French legislators to compromise on iTunes

July 2006

Record labels, internet

The French National Assembly’s draft copyright bill which included the demand that companies such as iTunes and Napster share their copy-protection technology has been watered down. Currently tunes purchased at Apple’s iTunes Music Store won’t play on music players sold by Apple rivals. Likewise, an Apple iPod can’t play songs bought on Napster Inc. or other rival music stores. French consumer groups have called the restrictions anti-competitive and anti-consumer.
But the compromise, approved by a committee of legislators from both houses, maintains a Senate loophole that could allow Apple and others to sidestep that requirement by striking new deals with record labels and artists. A new regulatory authority will be given the power to resolve disputes by ordering companies to license their exclusive file formats to rivals – but only if the restrictions they impose are “additional to, or independent of, those explicitly decided by the copyright holders.” This means that Apple, Napster and Sony could avoid having to share their protection formats such as FairPlay and ATRAC3 if they obtained permission from the artists whose music they sell. Apple had earlier indicated that it would close its French iTunes store rather than comply with the first draft.

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