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Minister: French iPod Law "Courageous" and "Forward Thinking"

Donnedieu de Vabres, the French Minister of Culture responsible for legislation that would require Apple and other manufacturers to make music downloads playable on any and every device has defended the legislation as both "courageous" and "forward thinking," according to an International Herald Tribune report.

The law would require downloads from Apple's iTunes Music Store and other download services to be playable on any computer or other music-playing device, and through other applications than the ones designated by the download service. In other words, iTunes downloads would have to be playable on players from Samsung, Creative, and other competitors, and playable through Windows Media Player, MusicMatch, and other jukebox programs. At the same times, iTunes and iPod would have to support Sony's proprietary format, Windows Media, Real's Rhapsody format, and other DRM schemes.

Despite criticism from Apple and many observers, Mssr. de Vabres said that France will push ahead with the legislation, which was passed earlier this year. In its only official statement regarding the law, Apple said it would result in state-sponsored piracy. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez has publicly supported Apple's protest.

Apple has been credited with bringing legitimacy to the online music download concept, and for reinvigorating the music industry through the success of both the iPod and iTunes. This, in turn, has led to a revitalization of Apple itself, transforming the company from a US$7 billion company to a $13+ billion company.

Analysts and pundits alike have said that tying iPod and iTunes together is a key aspect of the company's ability to maintain its lead in the music download and player business. Requiring Apple to open them up would therefore be a major challenge to Apple's preeminence in these markets, with France dictating business practices to every company involved.

According to Mssr. de Vabres, however, France's efforts to do this shouldn't be interpreted as him being out to get Apple.

"I have absolutely nothing against iTunes, and this is not some payback or protectionism against a foreign company," Mssr. de Vabres told the newspaper. "We are simply defining a fundamental value and principle that I believe will be demanded by Internet users and consumers."

That principal, according to Mssr. de Vabres, is one of interoperability. He told the Herald Tribune that music downloads should be just as portable as DVDs or CDs that can be played on any DVD or CD device.

"I do have an iPod and why not? It has brought immense progress to accessing music on the Internet," Mssr. de Vabres said. He followed that up by stating that "a technology - even one of great quality, success and usefulness - should not control access to a work."

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