French DRM law gets de-clawed

— 2:53 PM on June 23, 2006

A joint committee of French lawmakers has approved a toned-down version of the so-called "iPod bill" that sought to promote Digital Rights Management (DRM) format interoperability. The previous draft of the bill met harsh criticism from Apple, which said it would result in a "state-sponsored culture of piracy" by allowing users to crack open and bypass DRM formats. Instead of absolutely requiring companies like Apple to release information about their DRM encryption methods, the latest bill would leave it up to copyright holders like record labels and artists to decide whether their music should be locked up. The new draft also calls for a regulatory body to rule which companies should license their DRM formats.

Were it to receive approval from copyright holders, Apple could therefore maintain its iTunes/iPod lock-in under the new bill. The company appeared lukewarm about the prospect, though, only stating, "We . . . hope [the French] let the extremely competitive marketplace driven by customer choice decide which music players and online music stores are offered to consumers." Some analysts believe Apple could decide to pull out of the French market if the bill becomes law, but such a move could prove hasty in the light of similar interoperability concerns from other European countries like Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.

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