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France votes for DRM interop

And new fines for breaking it

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It's the "dawn of an equitable internet", says French culture minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres. The nation's parliament has backed a bill to mandate interoperability between competing lock-down software restrictions on digital media.

The lower house voted 296 to 193 in favor of a draft law that would force, for example, Apple to open its iPod to songs restricted with Microsoft's flavor of DRM, and Windows Media devices to play songs bought from Apple's iTunes Music Store.

It's something of a sop to French MPs, as it comes as part of raft of legislation that institutes new fines and custodial sentences for copyright infringement, and circumventing copyright restrictions.

Disable the locks on a song and you'll face a fine of €3,750 ($4,600). Distribute the file, and you'll be looking at a fine of €300,000 ($365,000), and jail.

Last week a bill which would have introduced a blanket license for digital media, financed by a small surcharge on internet access with the pot of money going to artists and rights holders. This would have made DRM unnecessary, and would have obliged online stores to compete on their range of their stock, their quality of service, and their know-how - rather than artificial technical restrictions.

As it is, digital music consumers may in the future enjoy the privilege of being mugged in a consistent manner.

The upper house is expected to vote in May, and if the bill is approved, will take effect in 2007. ®

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