France has passed a controversial law which could render Apple's iTunes illegal. The new law is designed to force interoperability between digital songs and devices that play them and has been labelled as the 'ipod law'. Under the drafting agreed by the National Assembly, Apple could have been forced to open up its iTunes catalogue to other brands of MP3 players.
Apple was facing the choice of either disclosing details of its FairPlay DRM, or quitting the French market. Apple said the law was equivalent to "state-sponsored piracy".
However, the French Senate have taken the 'teeth' out of the proposed legislation with a series of amendments. The requirement for online music stores, such as iTunes, to reveal their DRM has been softened.
A loophole has been created, whereby DRM will be allowed in order to restrict a certain tune to a certain MP3 player if the copyright holder wishes to do so. Thus Apple will need artists and record labels permission in order to restrict iTunes to Apple iPods.
A new regulatory body is to be established which would mediate requests for systems which interoperate with proprietary DRM schemes. DRM technology developers will only be able to prevent revealing source code if they can show that it damages their system's security.
The law passed both houses on 30 June, but the Greens and Socialists in the parliament have mounted a legal challenge to the law. Should that fail, the law will automatically apply.
This is a major step and it is thought that other European countries may follow the French example. PPA reported a few months ago that Denmark was considering a similar law, and it is believed that Sweden and Norway may also follow suit.
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