Apple broke its silence last night over the anti-DRM law passed in France's National Assembly. The law in question requires that Apple, and other online music retailers, must make its digital rights management software convert from one format into another to allow purchases made at, for example, the iTunes Music Store, to be playable on a Microsoft compatible MP3 player, and visa versa.
On the surface this may seem fair. Perhaps France's lower house of parliament members all own Rio's and feel left out of the hip crowd? But it's hard to see the law as anything other than an anti-Apple law since Microsoft customers can purchase from any number of compatible online stores as well as Sony's customers being able to purchase from it's online store. Isn't this just an overhanded way of leveling a field that is already level? Isn't this just France's government trying to redistribute wealth and power amongst the online music players?
If this was simply a matter of letting Plays For Sure players (Microsoft's DRM scheme) have access to FairPlay (Apple's DRM scheme) music, then consumers all over France would benefit from this interoperability. What about MP3 players that don't use either DRM scheme, though? Sony's for instance, or third party knock offs out of Asia that don't use DRM at all? Isn't it reasonable to assume that the law really means "DRM free" when it references converting one format to another? Without knowing the full details of the law it is hard to speculate what exactly is being enforced and how. I'd hazzard to guess, however, that any player that doesn't use DRM would also need access to those DRM files. Would that mean that Apple, Microsoft, and Sony would have to allow people to save DRM free versions of their songs. Or does it mean that the companies affected must turn over the combination to the safe to any party that requests it? Wouldn't that just lead to DRM stripping software down the road anyway?
Claims Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris, ""The French implementation of the EU Copyright Directive will result in state-sponsored piracy. If this happens, legal music sales will plummet just when legitimate alternatives to piracy are winning over customers."
Apple, for obvious reasons, feels this law is a bad idea. Apple does admit, however, that there is a silver lining. This law will actually increase sales of iPods because of the surge in freely downloadable DRM free music. That's assuming the law is forcing DRM to be stripped and not simply shared. I'm sure more details will filter out of France over the next week. In the meantime, the law still needs to be passed through the upper house of Parliament before gaining any traction.