French Senate vote could offer loophole for Apple’s iTunes

“Apple Computer Inc. could negotiate new deals with record labels and artists to sidestep French government plans to open the copy-protection technology of its iTunes music service to rivals, under a draft Senate amendment to be voted on this week,” Laurence Frost reports for The Associated Press. “The amendment, proposed by the Senate Cultural Affairs Committee, softens the terms of a government-backed copyright bill Apple criticized as “state-sponsored piracy” after its first reading in March by lawmakers in France’s lower house.”

Frost reports, “The Senate committee’s changes could allow Apple to maintain the exclusive link between iTunes and the iPod, lawyers and officials told The Associated Press. Under the key amendment, compatibility disputes would be taken to a new regulatory authority that would have the power to order exclusive file formats be shared – but only if the obstacles they pose are ‘additional to, or independent of, those explicitly decided by the copyright holders.’ In other words, Apple and Sony could continue to refuse to share their FairPlay and ATRAC3 file formats, provided they obtain the authorization of artists and other copyright holders whose music they sell online, said Valerie Aumage, an online copyright specialist with Paris law firm Dubarry Le Douarin Veil. ‘As long as Apple can show that the restrictions conform to the wishes of copyright holders, there would be no case to answer,’ she said.”

“The draft amendment follows intensive lobbying by the Cupertino, Calif.-based computer company, which sent representatives including iTunes designer Bud Tribble to Paris last month for a series of meetings with senior lawmakers. The Brussels-based Business Software Alliance, which campaigns on behalf of major software and hardware makers including Apple, Microsoft Corp. and Hewlett Packard Co., has also warned that the draft legislation would harm the fight against piracy and undermine new technologies like high-definition DVDs,” Frost reports. “The Senate is expected to complete its reading of the copyright bill in coming days, after which the legislation passes to a joint committee of Senators and lower-house deputies, charged with hammering out a compromise text.”

More in the full article here.

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Related articles:
Vive l’iTunes! French ‘state-sponsored piracy’ DRM law gutted in committee – May 01, 2006
Force open Apple’s FairPlay? What has possessed the French this time? – April 27, 2006
French Trade Minister: Apple’s iTunes must play fair in French music market – April 14, 2006
JP Morgan: French DRM law will have limited impact on Apple Computer – March 28, 2006
Dvorak: What the French got right with proposed DRM law – March 28, 2006
Will Apple’s Steve Jobs bid France adieu? – March 22, 2006
Wired’s Kahney: Proposed French copyright protection law a good thing for consumers in the long run – March 22, 2006
Apple calls proposed French DRM law ‘state-sponsored piracy,’ predicts iPod sales increase – March 21, 2006
French National Assembly approves digital copyright bill; could affect Apple’s FairPlay DRM – March 21, 2006


  1. I can’t see that Apple would find the proposed amendment at all satisfactory. It’s a *response* to the lobbying of Apple, HP, but it does not answer Apple’s desire for the French bureaucracy to keep their hands off their business or intellectual property.

    According to the synopsis, “compatibility disputes would be taken to a new regulatory authority that would have the power to order exclusive file formats be shared”. So Apple would *still* need to get the blessing of the bureaucrats, who might just rule against Apple. Apple or Sony could refuse to open up their file format “provided they obtain the authorization of artists and other copyright holders whose music they sell online”. More work, more delays, more legal expense. Who’s going to pay for this?

    So the amendment might not be as bad as the original legislation, but it’s still an unwarranted burden. Were Apple to pull iTunes from France, perhaps the locals would finally understand there is a cost to such economic meddling.

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