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French concessions on DRM not enough for Apple

Time for Le Crunch

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Moves by French politicians to soften plans that will force Apple and others to open up DRM to help consumers do not go far enough, industry representatives have claimed. The interoperabilty bill was passed yesterday by the upper house of the French parliament.

Under the relaxed proposals, rather than force Apple and others using DRM software to abandon copy protection, a new agency would be set up to consider issues on a case-by-case basis. Applications from other firms wanting access to Apple's Fairplay DRM would have to apply to the agency.

But Francisco Mingorance, a policy director at the Business Software Alliance, which represents Apple, Dell and Microsoft, warned lawmakers it would still cripple the industry. He told the Financial Times: "All legitimate businesses that operate in France and use legitimate technology protection will have to ask themselves...is it worthwhile [doing business] in France?"

Apple has previously called the laws "state-sponsored piracy".

Parts of the new laws meant to clamp down on software publishers whose products are used for piracy, could mean legitimate firms suffer, Mingorance said.

The bill will now go before a committee where senators and assembly members finalise the text before it reaches the statute books. A draft will be drawn up from each of the two houses, each with different clauses that need to be merged.

The Senate version may allow Apple to argue to the new copyright agency that DRM protects artists' rights, which are near-sacred under French law, Business Week reports.

If the bill is passed in the form originally intended, many expect Apple to close its French iTunes store in order to protect its iTunes-iPod exclusivity arrangements. ®

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