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3.24.2006 

Oh, Please, part deux

It's easy to pile on the French right now. I mean, just about the only people more easily mocked than the French are French Canadians. J'Accuse! But let's not lose sight of some of the implications of this new legislation amidst surrender monkey jokes.

I don't think France ought to be able to force Apple to open its DRM to competitors. (Which is not to say that I don't think consumers ought not to be able to de-DRM music purchased from Apple.) I think it's unfair. Why, as a business, should I allow competitors access to my closed system? It's not as if there is no other way to get music on an iPod--ripping CDs for example, or buying MP3s from sources like emusic. We should expect Sony and Real and Microsoft and whomever else to build a better mousetrap, rather than supplying them with Apple's cheese. But that doesn't mean that there isn't some good that could come out of the law.

Chris Breen made a really good point over at Playlist:
From a business perspective I understand Apple's wish to oppose this legislation but the outfits that need to be concerned Right Now are the music subscription services. Their model falls apart completely if you demand that their wares be playable on devices that don't support Microsoft's DRM scheme.

If the legislation becomes law, I expect Apple to take its ball and go home, but this isn't likely to be the end of it. Consumers (and, eventually, the law) favor interoperability. It's only a matter of time before Apple's hand is forced on this issue.
There's more as well, and it's worth reading. But his final point reminds me of a conversation I had with Ross Rubin a couple of days ago, when the law was passed. Ross noted that this law might end up being really good for consumers here in the USA.

Why? Because it could force a debate on the DMCA and consumer's rights. One of the DMCA's biggest advantages is that nobody knows it exists. It's the Area 54 of legislation. Sure, you know about it, and I know about it, but odds are 88 percent of the people you meet on the street--almost all of whom will own something covered under the DMCA and many of whom probably unknowlingly violate it from time to time--have no idea it even exists.

Ross noted that if this does indeed become the law of the land in France, it might provide more fodder for relaxing some of the terms of the DMCA. Let's hope so.

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  • hi, i'm mat honan, a writer in san francisco, california.
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