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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 March 2006, 12:37 GMT
New debate for French piracy law
Compact disc, Eyewire
Consumer groups think legal downloaders are short changed
The French government is trying again to push through a measure cracking down on file-sharing on the internet.

Enemies of the move in France's National Assembly passed an amendment in December allowing users to download as much as they like for a small fee.

The latest draft deletes this controversial clause, but also reduces punishment for illegal downloaders.

The law will have implications for firms like iTunes, as it insists all files must be playable on all devices.

Currently, iTunes sells its own exclusive format that can only be used on parent firm Apple's own devices.

This attempt to effectively legalise file-sharing with a "global licence" was roundly attacked by the record industry.

DRM protection

The proposed law put before the National Assembly will strengthen the legal status of digital rights management (DRM), the process by which copying of films or music can be curtailed, or users prevented from playing material from other parts of the world.

The move would protect DRM from legal challenges to ensure the right of consumers to copy material, but a panel would ensure DRM still allowed limited private copying.

Efforts to try to create a cheap global licence were masterminded by socialist MPs as well as rebels from the ruling UMP, following lobbying from consumer groups such as the UFC-Que Choisir which said the tide of digital history was moving towards much cheaper, legalised downloading.

Johnny Hallyday
Veteran rocker Johnny Hallyday has opposed the global licence

UFC-Que Choisir argues that legal downloading services offer "poor selection at excessive prices" and that DRM that stops people using files on mutiple devices is wrong.

But French performers have allied against the plan, led by veteran rocker Johnny Hallyday.

"It's unfair for creators and catastrophic for the funding and creation of new talent, as well as dangerous for the diversity and renewal of French music," wrote artists, including Charles Aznavour and Jean-Michel Jarre.

Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres said the revised bill - which could be voted on next week - was an attempt at compromise.

Suggested fines of 300,000 euros (205,000) and imprisonment have been toned down, with the typical penalty for home users is likely to be between 38-150 euros (26-102).

Imprisonment and big fines would still be used for those who distributed software aimed at defeating copyright protection.

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