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The DRM hits the fan: French iPod law challenges open source

Ryan Block, @ryan

By all accounts we saw the French iPod law pass late last month, but it would appear it was still yet to undergo further revisions and last minute addendums before hitting the executive branch. Those additions to the law were approved by France's Constitutional Court late yesterday, providing for some interesting loopholes. Apparently the crux is still intact, as Apple's FairPlay could be pried open by its competitors, however, under the law a newly appointed French regulatory authority would keep watch over the process in both directions, providing "protection" for companies developing DRM technology (like Apple) by preventing open-source derivatives from existing in the marketplace. In other words, while Apple is legally mandated to open up its DRM to, say, Napster, any open-source FairPlay DRM projects could find their creators in the slammer for up to three years, and fined up to $375,000. Sure, it's still at heart pro consumer -- they don't want open source giving away the DRM shop -- but what happens to the open source DVD players already around, and other open source fair use software projects? Are French anti-DRM open source freedom fighters about to get locked up in a strange turn of events because of this law? In addition to this, fair use statues are also being molded by the law; apparently DRM may now be used to enforce certain aspects of fair use in home media, like creating x or y amount of backup copies of your media. However, there is a bright side: President Chirac has still yet to sign the law into existence, and France's Socialist Party is supposedly trying to push this into evaluation to determine whether it's even constitutional. Sorry kids, we're not through with this biz yet.

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