France’s Parliament is considering legislation that would make it legal to crack the Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology that protects songs downloaded from Apple’s iTunes Music Store and other legitimate music download sites.
The law is to be voted on Thursday. Under the terms of the bill, consumers would be able to legally use software that converts digital music files from protected to unprotected formats,
All songs sold by the iTunes Music Store are protected by FairPlay, a DRM system that limits how many computers the music can be played back on, how many times a playlist containing DRM-protected music can be burnt to a CD, and what sort of portable devices the music can be played back on.
Apple has been criticized for not allowing its iTunes Music Store songs to be played back on any digital music player other than Apple’s own iPod. Few doubt, however, that the strategy has helped to sell iPods, which now make up a significant percentage of Apple’s annual revenue.
The law does not mandate that services selling DRM-protected music must remove their DRM; instead, it legalizes the consumers’ voluntary use of software designed to circumvent DRM. Proponents say that such legislation would help to stimulate interoperability between legitimately purchased music and portable music players.
Critics of the law say that users who crack the DRM on their songs will make that music available to others illegally. Critics also suggest that Apple may be tempted to shut down its iTunes Music Store operations in France to avoid compliance with the law. Supporters of the law explain that the legislation includes a provision to fine people who are caught sharing files illegally — with stiff penalties and jail time mandated for people who make and sell software used for illegal file-sharing.
Apple had no comment.