The French National Assembly has approved a digital copyright bill that will require DRM developers to reveal details of their technology to rivals that wish to build interoperable systems.
The bill could affect the FairPlay DRM used by Apple Computer in its iTunes Music Store and iPod music players, and Microsoft's Windows Media DRM, used by rival French music stores Fnac and VirginMega to lock downloaded tracks to particular music players.
Deputies voted to approve the bill, "Authors' rights and related rights in an information society," by 286 votes to 193. The bill now goes to the Senate for a second reading, and a vote, before it becomes law. The government pushed the bill through under emergency procedures that deprive deputies and senators from their usual right to a third and fourth reading of the bill.
Although the bill will force DRM manufacturers to reveal some details of their systems, it will also legalise the use of DRM in France. Today, CDs with a DRM function that prevents them from playing on some equipment are considered legally to have concealed flaws, and buyers have a right to legal redress. The bill will change that.
In addition, the bill will make it illegal to develop, distribute or promote P-to-P (peer-to-peer) software for purposes other than collaborative working, research purposes or the exchange of noncommercial works. In addition, if French Internet users are found to have traded illicit files using such software, they will face a fine of 38 (US$46) per infraction for downloading, or 150 per infraction for uploading. The bill calls on the Council of State to determine what level of trading constitutes an infraction.
But other measures in the bill could threaten [the development of] free and open-source software," according to Patrick Bloche, a deputy who opposed the bill, speaking in the Assembly just before the vote. The bill's restrictions on the ways third-party software can interact with proprietary DRM systems mean that French open-source software developers and researchers will lose out, Bloche said.