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French Parliament Fights iPod and iTunes 323

f00lforb00l writes "According to an article in New York Times, the French parliament is considering legislation which would require that the iPod also be able to use music from services other than the iTunes Store." From the article: "The outcome of the debate, which began as an update to French copyright law, is far from clear. But taken to one logical conclusion, amendments to the copyright bill could lead Apple, the market leader, to leave the French music business, said Jonathan Arber, a research analyst in London at the technology consultancy Ovum. 'My gut feeling is that Apple will simply pull out of France if these amendments get through,' Mr. Arber said. 'Weighed against breaking their business model for all markets, it doesn't make sense for Apple to continue operating with the iPod and iTunes in France.'" Update: 03/17 15:46 GMT by Z : A previous story covering this topic may also be of interest to you. Sorry, folks.
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French Parliament Fights iPod and iTunes

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  • by tpgp ( 48001 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @11:36AM (#14941828) Homepage
    It should be noted here that Apple have allready pulled the ipod from france [] due to decibel limits.

    However, Apple almost immediately surrendered, [] limiting the decibels with a firmware update so they could get the French market back again.
  • by MustardMan ( 52102 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @11:39AM (#14941856)
    EXACTLY - if sellers were willing to actually TRUST the people who purchase their music, instead of forcing DRM down their throats, this wouldn't be an issue. Apple's DRM is slightly less obtrusive than others out there, but DRM sucks, period. ANYONE could sell mp3s or non-drm'ed AAC files and they would play on the ipod just fine. The only music I've EVER purchased in digital format was from the band Manowar, which sells un-drm'ed mp3s directly from its website.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 17, 2006 @11:46AM (#14941926)
    In Europe it is illegal to pick a few items, tie them together in an artificial wrap and sell then an a single entity.

    In a word, horseshit. There is nothing in EU law that makes such bundling illegal, unless you are also a monopoly. The fact that non-iPod players and music services exist proves that Apple are not a monopoly. They're not even a de-facto monopoly; not by a long shot.

    This is political; the French don't like the fact that they can not impose their "cultural preservation" laws on iTunes and iPod owners; no doubt they feel that not enough "French" music is being sold by Apple, and if there is one thing the French can't stand it's the thought that people may not be quite French enough.

    You'd think they'd have more important things to worry about right now. Like violent student riots. Again.
  • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @11:50AM (#14941954)

    Well, I'm not really up on this sort of thing, but could not France then take its case to the EU, and petition the EU to bring a similar case?

    No. Apple is not (as far as anyone has determined) breaking any laws. They won their case in France and the EU has no reason to think they are breaking the law. This is not about Apple breaking the law, this is about France passing a new law to specifically force Apple to do something they desire. It's like a town passing a law that says Bob has to stop wearing that stupid hat. If Bob stops coming to town the townfolk can't go the the county or state and ask them to go after Bob for wearing it elsewhere, they need to get the larger jurisdiction to also pass a similar law.

  • by jthill ( 303417 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @11:52AM (#14941970) [], at least, have it right: this is about forcing Apple to at least license the AAC format, and it looks like they're toying with breaking DRM entirely.

    Good. Apple have been getting passes from the technical community on a few things. They've earned them. But they have no competition as targets for this kind of legislation, and someone had to fire the first shot. Good for the French.

  • by Alex P Keaton in da ( 882660 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @11:54AM (#14941983) Homepage
    Call me a jackass, but if Apple pulls out of France, can't people still easily get iPods and iTunes? I mean, with the EU, goods move fairly freely (I think) across borders, and people move between countries often. Traveling from France to a neighboring nation isn't like trying to get the 2000 miles from the tip of Florida to Canada. So won't the French, who want an iPod, just roll through the Chunnel, and buy one?
    And iTunes works with all music formats except the MS, so loading the things would be fairly easy....
  • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @11:55AM (#14941993) Homepage Journal
    First, let me say that I believe Apple should license the DRM to other online stores. I think this will help with the PR on the growing realization of the Apple monopoly, and won't hurt Apple. Other than Walmart, no one one else has the volume and pull to get the kind of deals Apple is getting. The DRM license fee, and branding, will help protect Apple from Wal*Mart.

    That said, this current issue is not an issue with Apple. The iPods only major restriction that if the file contain DRM, then the only DRM that will work is Apple's. The other major restriction, unfortunately, is the OGG files must be converted to supported format, but I doubt France is taking umbrage with this.

    So the real problem is DRM, and the people responsible for the DRM are the record labels. They have pushed this solution, and they have help create these near monopolies. Ultimately it is up to them to relinquish some control. The consensus outline of the solution appear to be well known. A royalty tax on a variety of products and services. The royalties will be paid based on tracking data, just like radio. It will be harder, but with good watermarks and random sampling of the P2P networks, it would work. The source will still be CDs and online, with CDs often the better choice in terms of value.

    Apple could play a role in this, but building such tracking into itunes. The labels could be more happy if Apple tacked another dime on the price and submitted to the central royalty bank. The only downside is that this might open the market up to independents.

  • What this law says (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Yvanhoe ( 564877 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @11:58AM (#14942011) Journal
    1) Interoperability must be assured by the providers and reverse-engineering toward this goal is authorized. (Article 7.)

    2) A publisher/editor can force an artist to accept that his/her creation will be published with DRMs. ("vivendi" amendment, actually, four different amendments)

    As you see, we have fucked up politicians here too. I would say we have slightly less corruption from the lobbies but far more incompetence.
  • by 1u3hr ( 530656 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:20PM (#14942193)
    Call me a jackass, but if Apple pulls out of France, can't people still easily get iPods and iTunes

    iPods yes, iTunes no. Many countries still can't buy from iTunes, France would go back on that list. French credit card and/or IP and you'd be rejected.

  • by Overly Critical Guy ( 663429 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:28PM (#14942261)
    My opinion would be no different. It's ridiculous and stupid of the French to force a company to make its product interoperate with other products just for the hell of it. A company has every right to sell a product, then sell a product or service that works with that product. What, is France going to force Microsoft to sell Office for Linux now? Or Halo 2 for the Gamecube? Does HBO now have to air "The Sopranos" on Fox? Does Sony have to sell XBox 360 games?

    If Apple was actually abusing its monopoly the way Microsoft did in the 90s--e.g., punishing retailers who sold competing products like with Microsoft's coercive OEM deals--then this would have merit. But Apple hasn't done that (and doesn't need to, they're #1 fair and square). You're totally free to buy a competing product and service.

    This is just the French hating Apple for being yet another American company taking over their precious little square of culture on the planet.
  • It's a free market (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Kunt ( 755109 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @02:28PM (#14943478)
    Apple doesn't actually force people to buy iPods or use iTunes. If people want to use other products and services, and there are plenty of those, they can go right ahead. French politicians really need to get their pâté de foie gras-eating heads out of their proverbial sit-upons and perhaps also turn their little brains on. Besides, Apple may very well use the free-trade legislation European Union to stop this madness.
  • by Submarine ( 12319 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @07:17PM (#14945693) Homepage
    (Note: contrary to 99% of the people answering here, I read the proposed law, as well as the debates on this text.)
    (Warning: What follows is precise fact. If you're waiting for the usual mentally retarded "yaah yaah the French are retarded" banter or the usual jokes about the "cultural exception", please read other messages.)

    In 2001, the European Union adopted a directive called EUCD which, following from a 1996 WIPO treaty, required member states to legally protect DRM "technical protection measures". Concretely, the EU asked France to enact appropriate penalties against people circumventing DRMs.

    In 2003, a law was drafted. Due to various circumstances, the law only came to Parliament in December 2005. The proposed law made circumventing DRMs, or even helping in circumvent DRMs, a felony punishable by up to 3 years in prison and/or up to a 300,000 EUR fine. The law was publicly justified by the need to protect the rights of the artists.

    One major criticism is that the law and some proposed amendments could in essence endanger any "free software" capable of playing music, video or even DRM-encumbered text (PDF, anyone?) because it could be argued that giving the source code of a DRM was a help in circumventing it. Not everybody wishes to risk a maximal sentence of 3 years in prison for free software.

    In December, the National Assembly famously adopted an amendment, the first in a series making p2p explicitly legal provided that Internet users paid a flat fee, against the wishes of the Minister of Culture. This started instant mayhem as the Minister tried to herd the Assembly back in his direction.

    In March, Parliament began discussing the text again. The directive imposed DRMs in order to safeguard the rights of the artists. Parliament then voted for amendments that said that DRMs were ok and protected, but provided that they were interoperable, in order to allow concurrence in the marketplace of software and hardware players.

    What this NYTimes article shows is that this bill was, in reality, not about the rights of the artists. It was about enacting criminal penalties for people who made concurrent products capable of reading the same contents. Now, some of those who pushed for the bill (makers of DRMs) are whining that their attempt backfired.

    To be blunter: some companies made DRMs, and requested heavy felony penalties against circumventers. Well, they have now been served obligations of compatibility in exchange for some ability to prosecute circumventers. That's life.

    Ah, by the way: in theory at least, French law prohibits "linked sales" to consumers - that is, tying the sale of a product to the sale of some other product, though this has wide exceptions.

God help those who do not help themselves. -- Wilson Mizner