French Interoperability: Reversed, Pinned, and Twisted into a Pretzel?

combo lock 2.JPG

In what has been a whirlwind of changes, the French law to promote interoperability has apparently been eviscerated as unconstitutional. What began in around March as a strong stance mandating that owners of proprietary DRM systems share information to allow interoperability and prevent one company from dominating the online music market has become what appears to be an industry influenced law that, as the article notes, may generate the opposite results. The law is called the Dadvsi law (wikipedia entry here)

The law was seen by some as aimed against Apple because “iTunes files downloaded through Apple’s music service are protected by the company’s FairPlay DRM technology, designed to play exclusively on Apple devices such as the iPod.”

So how much influence did Apple and other industry players exert on this process? I ask this because not only did the interoperability mandate vanish but according to the article reverse engineering to gain interoperability (formerly allowed) is not only prohibited but may be fined; a new licensing system will be established so that those wishing to use the systems will pay a license; and the decriminalization of file sharing with “fine[s] of 150 euros ($191) or 38 euros ($48.50) for uploading or downloading music respectively” is now “a criminal offense and potentially face several years in prison or a fine of 500,000 euros ($638,200).”

Although the fines dor file sharing seem to have been almost written by the music and tech industry, perhaps most interesting change is the licensing system. What do patent, market defenders, and others think? It is unclear what rate the French government will impose through the licensing authority but nonetheless will a system that requires a company to license its technology help or hurt interoperability?

You may also like...

1 Response

  1. Frank says:

    I think Scotchmer and Samuelson have some very good economic analysis of reverse engineering in their YLJ piece on the topic.

    As for licensing: who sets the license fee? If we follow the US rationale in Xerox vs. ISO’s, Apple gets to set whatever license fee it wants. BUt if it’s a compulsory license with reasonable rates, that may enhance interoperability.