A very interesting law that attempts to prevent a digital music store monopoly was passed in France by the lower house of parliament today. I don’t know exactly how these things work, but I think the law still must be considered by the upper house too. In any case, it doesn’t look good for Apple:
French officials said the law is aimed at preventing any single media playing system–Apple’s iTunes or Microsoft’s Windows Media Player, for example–from building a grip on the digital online music retail market.
The new legislation will require that online music retailers such as iTunes provide the software codes that protect copyrighted material–known as digital rights management (DRM)–to allow the conversion from one format to another.
At first glance this might be bad news for Apple and good news for Microsoft. Think a little harder though, and you’ll realize this could potentially be very bad for everyone. I don’t know if opening up the DRM codes is very wise, because it wouild probably make them easier to crack. And if that happens, it won’t be the Napster utopia of years past. Instead, we could be stuck with physical media because the record labels are too afraid to sell content digitally. Bad news for everyone.
I found this comment in the article particularly interesting:
Consumers are prepared to pay twice as much for a song that can freely move between different devices, a recent study of the European Union project Indicare showed.
I find that hard to believe, given that something like 90% of the market is iPods. Do all of the iPod owners also own Windows Media devices? I don’t think so, which makes me wonder where this demand for freely moving songs comes from. It’s not like Apple is price gouging at iTunes (on the contrary, they are fighting against variable song prices).
Read: CNET News.com