France Adopts Toned Down Version of Download Law

The French parliament on Friday adopted a watered-down version of a
law once seen as posing a major threat to the future of online media
stores like Apple's iTunes in France.
The law, intended to counter the dominance of industry leaders like
Apple or Microsoft in online media stores, aroused bitter opposition
in its original form and sparked suggestions Apple might pull its
iTunes operation out of France.
In its initial form, the bill would have forced online stores like
iTunes to drop barriers that prevent songs it sells being played on
portable MP3 devices and computers designed to work with another music
store.
At present, songs bought on iTunes can only be played directly on
Apple technology like the iPod although they can also be burned onto
CDs.
But after amendments introduced in the Senate, the law allows
companies to argue that measures to restrict the technical
compatibility of songs or films sold online were undertaken at the
request of the authors.
The law, passed without a further reading after a special
administrative measure from the Minister of Culture, was condemned by
the opposition Socialists and several deputies in the ruling UMP
party.
The Socialists said they would seek a ruling by the Constitutional
Court.
But the government said it provided adequate rights for both consumers
and operators.
"It will allow the development of legal services," Culture Minister
Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres said.
Apple's iTunes service is currently the biggest online content store
after the runaway success of the iPod player but it faces competition
from several rivals including Sony Corp , Dell Inc. and Microsoft.
Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.
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