Legal Issues

by Joseph Weisenthal

Apple Rearranges Beret, Shouts 'Non' To French DRM Law

from the that-didn't-take-long dept

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.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymoose, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 8:33am

    Apple PR blunder

    Microsoft is chortling.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    giafly, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 8:52am

    It's about Control

    "Analysts have said that Apple will likely pull out of France before it opens up its FairPlay DRM to other companies."

    Apple "were always going to have a very strong reaction,'' said Jonathan Arber, an analyst at Ovum. "This is a pretty big threat to them and something they don't want to see happen.'' The iTunes business model "is built on its very lack of interoperability with other devices and services,'' Arber said.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Joe Smith, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 8:54am

    French law making

    You would think the French legislators would have something better to do, what with students rioting in the streets over labor market reforms which are designed to try to increase job opportunities for young people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 10:52am

    Good move by Apple.

    Maybe Apple is just implying this will create a pirate state to get the RI/MPAA up in a huff so they will do all the lobbying for them.

    Apple probably doesn't care one way or the other since iPod sales may increase if tunes can be purchased from anywhere.

    Their current music sales contracts probably won't allow them to do this, but if France makes them they can at least say they tried to the RI/MPAA.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 11:09am

    Student riots can easily be eliminated with DRM free mp3s. Look at American students. They can barely drag their lazy asses off the couch to get another beer/bong hit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    eric, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 11:31am

    picky picky picky

    Not on topic, but I think it's implemented, not implimented.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Whateva, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 11:34am

    Way to go...

    An online/digital music business model that works, and is reasonable in its DRM limits, under attack. No wonder the music industry is hesitant to embrace legal music downloading. An entire law crafted so obviously against one company, purely because of the popularity of its products is supremely arrogant and ultimately stupid. The key to Apple's success is the ability to easily acquire and listen to music that you want, for a reasonable price, on decent products. Now honestly, if you don't want to be tied to an iPod, or iTunes, or the inevitable iPhone for ringtones, I can understand that, and perhaps instead of forcing the company to break a successful product, perhaps some measures can be taken to legalize (or even just ignore) the porting of DRM media to alternate formats and hardware. But don't force Apple to do it.

    Apple's motivations are clear -- from a business standpoint, the iTMS/iPod hardware combination are a winning product, if that product will no be allowed to prosper in a certain market, then perhaps they should cut their losses and leave. The Frenchies' motivation is far less clear. Forcing DRM interoperability is like forcing companies that manufacture tape players to be able to play CDs. I simply can't understand why governments have to force private enterprises to build custom products from them. If you don't like the product the way it is, don't fucking buy it. I still just buy CDs and rip them to whatever I want for my own fair use. Perhaps an initiative to reaffirm and clarify fair use that isn't bundled with an attack on Apple would be far more beneficial to the consumer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    icepick314, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 11:50am

    Re: Way to go...

    I don't get why music software/hardware gets less scrutiny than OS software....

    by the argument "If you don't like the product the way it is, don't fucking buy it.", why so many people complain about Windows OS?

    I personally think open music is great idea....I would love to use iPod playing ogg, flac, wma...whatever format I feel comfortable using....or maybe use some other hardware with iTunes since I would hate to buy plugin everytime new iPod model comes out and older addons don't work with new model...

    and acutally there ARE tape players that play's called a boombox....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Angry Rivethead, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 11:50am

    My opinion is...

    If they followed the model that DRM'd songs, format and encoding selections and price based on filesize so that the average song was around $0.50 piracy would essentially dissappear.

    The reasons I pirate (in order of importance):

    1.) I can't get the most music I listen to on ANY pay site (when I DO buy, I order from

    2.) I refuse to pay the same or more for an electronic copy of an album that:
    A.) Has less overhead involved for distribution so it should cost significantly less
    B.) Is locked down so I can't directly transfer it to my VX9800 for portability.

    3.) Out of spite for the fact the recording industy has thier head up thier 4th point of contact...remember them suing Diamond Multimedia back in the day?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Jacques De Baguette, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 11:55am

    Not sure who to make fun of more!

    This story is great. Apple is taking an offensive line against the French DRM Maginot line.

    How long until the Mac tanks drive right around it and parade through the Arc de Triomphe?

    Either way this fight will be entertaining- the poor souls caught in the middle are French Mac users. So who cares?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Pragmatist, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 12:16pm

    This is NOT an iTunes Law...

    This is a law requiring ALL DRM to be made interoperable. In effect, it means removing DRM entirely. (It is similar to requiring all OS vendors or all application vendors to support all platforms, which would be economically unviable. OS X on DEC? Windows on VAX?) In all probability, Apple would be in violation of its licenses to the iTunes content if it sold it without DRM. So if the law passes, I'm not sure they have much choice other than pulling out of France. Of course, France's economy is smaller than California's so they probably won't make much of a dent in the overall picture at Apple.

    That said, I'm not sure why the government is legislating this instead of dealing with:

    - second major set of riots this year
    - abject failure to integrate immigrants
    - utter economic noncompetitiveness
    - rampant unemployment (highest in the EU?)
    - collapsing social model

    Oh right, it's because Apple is American and it's good to stick it to America.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Common Sense 101, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 12:27pm

    France: How To Be Passionately Irrelevant

    From students rioting over laws that are factually the only hope for them to become a competitive economic force or even have jobs in the coming years, to this pointless fantasy law - France does nothing better than making lots of loud and impotent noise to remind the rest of the planet that nobody has or is doing more to screw France than they are doing to themselves.

    Of course Apple isn't going to go for this drivel - and anyone who suggests that they should or by any common sense, even could...

    ..must be another brilliant graduate of those fine French business and economic schools.

    Nobody at Apple is losing sleep over this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Jim Snyder, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 1:26pm

    Re: My opinion is...

    "Out of spite for the fact the recording industy has thier head up thier 4th point of contact..."

    Is anyone else out there counting various combinations of body parts and/or sense organs to figure out what points one through three are?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    jdragon, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 1:38pm

    state-sponsored piracy

    French can't innovate, so they'll try to steal. This is going to nothing more than a state-sponsored piracy act.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 3:24pm

    Re: Re: My opinion is...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    physio, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 3:51pm

    Go France Go

    France is doing something that should help redeem them in the eyes of Americans. Sure the lock down is good for Apples business but it is the worst possible thing for the customer in general.

    I hope, hope, hope that other countries follow their lead.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    France, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 5:45pm

    We surrender!

    We'll buy you songs and pay your pesky fees, just please don't call us names in the press!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    fishbane, Mar 22nd, 2006 @ 7:29pm

    My word! I'll have to start calling them "freedom downloads" when I buy locked down music.

    Oh, wait, I don't buy locked down music. Or CDs. My local music scene gives me (a 33 year old exec) all the music I need legally. I still have my ~400 or so CDs from growing up, but I don't need RIAA downloads, or CDs. I've ripped all the greats from my childhood, and what new music I listen to is legally given to me.

    The one exception is new classical performances. I do still buy those. I doubt there's much of a fanboy base there, though.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Tim, Mar 23rd, 2006 @ 1:42am

    Re: Way to go...

    Forcing DRM interoperability is like forcing companies that manufacture tape players to be able to play CDs.

    That's not even close to a good analogy. An MP3 is still an MP3, whatever DRM is in force on it. A better analogy would be, buying a CD signed by Sony only working on your Sony Hi-Fi, not your Panasonic, Technics, etc.

    I have an iRiver, therefore I don't buy off iTunes - simple. If Apple takes DRM off iTunes, I can buy from iTunes and everyone wins. Simple.

    Personally, I'm disappointed in Apple's stance here. They had a real chance to look like the good guys in the industry (even if that's questionable in reality), with only a small amount of risk to their profits in what is a small market for them.

    Maybe I just expect too much....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2006 @ 3:53pm

    Re: Re: Way to go...

    I agree that analogy was completely stupid - I hope other countries follow suit - in Australia if you own an iPod you can burn unlimited cds and use a song on 5 computers but if you buy from any other online store you only get 2 burns and 2 devices - is ridiculous that something that costs the same amount of money in each store has such completely different usage rights - people that dont buy iPods are being completely ripped off....

    I dont understand the comment that says that a world with interoperable DRM is a world with no DRM> explain that to me.... surley a world with interoperable DRM is a world with one standard thats the same across the board... and besides a world without DRM is a world with file sharing - ohhh thats right we already have that....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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