And from the copyright news for 26 May 2006...
My God, could the French actually have a better idea...
Be sure to read towards the bottom... Chirac's response to Google...
Kinda makes me want to have a nice vintage Chateau Lafite with supper, but
unfortunately, I will probably have to settle for some French Fries...oops
sorry...I mean Freedom Fries...
Loading the iPod With Egalitarianism
French Bills Have Firms Singing Blues
By John Ward Anderson
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, May 26, 2006; A16
PARIS -- All is not well in the French world of digital music, as Nicolas
Paitre, a salesman at one of Paris's largest electronics stores, hears
from customers every day.
Filing into Surcouf, a glitzy French electronics chain where Paitre
specializes in digital music gadgets, they have the same bewildered looks
and exasperated queries:
I can download digital songs from one company, but I can't play them on
another company's machine?
My hard drive with all my music files crashed, and I can't transfer the
songs from my handheld into a new computer?
Oui and oui again. The legal and technical issues of protecting music
copyrights are so complex, Paitre said, that many music lovers "feel stuck
in the middle" and eventually are forced into the business of trying to
foil the protections on their own.
Now comes France's National Assembly to the rescue, or so claim lawmakers
who have crafted legislation to force compatibility between digital songs
and the different machines that play them. Under the proposed law, Apple
Computer Inc., Sony Corp., Dell Inc. and other companies could have to
reveal trade secrets of their software so that their songs can play on
Laypeople call it the iPod bill, after Apple's hugely successful digital
music player. The tiny device plays songs downloaded from Apple's online
music store embedded with code that prevents them from being played on
anything other than an iPod. Many American music lovers complain about
this incompatibility, too, but haven't been able to get Congress behind
French lawmakers say their bill is enlightened consumerism for
cutting-edge technology, an effort to force Apple and other companies to
freely compete, rather than relying on techno-secrets to crush the
"We oppose the idea that the seller of a song or any kind of work can
impose on the consumer the way to read it, forever, and especially in the
consumer's home," said Assembly member Christian Paul. "Can we allow a
couple of vendors to establish monopolies tightly controlling their
clients and excluding competition?"
After the bill first came to light, Apple denounced it as "state-sponsored
piracy." Without encryption, the company argued, people would be able to
digitally transfer music to one another for free, without paying royalties
to the artists, and in violation of copyright laws. Industry analysts say
the company might withdraw its music products from France rather than
submit to the law. After its initial remarks, Apple has refused comment on
The Assembly's proposal is "about ripping off technology from those who
developed it and putting it in the public domain," said Francisco
Mingorance, European policy director for the Business Software Alliance,
which represents Apple, Dell, Microsoft Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and
other major companies.
"It's more than just Apple. What's been adopted is a broad, sweeping
exception to intellectual property rights and patents and software under
the flag of interoperability between an iPod and your Sony," he said.
"Businesses in France are going to have to ask themselves a question: Is
our continuing presence in the French market outweighed by the risks of
disclosing our content to more piracy?"
In the midst of the debate, the French Senate passed a version of the bill
with changes that consumer advocates say would gut it. According to Loic
Dachary, vice president of the Free Software Foundation France, the Senate
bill would leave computer companies with too much control over hardware
"From a citizen's point of view, it's like having a policeman in your
machine who has all the power," he said. "If Apple is allowed to keep its
secrets, then no other programs can interact with their programs. This is
not competition, this is software totalitarianism."
Both versions would decriminalize piracy and make it equivalent to a
traffic infraction, with fines that computer companies say are so small
they would offer no deterrence. Software companies complain that the law
could hold them accountable for piracy that occurs with use of their
products, even if that is not the purpose of the software.
The debate pits French egalitarianism and its tilt toward consumers and
regulation against American capitalism and its tilt toward business and
markets. Also in the mix is a dose of French nationalism and concern about
the U.S. dominance of cyberspace.
"The idea in France is to protect consumers, but in the U.S., it would be
seen as short-term protection, because if you are forced to share the
technology you developed with others, that stifles the incentives to
innovate and invest," said Andrea Renda, an economic and legal analyst at
the Brussels-based Center for European Policy Studies. "In France, there
is a tendency to protect competitors, not just competition. It's very
Dominique Moisi, of the French Institute of International Relations, said
that "in France, it is the state which is responsible for great technical
innovations, and there is also an emphasis on what is called 'cultural
diversity' -- the idea that you must have more than one source of national
expertise, and that in particular, you should not let America monopolize
the technologies of the future."
French President Jacques Chirac feels strongly about those issues,
analysts said. Fearing that Internet search engines -- particularly Google
and Yahoo -- are heavily biased toward British and American culture and
sensibilities, he has proposed the development of a "European search
engine" known as Quaero (Latin for "I seek"). The public-private venture
could cost $1.2 billion or more.
Chirac is also a driving force behind the public-private development of a
$300 million, 6 million-title European Digital Library as an alternative
to Google's proposed digitization of 15 million books from collections at
Harvard, Stanford, the University of Michigan, the New York Public Library
and Oxford University.
France supports the European Union's efforts to strip the United States of
its effective technical control of the Internet and turn over regulatory
oversight to an international body, perhaps the United Nations. Chirac has
also pushed for a state-funded, French-language alternative to CNN and the
BBC that is scheduled to be launched later this year.
"In France, there are two distinct mentalities," said Christian Vanneste,
the National Assembly sponsor of the iPod bill. "On one side is the
backwards left, which is anti-American, and on the other is the right,
which thinks that the U.S.A. shouldn't be the only one with good ideas,
and who want to compete with them."
The two versions of the bill that have passed the National Assembly and
Senate now await reconciliation in a conference committee.
Researcher Corinne Gavard contributed to this report.
2006 The Washington Post Company