Followup: France’s Digital Interop Bill [3:06 pm]
Amendments to an online copyright bill, adopted early Friday, would give rivals access to the hitherto-exclusive file formats at the heart of Apple’s music business model as well as Sony Corp (NYSE:SNE - news).’s Walkman players and Connect store.
[...] According to the latest amendments, however, copy-protection technologies like Apple’s exclusive FairPlay format and Sony’s ATRAC3 “must not result in the prevention of the effective application of interoperability.”
Companies would have to share all “information essential to the interoperability” of their copy-protection formats with any rival that requests it. If they refuse, a judge can order its delivery, on pain of fines.
The draft law could force Apple to let French iPod users buy their music from download sites other than iTunes. Owners of other music players would also be allowed to buy songs from iTunes France.
“Without guaranteed interoperability, we run a major risk of captive client bases and an anti-competitive situation, with the consumer held hostage as a result,” read the explanatory note accompanying one of the key amendments, introduced by five lawmakers from the governing conservative Union for a Popular Movement.
[...] Critics of the draft law say legislators have no business forcing Apple to share its proprietary format, which most customers are aware of when they choose to buy an iPod. But consumer groups argue that the only way to give customers real choice is to break open the restrictions.
Also, from InfoWorld: French bill may drive away open-source developers
At issue was an amendment to the bill that tacked on a three-year prison sentence and a fine of €300,000 ($360,000) for publishing, distributing or inciting people to use software “manifestly intended to make protected works available to unauthorized persons.” The protected works referred to include DVDs and some digital music files, the use of which is restricted by DRM (digital rights management) systems.
Supporters of open-source software — including a number of deputies participating in the debate — fear that the bill would make it illegal to develop something as innocent as a DVD player application for the Linux (Overview, Articles, Company) operating system, since an open-source implementation of the algorithm required to decrypt and play a DVD would necessarily also contain code useful to someone wishing to make copies of it.
If they risk imprisonment or financial ruin working on such projects in France, then “French companies, engineers and researchers will become expatriates and develop the software beyond our borders,” another deputy, Patrick Bloche, warned during the debate on Wednesday night.