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March 13, 2006

Those French! [5:40 pm]

This should make for quite the interesting fight: French plan would open iTunes to other devices [pdf]

France is pushing through a law that would force Apple Computer Inc (Nasdaq:AAPL - news) to open its iTunes online music store and enable consumers to download songs onto devices other than the computer maker’s popular iPod player.

Under a draft law expected to be voted in parliament on Thursday, consumers would be able to legally use software that converts digital content into any format.

It would no longer be illegal to crack digital rights management — the codes that protect music, films and other content — if it is to enable to the conversion from one format to another, said Christian Vanneste, Rapporteur, a senior parliamentarian who helps guide law in France.

“It will force some proprietary systems to be opened up … You have to be able to download content and play it on any device,” Vanneste told Reuters in a telephone interview on Monday.

[...] The law, if enacted, could prompt Apple to shut its iTunes store in France, some industry observers say, to keep from making songs vulnerable to conversion outside France, too.

[...] Police agents can monitor music exchange Web sites and trace back the email address of beneficiaries by asking the Internet service provider for it through a court order.

The proposed law would also secure private copies of legally downloaded material, but the number of private copies could be limited and have yet to be determined. DVDs are expected to be excluded from the law, Vanneste said.

The new legislation is triggered by France’s need to transpose the European directive on copyrights into its own body of law, which it failed to do by the December 2002 deadline.

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Pirate Bay [2:21 pm]

The Pirate Bay: Here to Stay?

Last month, the Motion Picture Association of America announced one of its boldest sorties yet against online piracy: a barrage of seven federal lawsuits against some of the highest-profile BitTorrent sites, Usenet hosts and peer-to-peer services. Among the targets: isoHunt, TorrentSpy and eDonkey.

But, as always, one prominent site is missing from the movie industry’s announcement (.pdf), and it happens to be the simplest and best-known source of traded movies — along with pirated video games, music, software, audio books, television broadcasts and nearly any other form of media imaginable. The site is called The Pirate Bay, and it’s operated by a crew of intrepid Swedes who revel in tormenting the content industries.

“All of us who run the TPB are against the copyright laws and want them to change,” said “Brokep,” a Pirate Bay operator. “We see it as our duty to spread culture and media. Technology is just a means to doing that.”

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Today Seems To Be Ozzie/Microsoft Day In The Papers [8:20 am]

This article seems to include most of the story. And, while I understand the notion of network-based services, I fail to appreciate how such a thing helps the general purpose computer user. While I know people do it, there’s no way I would ever do my taxes, for example, on a web-based tool — I have NO idea who might be able to read it, and what one might do with it. So, taking that to its limit, the discussion here is really about taking the “general purpose” out of computing and turning them all into fancy appliances, I fear. Microsoft Puts Profit on the Line With Web-Based Focus [pdf]

This time, Microsoft wants to diversify away from prepackaged software and toward Web-based services that provide steadier, faster-growing income streams. In this vision, users would lease access to online software or use services for free in exchange for putting up with on-screen ads.

Gates warned his lieutenants that every part of the company would have to embrace the new market realities: “This coming ’services wave’ will be very disruptive.”

[...] Unlike earlier challenges that genuinely threatened Microsoft’s survival, Web services are treated like one more number to cover on the roulette table, said David Yoffie, a business professor at Harvard University. It’s a reason to doubt the company’s seriousness about transforming itself, he said.

“Microsoft has moved from a highly focused firm to a software conglomerate,” Yoffie said. “They are betting on basically everything that has potential to be large and important on the software side of computing, communications and entertainment.”

If so, the services push may be Gates using his famously effective paranoia to keep the company hungry, and partly a ploy to keep competitors off balance.

“Microsoft is going to remain a software company for as long as they possibly can,” said Matt Rosoff, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft. “There’s a bit of misdirection going on here.”

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