After plenty of changes, it looks like France has approved a new law to get Apple to open up iTunes
, by requiring it to share technical information, under certain conditions (which turn out to be quite important). If you recall, in the original version
, it would have forced anyone selling music to open up the content so it could be played on any device. Rather than using that as an opportunity to experiment with DRM-free music, Apple instead announced that it would probably leave the French market. This resulted in a series of negotiations and changes so that the new bill doesn't require full openness. It only requires that anyone selling copy-protected music give technical info to competitors who request it to make sure that songs from one service can play on other devices -- with one major exception. If the restrictions are part of the contract the music store has with the record labels, then they do not
need to open them up. In other words, expect Apple to renegotiate its contracts (if they don't already have this) to make sure that its FairPlay copy protection is a part of the contract.
However, this does bring up one interesting possibility. It hands some power back to the record labels if the renegotiation is necessary. The record labels should (but probably don't) recognize that forcing Apple to open up actually helps
them -- because it takes away Apple's power position
in the market. Thus, if they refuse to renegotiate the contract and force Apple to open up (if it stays in France) it could give them their first opening to breaking down Apple's dominant position. Alternatively, the record labels could use this as a negotiating ploy to finally get Steve Jobs to back down
on the $1/song price that he demands, and which the labels have wanted to ditch
for years. Either way, it seems like this law could give some power back to the record labels -- which seems like the opposite of its original intention to give more power to users.