Or something. One would think it would be far simpler to outlaw DRM, rather than erecting this peculiar legal structure which, if it doesn’t outlaw DRM, will instead mean that there can only be one DRM, since otherwise these “conversion applications” will just be used to strip DRM entirely. Seems like the long ‘way around. France moves forward with law challenging Apple [pdf]
“These clauses, which we hope will be taken up by other countries, notably at the European level, should prevent the emergence of a monopoly in the supply of online culture,” Richard Cazenave and Bernard Carayon, National Assembly deputies from the ruling UMP party, said in a statement on Tuesday.
The new legislation would require that online music retailers such as iTunes provide the software codes that protect copyrighted material — known as digital rights management (DRM) — to allow the conversion from one format to another.
Apple responded on Tuesday night in California that if the law passes, it would only lead to increased piracy.
Later: France Takes a Shot at ITunes [pdf]
Government isn’t the only thing that may take this choice out of Apple’s hands. Programmers have already cooked up FairPlay-compatible programs; some let people buy iTunes songs without using iTunes, while others remove the FairPlay bits from a download, turning it into a standard AAC (advanced audio coding) music file. Apple has been able to update iTunes to lock out hacks like JHymn and SharpMusique, but can it keep that up?
History suggests not. In the long run, trying to stop a mass-market, proprietary format from being deciphered by motivated, skilled outsiders is like pushing water uphill with a sponge. If legislators don’t force iTunes open, the hackers will. And when they do that, the odds are higher that the inevitable successful hack will strip away all anti-piracy controls.
The alternative for Apple is to reduce the need to hack FairPlay by licensing it to other companies. Apple could earn a tidy return on licensing fees, just as the CD’s inventors have, while continuing its quest to ensure that every last person on the Metro has white iPod headphones stuck in their ears.
What about letting other music stores use FairPlay? Why not? Is there a better way for Apple to ensure the obliteration of Microsoft’s Windows Media rights-management software?
Apple probably can’t win the battle to maintain its grip on iTunes. But that doesn’t mean it can’t lose it profitably.