The odd saga of the regulation of copy protected music in France has taken another slight twist today. Let's go back through the history of the last eight months or so. First, the recording industry convinced some politicians in France to consider strict punishment for file sharers
, including the possibility of jailtime. Such an extreme position actually created a consumer backlash, leading politicians to swing in the opposite direction and push through a bill that actually legalized non-commercial file sharing
in exchange for a monthly license fee. This was followed by some more flip flops
, until the French Parliament focused in on pushing an open formats
bill, that would require copy protected content providers to allow interoperability with other media players, and, in exchange they would clarify the legal risks for file sharing (rather than legalize it). However, after more backroom wrangling, the final version
was somewhat toothless. There were easy ways for online content providers to get around the forced interoperability. However, the law did carve out a lower level of punishment for copyright violations, noting that copyright infringement is different from stealing tangible property.
Well, everything's changed again. France's Constitutional Council has now said that parts of the law are unconstitutional
. On the interoperability question, they say that content providers can't be forced to offer interoperability without compensation
. So, they can still be forced, under very specific circumstances, to interoperate -- but they'll get paid for it. Considering how toothless the law already was, it's hard to see this making much of a difference. A little more worrisome, however, is that the council took out the lower levels of punishment
, saying that personal copying really is no different than professional counterfeiting -- which doesn't make much sense. Either way, we're actually back where this whole process started. Folks who are caught sharing music or movies in France may now face jailtime and huge fines. So much for the consumer "revolution" there.