Amendment May Protect DRM in France

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The French Senate is considering an amendment that would offer protection for proprietary Digital Rights Management (DRM) formats as a part of the controversial bill designed to open those same formats to competitors. The bill passed the French Lower House earlier this year, and includes language that requires companies to share their DRM technology with competitors. As it stands, Apple, Sony, Microsoft, and any other company that wants to sell digital music online would have to share their copy protection schemes so that every music download can play on any device.

According to Forbes, the proposed amendment adds a stipulation to the bill that allows companies to protect their DRM technologies as long as the digital content copyright holders and the distributors have agreed on a copy protection scheme. In the case of the iTunes Music Store (iTMS), it means that as long as Apple and the music labels agree on FairPlay as their DRM scheme of choice, competing music download services wonit be granted access to the technology.

Valerie Alumage, an online copyright specialist with Paris law firm Dubarry Le Douarin Veil, commented "As long as Apple can show that the restrictions conform to the wishes of copyright holders, there would be no case to answer."

The same holds true for Sony, Microsoft, and every other digital content download service. As long as the companies can show that they have obtained the authorization of the copyright holders, they can refuse to share their DRM technology.

The proposed amendment essentially nullifies the original intent of the law, which is to allow for interoperability between all music devices and services. Opponents to the bill, including Apple Computer, feel that it will erode protection for digital recordings because it will become even easier for users to steal music and movies.

Adding the amendment may very well be an attempt on the part of the French government to avoid losing legal music download services in their country. In leu of opening up their DRM technologies to competitors, legitimate music providers are likely to stop selling their products in France.

Although Apple and other companies have been lobbying intensively to protect their copy protection schemes, itis still unclear if the French Upper House will add the amendment to the bill.

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