Tuesday, March 21, 2006

France will let MSFT play iTunes

Cory has more on the French implementation of the 2001 copyright directive.

"The French Parliament is considering a law that would force music-lockware companies like Apple and Microsoft to license their anti-copying software to other companies, so that customers who bought crippled music could play it on other vendors' players.

This is a good step, but for me, it leaves the big question hanging: will Apple and Microsoft have to license their players to free and open source software authors? The problem is that anti-copying software always comes with a licensing condition that requires implementors to design their players so that users can't modify them. It's like requiring everyone who licenses your internal combustion engine design to weld the hood shut...

Now, given that all anti-copying software requires that users can't modify it -- because you could change the "don't copy this" routine to a "allow this to be copied" routine -- and given that FOSS requires user-modifiability, how will the French Parliament resolve it?

An analogy: Apple iTunes is like a blacksmith who puts a toll-box at the head of a major road. Unless your horse is shod with his shoes, you may not pass. The French Parliament might require Apple to let horses wearing Microsoft shoes to use its road, and that's great -- if you're on horseback.

But if you're in a car, you're screwed. FOSS is an entirely different industrial production system that Apple and Microsoft crippleware can't accommodate -- will the French Parliament outlaw it because of that? Do the blacksmiths get full employment for life, even if it strangles the automobile in its cradle? "

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