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France may adopt download licence

Though opposition remains strong

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France may still adopt a general download licence that would legalise internet movie and music downloads, despite heavy opposition in some corners of government. The proposal calls for a monthly fee of €8 to €15 to compensate for lost royalties.

On Tuesday, French government and MPs debated the new digital copyright bill with a final vote to be expected on 14 March.

The proposed licence has met fierce resistance from the centre-right government, which already changed the original bill it had prepared for debate in December, leaving out two amendments that would have legalised downloads. Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres yesterday defended the revised version at the National Assembly, France's lower house, but was highly criticised by the opposition.

In the new bill, fines for illegal downloading are reduced to €38, with higher penalties for breaking copyright protection on a commercial DVD.

A download licence is also still highly opposed by the French record industry and a couple of French artists, including veteran rocker Johnny Hallyday, who says the compensation is inadequate.

French consumer groups, however, urged politicians yesterday "not to go against the tide of digital history". Approximately 8 to 12m French residents already download music and films illegally. ®

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