Our World. Our Minutae.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

France's DRM Law - The Perfect Marketing Opportunity!

Some people have noted that the law seems bizarre, arbitrary and strange - of course, that's what happens everywhere where lawmakers gather ...

Some have noted that it makes business more difficult and cumbersome.

Bwahahaha. Welcome to France - as a business person.

98% of the world use two TV video display formats, NTSC or PAL ... France?


That's right. Why a third format that offers no real distinct advantage?

No reason other than it's one that others and maybe in particular, the United States (NTSC) and Britain (PAL) are NOT using.

Same with the DRM issue. If it indeed passes, Apple (and MS) could simply argue that iTunes already allows files to be easily converted (CD audio format) to be playable on other devices (and legally approved by publishers & the recording industry). If that fails, Apple has two alternatives and it does NOT include opening up Fairplay.

1) Apple could insist that all tracks it sells in France not have any DRM. This is not likely to happen but you never know.

2) Apple could simply close up the store portion of iTunes in France - pretty easily done - just like if you're in Canada, you cannot buy US iTunes tracks (unless of course, you're willing to go to some effort to get a US address but of course, that's' another story). After all, the money is not really in selling the tracks but in the ipod. People can still buy CD's or of course, resort to illegal downloading.

AND this could be a marketing opportunity for Apple. In France, they could market the iPod as the "pirate" device the legislature and the recording industry doesn't want you to own. Culturally, that would ring a bell with most French people - they want exactly what the government doesn't want you to own.

Next, Apple could simply launch an iPod kiosk machine (one that doesn't erase your library when you plug it in) and place in the every train station and airport outside of France. A 2-hour train ride will take you to another country from most of France's biggest cities - plug in - buy all the "illegal" tracks you want. Apple gets the cache of something pirate and flouting the law but not really - sort of like jaywalking in a mall - hey, we'll take our thrills where we can :-)

And Apple can go even further with loading special tracks for sale only at particular cities or kiosks so you'd have bragging rights of being in Milan, Ibiza or Brussels.

So, the lawmakers are idiots in more ways than one - like all of France's problems have been solved ... But I'm sure this law was drawn and monetarily supported by France's version of the RIAA. In any language, they're just lawyerly and still stuck in the 19th century (yes, not even the 20th).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is easy for Apple to comply with France's law.

To allow compatibility with other players - which can use MP3, Orb, Microsoft, AIFF, or other format - all Apple has to do is come out with a version of iTunes that can convert to other formats as it can do now.

The difference is that, to allow the conversion, the user has to pay Apple $100 a year for the privilege. In essence, Apple forces France into a subscription model.

Also, the MP3 files that are created can be tagged with the user's ID. Thus they can be traced if pirated.

Also, every time the user makes a non-DRM conversion, they have to be on the internet so that Apple can track which files are being converted - again to discourage piracy.

12:49 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Note that the French law as drafted applies to all others, as well, including Sony Corp. and Microsoft Corp.

Under the bill, companies would be required to reveal the secrets of hitherto-exclusive copy-protection technologies such as Apple's FairPlay format, Microsoft's WMA, and the ATRAC3 code used by Sony's Connect store and Walkman players.

Until now, for another company such as Apple to license Microsoft's WMA codecs and DRM, an onerous license agreement was required that included granting Microsoft early access to new products that might incorporate WMA support, as well as indemnifying Microsoft against potential IP nfringement, including patent and copyright infringement. Consider how Apple might feel in having to hand prototype hardware and software over to Microsoft, and being unable to litigate should Apple's designs or implementations happen to subsequently appear in a Microsoft product.

Now, under French law, Apple can simply demand whatever they need to implement WMA support, and Microsoft will have to provide it.

It will be interesting to see what happens should Apple demand the keys to Virgin-Megastore or FNAC's music DRM.

1:00 PM


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