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France rolls over on iTunes DRM-busting law

Under Dadvsi law, interoperability among media rivals won't be enforced when copyright holders want DRM.

France has given the thumbs-up to the defanged version of a controversial law that would have forced Apple Computer to open up its iTunes digital rights management to players other than its iPod.

The Dadvsi law, which originally included provisions to allow people to crack DRM protections and oblige Apple to interoperate with its rivals' music download services and vice versa, gained the approval of French lawmakers yesterday.

Now the bill gives Apple and its rivals a "get out of jail free card": While interoperability is still mandated, it doesn't have to be enforced if the online song shops have the permission of the rights holders--musicians and record labels, for example--to use DRM.

The watered-down law has drawn fierce debate in the French parliament. A group of French politicians signed an open letter to the commission in charge of reviewing the bill, demanding that full interoperability be written into the text of the bill. Others refused to take part in the commission, on the grounds that their strong opinions on the issue would not be heard, and they didn't want to appear to support the commission's stance by being involved.

The bill must still win approval from both houses of the French parliament. The first vote on it is expected next week.

Alain Suguenot, the depute for the Cote d'Or, criticized the commission.

"When we arrived at the meeting, we discovered that there were 55 new amendments which rewrote a section of the bill," Suguenot told sister site ZDNet France. "The two legislators in charge of writing up the bill had worked in secret to (write this new section), and we would have had to take a stance on these new propositions in just a few minutes."

The original wording of the bill drew Apple's ire, and the iPod maker had threatened to cease operating in the country rather than . Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Jo Best of reported from London. Estelle Dumout of ZDNet France reported from Paris.