Apple calls French bill ‘state-sponsored piracy’
PARIS – Apple Computer Inc. could negotiate new deals with record labels and artists to sidestep French government plans to open the copy-protection technology of its iTunes music service to rivals, under a draft Senate amendment to be voted on this week.The amendment, proposed by the Senate Cultural Affairs Committee, softens the terms of a government-backed copyright bill Apple criticized as “state-sponsored piracy” after its first reading in March by lawmakers in France’s lower house.
Apple’s market-leading iPod, which accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. media player sales, is currently designed to play music only from iTunes, which is also incompatible with rival players.The bill adopted by the National Assembly included proposals that would force Apple, Sony Corp. and others to share their copy-protection technologies, so that competitors could offer music players and online stores that are compatible with theirs. The measures were demanded by consumer groups and backed by the government.But the Senate committee’s changes could allow Apple to maintain the exclusive link between iTunes and the iPod, lawyers and officials told The Associated Press.
Under the key amendment, compatibility disputes would be taken to a new regulatory authority that would have the power to order exclusive file formats be shared – but only if the obstacles they pose are “additional to, or independent of, those explicitly decided by the copyright holders.”In other words, Apple and Sony could continue to refuse to share their FairPlay and ATRAC3 file formats, provided they obtain the authorization of artists and other copyright holders whose music they sell online, said Valerie Aumage, an online copyright specialist with Paris law firm Dubarry Le Douarin Veil.”As long as Apple can show that the restrictions conform to the wishes of copyright holders, there would be no case to answer,” she said.
While Aumage believes that this is the amendment’s most likely consequence, she also stressed that the “highly ambiguous” draft text is open to other interpretations.If the Senate committee proposal became law, record labels could be asked by Apple to gather the necessary authorizations for music they wanted to offer through iTunes in France.
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