They’re not giving away any “secrets to rivals”. They have nothing to loose. Then they’ll own the French market.

    My question is does this in any way come into play with osX and other apps on the mac other than iTunes? What about video downloads from ITMS?

  5. The economic facts of the matter are that if France were to become a state of this union (heaven forbid!), it would be ranked 46th in GDP among our 50.

    That’s right, folks.

    France is a little old gray lady, and if she wishes to cut off her nose to spite her face in this matter, so be it. Apple can easily absorb the shock.

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