“I’m very positive on the French, my family way back was French, so I go with it, but they are kind of, well, f***ing French at times….”
Eddie Izzard, Dress to Kill
As you may have heard, France’s Parliament is considering legislation that would allow citizens of that country to disable the copy protection imposed on music downloads. While companies other than Apple sell copy-protected downloads in France, the world’s attention is on the French edition of the iTunes Music Store, which, like all such stores, sells music protected with Apple’s FairPlay digital rights management scheme.
The details: The proposed legislation does not demand that DRM be removed from the music, only that consumers have the right to remove it with available tools. The law would purportedly include penalties for those who share file illegally. The idea behind the legislation is to encourage interoperability between devices—essentially allowing copy-protected music purchased from any music service to be played on any music player. Currently, music purchased from the iTunes Music Store can be played only on the iPod.
All the elements for great drama are here. Forget this nation’s debt to Lafayette, let’s take another poke at the French! And Apple? Will a company known for its desire to have things its way bow to the French government (and, presumably, the will of its people) or take its store and go home? And should Apple relent, are the company’s contracts with record moguls iron-clad enough to force said moguls to continue feeding music to iTunes even when that music can be legally stripped of its copy protection?
As thrilling as the ensuing drama seems to be, in my book it’s petites pommes de terre .
Look, the mechanism for putting iTunes music on other players is an open secret. Burn a CD of your protected music, fling the resulting CD into any player or program, rerip the CD, and move the music to the player of your choice. (Honestly, it doesn’t sound half bad.)
What this legislation proposes is that those who engage in this practice (or similar practices) won’t be prosecuted. As before, if you pass along music in violation of copyright laws, you’re potentially in trouble.
What it doesn’t propose is a threat to the future of legal digital downloads. Check your local peer-to-peer client or Internet news group and you’ll find that piracy is alive and well under current laws. If you want to obtain music illegally, there are lots of ways to do it. Allowing the French to legally remove DRM is certainly not going to worsen the situation.
As for the law being a threat to the iPod, mon dieu, isn’t it clear by now that the iPod drives iTunes rather than the other way around? As long as Apple keeps moving the iPod forward and competitors continue to bumble along in the iPod’s wake, Apple’s got nothing to worry about.