French urge EU-wide Apple curbs

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The Independent Online

France is pushing the European Union to break the dominance of Apple's iPod by forcing the company to allow songs downloaded from iTunes to be used on rival players.

The diplomatic push comes as the French parliament voted yesterday in favour of new laws that require Apple to reveal details of its anti-copying technology. Lawmakers are worried that the relationship between iTunes and the iPod is anti-competitive.

Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, the French culture minister, said he would press for the new laws to be adopted across the EU.

Under the new bill, companies would be required to reveal the secrets of hitherto-exclusive copy-protection technologies such as Apple's FairPlay format and the ATRAC3 code used by Sony's Connect store and Walkman players. The planned laws also legalise software that converts downloads from one format to another. Apple refused to comment on the laws yesterday, or on suggestions that it may shut its French iTunes store in response.

The company has emerged as the world's dominant force in legal downloading, in part because of the easy interoperability of iTunes and the iPod. The two products are "born to be together", according to Apple.

The iPod accounts for about three-quarters of all digital music players sold, while iTunes sells more than 80 per cent of all legally downloaded songs.

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