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French lawmakers put worm in Apple's iPod

Posted by inet - 2006-03-23

French lawmakers have hit the pause button on the iPod, voting to force Apple to make its downloads work on all digital players and not just the US firm's worldwide best-selling device.
Amid French concerns about US firms taking the lion's share of the massive market, the lower house of parliament on Tuesday passed a bill that could shut down Apple's online music store, iTunes, in France.

While the measure still has to be approved by the French senate, and would apply to all companies rather than just Apple, the US giant could be the biggest loser from the controversial new measure.

Analysts say Apple would have to choose between sharing the secrets of the exclusive online music technology that has helped make it a market leader -- or stop selling music downloads in France.

The lower house went through a vigorous and often testy debate on the measure, which some supporters view as an effort to protect the rights of musicians and other artists whose work is sold online.

Apple is the clear global leader in the online music market, with sales of around three million songs daily at 99 cents each from its iTunes site -- but they can only be played on the iPod.

The law would require all firms that sell music online to make available the software codes that protect copyrighted material so that iTunes purchases, for example, could be played on devices manufactured by other companies.

The stakes are high as digital players are no longer just for portable use but have become the centrepiece of many home entertainment set-ups.

Apple last month rolled out its iPod Hi-Fi, a high-end speaker system designed specifically for home use with the firm's iconic player.

It also said last month that sales on iTunes had topped the one billion song mark.

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