A proposed French law ostensibly designed to fight piracy and promote legal music downloads could force Apple and Microsoft to open their respective DRM standards to competitors -- or allow consumers to break the DRM if they don't. The draft law, to be voted on by France's parliament this Thursday, would allow consumers to use software that breaks DRM in order to convert their music to another format for use on an unsupported device. Thus, for example, an iPod owner could use MuvAudio to convert PlaysForSure-protected WMA files into unprotected MP3 files, while a Zen owner could use Audio Hijack to do the same with FairPlay-protected AAC files. The alternative, of course, would be for Apple to allow PlaysForSure to be used on the iPod, and allow FairPlay to be used on competing devices, neither of which the company is likely to do. The law would stiffen penalties for illegal file sharing, and would also limit the number of copies consumers could make of legally downloaded music -- though it's unclear how this would be enforced, especially if the law declares open season on DRM.

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French law could break iTunes, Microsoft DRM