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French National Assembly approves copyright bill

It would legalize the use of DRM and drastically limit peer-to-peer apps

By Peter Sayer
March 21, 2006 12:00 PM ET

IDG News Service - The French National Assembly approved a digital copyright bill on Tuesday that will require digital rights management (DRM) developers to reveal details of their technology to rivals that wish to build interoperable systems. The bill could affect the FairPlay DRM used by Apple Computer Inc. in its iTunes Music Store and iPod music players, and Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Media DRM, which is used by rival French music stores and to lock downloaded tracks to particular music players.

Deputies voted 286-193 to approve the bill, called "Authors' rights and related rights in an information society." The bill now goes to the Senate for a second reading and a vote, before it can become law. The government pushed the bill through under emergency procedures that deprive deputies and senators from their usual right to a third and fourth reading of a bill.

Although the bill will force DRM manufacturers to reveal some details of their systems, it will also legalize the use of DRM in France. Today, CDs with a DRM function that prevents the discs from playing on some equipment are considered legally to have concealed flaws, and buyers have a right to legal redress. The bill will change that.

In addition, the bill will make it illegal to develop, distribute or promote peer-to-peer software for purposes other than engaging in collaborative work, research or the exchange of noncommercial works. In addition, if French Internet users are found to have traded illicit files using P2P software, they will face a fine of $46 per infraction for downloading, or $182 per infraction for uploading. The bill calls on the Council of State to determine what level of trading constitutes an infraction.

Other measures in the bill could "threaten [the development of] free and open-source software," according to Patrick Bloche, a deputy who opposed the bill, speaking in the Assembly just before the vote. The bill's restrictions on the ways third-party software can interact with proprietary DRM systems mean that French open-source software developers and researchers will lose out, Bloche said.

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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