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France to apple: "No DRM"

Monday, 20 March 2006 apple copyright drm

Its a common view that the EU and all its member states hate everything to do with software patents when it comes to bit US companies. MS has been hit in the past with millions of dollars of fines and forced to release new SKUs of Windows XP to conform with EU anti-trust rulings but now France is taking on Apple.

They say that Apple, by choosing to sell music through their store that will only play on their own hardware, is breaking monopoly laws and are pushing ahead with a motion to force Apple to effectively remove the DRM (digital rights management) from its music if they want to continue trading in France.

Songs bought through the iTunes store can only be played through iTunes, uploaded to an iPod and played or burnt to a CD. Even though the DRM can be circumvented in this final method, its technically criminalising users via the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the variations that have been adopted globally. I’ve talked at length about copy protections being bad in my article “Copy Protection Is Killing The Industry” but this further nails down the point that copy protections aren’t being used to stop people copying music at all. They’re here to trap people onto one brand of hardware as music bought on iTunes cannot be moved onto another companies MP3 player without breaking the DMCA by removing the DRM.

Apple is yet to comment on the progress of this bill. If they go ahead and open it up in France, we could see DRM stripped from worldwide stores. Conversely Apple may decide to pull business from France, but If the bill passes its likely that France will push this onto the EU books.

There is still one loophole that Apple can use to get out of this: If they license their DRM format — Fairplay (oh the irony) — to other MP3 player makers they can claim they are not hindering market growth by forcing people to use iPods. The dark-side of this is, they can charge as much as they like for the license.

Personally I hope this passes and makes it into the EU laws too. People locking media up with proprietary DRM is an evil way of doing business.

My source: Bloomberg — “France May Force Apple to Open Up iTunes as Bill Moves Ahead”