I’m completely lost — I can’t find enough information on online newspapers, the blogs I read are too busy writing about something else (so all it takes to silence protesters is postponing the vote for two months? the internet’s going too fast to linger on the same law twice?), and now all American tech sites announce that Apple is just about to be forced to close the French iTMS because the law would require purchased tracks to be playable on any music player. Which should by definition imply offering them as MP3s, no DRMs or anything.
The law that was supposed to make DRMs untouchable (think DMCA) becomes, after one too many amendments, the exact opposite? Uh, there’s gotta be something wrong here. Judging from the few articles I could dig up, it seems to be a simple misunderstanding to be blamed on a parliamentary who doesn’t get the law he’s in charge of, or doesn’t speak English as well as he thinks, or it’s been taken out of its context and he’s just a victim — again. As it happens, this isn’t the first such misunderstanding about this law: the primates in charge at Universal et al. have developed a habit of saying “free software” when they actually mean “peer-to-peer” (well, there’s “free” in there, so it’s gotta be bad!), triggering misguided hysteria among legions of French geeks late last year (those same geeks who exhibit such a short attention span now).
Anyway, I’ve got to assume the truth is closer to what’s found in this Yahoo! News piece (although it also includes that sentence from Vanneste that’s been quoted everywhere):
It would no longer be illegal to crack digital rights management – the codes that protect music, films and other content – if it is to enable to the conversion from one format to another, said Christian Vanneste, Rapporteur, a senior parliamentarian who helps guide law in France.
(Incidentally, the “rapporteur” is just the parlementarian who’s in charge of bringing one particular law to the Parliament and following it through the debates. That *$%# doesn’t deserve the epithet ‘senior’.) Yeah, it makes more sense. It’s not about forcing Apple to supply an MP3 transcoding utility for iTMS tracks, but just not putting some developer in jail for making and distributing such a program. Funny seeing the article written from the American point of view, taking the DMCA for granted: “It would no longer be illegal…” Well, what do you know, it isn’t illegal for now, and that was kind of the whole point of this new law.
But then, here’s a law that was mostly about sending to jail (or bankrupcy) whoever cracks DRMs, and now they’re introducing a provision to allow pretty much any DRM cracking (by definition, cracking a DRM scheme is about converting the media to another format, isn’t it?). What’s that, but an empty shell?
All that’s left now (I’m not counting the creation of a government-operated iTMS clone for “young talents”, because I don’t think young talents are really waiting for the government to distribute their music, and they sure aren’t dying to put their MP3s on a gouv.fr website) is the definition of fines for downloading and uploading copyrighted material — I wonder whether it’s 150€ per file or a global package for all your past downloads (in which case it’d be a joke), but that clearly beats going to jail as counterfeiters, and it’s the best possible solution (I hate agreeing with all those artists reading Universal-written statements, but the “licence globale” or any other scheme legalizing file exchange is utterly absurd; it makes sense to have an incentive for you to pay artists, provided the sanction is reasonable). I’m worried now — wouldn’t that make DADVSI 2.0, uh… a good law? Well, no, we’re still far from there.
(Any additional source of information is welcome. And, of course, paying $15 for a record so that the artist can get some pocket change isn’t right but, come to think of it, that’s their problem — if they choose to sign a pact with the devil rather than promote their records online and organize their concerts themselves, that means it’s got to work for them somehow.)