RealTime IT News

A French Crack at FairPlay

The French government thinks it's an inalienable human right to be able to play any digital music file on any digital music player, but Apple Computer said such a right could only be part of a "culture of piracy."

Analysts predict the company will soon pull iTunes France.

The French parliament's lower house meant to guarantee what proponents called "the Net surfer's basic right to free choice" when its members voted 296 to 193 to support a copyright bill that would force Apple to decode the FairPlay format it uses to ensure iPods can only play iTunes songs.

Apple said the bill amounts to "state-sponsored piracy." If the French Senate passes the bill, Apple said, "Legal music sales will plummet just when legitimate alternatives to piracy are winning over customers."

In a statement, French parliamentarians Richard Cazenave and Bernard Carayon said they hope the bill's provisions "will be taken up by other countries to prevent a monopolistic supply of online culture."

As recently as last April, the U.S. Congress considered passing a copyright law to mandate music file compatibility, but music industry and consumer groups lobbied to kill the proposed legislation.

Cazenave and Caryon called the French legislation the "most advanced in Europe and in the world."

Others think its impact will be minimal.

According to Piper Jaffray, the French market accounts for less than 2 percent of Apple's iPod and iTunes business. Rather than comply with the new law, analyst Gene Munster wrote, "Apple is more likely to drop out of the French market."