Yesterday we wrote about the French law that would require companies to make their DRM interoperable. Our recommendation was that Apple, the main company affected, should view France as an experiment to see how this law altered the digital music market (another plus, which we didn't mention, is that if the law turns out to be a disaster, they can point that out to critics and governments elsewhere.). Well, Apple wasted little time ignoring our advice, promptly calling France a pirate state, and warning that legal music sales would plummet. Of course, it's hard to see how making legal sales more flexible will encourage illegal file trading. One aspect of the law, which remains unclear, is a potential clampdown on fair use. It's possible the government may set an artibtrary limit on the number of personal copies an individual can make of their music. The music industry, which doesn't understand the difference between fair use and piracy, would obviously hope to see this limit set quite low. It would be interesting to see what would happen if the French law liberally allowed fair use, but cracked down on obvious piracy and file trading. That would put many of the more radical anti-DRM activists in an awkward position, since they usually claim that their main gripe with the technology is that it's limiting to personal use, when in fact, many just want free stuff. It would also put the music companies in an awkward position since they use the piracy argument as cover for trying to get users to buy multiple copies of the same media. If the French law is crafted and implemented well, it could improve the position for consumers, while revealing the intentions of all sides on this issue.
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