French Senate passes watered down DRM bill

As expected, the French Senate passed a controversial copyright bill on Wednesday -- and, also as expected, the bill dropped key provisions on DRM interoperability that were included in a previous version approved by the country's National Assembly. The earlier version had included language that would have required companies such as Apple Computer to open their proprietary DRM to consumers and competitors, so that music protected via one DRM scheme could be played on all digital audio players, regardless of manufacturer. The Senate's version of the bill pays lip service to the interoperability concept, but leaves enforcement up to a new government agency -- and exempts companies from the requirement as long as the original copyright holders agree to have their works protected by proprietary DRM. In Apple's case, that may mean renegotiating contracts with record companies to include such language. However, given that Steve Jobs recently managed to get the labels to back down on their demands that he offer flexible pricing, chances are he'll have no problem getting them to agree that Apple's FairPlay DRM is, well, fair play.