French 'iPod bill' seeks digital music player interoperability
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Legislation pending in the French Parliament would require that music purchased online for use on digital music players be compatible across all players. It has become popularly known in France as the "iPod bill," after the popular music player made by Apple Computer, and could pit France against Apple and other distributors of online music.
The National Assembly (lower house) and Senate (upper house) have passed two separate versions of the legislation. Both would reduce the penalties for piracy, require software companies to provide details on how their programs work, and create an agency that would have jurisdiction over digital copyright issues, including how often music can be legally copied by a customer for personal use and ensuring compatibility across devices.
Unlike the Assembly version, the Senate version does not contain provisions that would require manufacturers such as Apple and Sony to open all music sold on their platforms to work on players other than their own. Currently, the stores for Apple and Sony sell music only for use on their own players. Critics of the changes say that the Senate's changes would defeat the purpose of the bill.
The two versions must now be reconciled in conference committee, a process that could take months.
Speaking in support of the bill, Assembly member Christian Paul said, "We oppose the idea that the seller of a song or any kind of work can impose on the consumer the way to read it, forever, and especially in the consumer's home. Can we allow a couple of vendors to establish monopolies tightly controlling their clients and excluding competition?"
Christian Vanneste, the National Assembly sponsor of the iPod bill, said, "In France, there are two distinct mentalities. On one side is the backwards left, which is anti-American, and on the other is the right, which thinks that the U.S.A. shouldn't be the only one with good ideas, and who want to compete with them."
After the National Assembly's vote in March, Apple denounced the measure as "state-sponsored piracy." They refused to comment on the legislation after the Senate's vote on May 10.
Francisco Mingorance, European policy director for the Business Software Alliance, said that the Assembly's proposal is "about ripping off technology from those who developed it and putting it in the public domain." The Business Software Alliance represents Apple, Dell, Microsoft Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and other major computer hardware and software companies.
- John Ward Anderson. "Loading the iPod With Egalitarianism" — , May 26, 2006
- Thomas Crampton. "French iPod bill moves forward" — , May 11, 2006
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