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French plans to regulate iTunes may soften

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The French Senate appears to be softening plans that would have forced Apple and others offering copy-protected music downloads to open up their services so that music can be made interoperable with other music players, Associated Press reports.

Apple has always refused to share its digital rights management (DRM) software, known as FairPlay. Music downloaded from Apple iTunes will only play on a computer or an Apple iPod. It will not play on a rival portable music player. Microsoft and Sony do the same with their proprietary formats.

The French National Assembly approved a copyright bill in March which would make the separate systems interoperable with each other, by forcing the firms to make their DRM software available for scrutiny by competitors.

The lawmakers' motive was greater competition and consumer choice. But Apple called it "state-sponsored piracy", fearing it would reduce the effectiveness of copy-protection systems and of copyright itself.

Associated Press reports today that an amendment has been proposed by the Senate Cultural Affairs Committee that would allow Apple to maintain the exclusive link between iTunes and the iPod. But it appears that Apple would need to negotiate authorisation from record labels and artists to circumvent the requirement for interoperability in future downloads of their music.

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