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.”

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