As French lawmakers completed the text of a new copyright bill early Friday morning, supporters of open-source software claimed a victory of sorts, while others lamented the coming criminalisation of peer-to-peer (P-to-P) software.
The National Assembly wrapped up its discussion of the bill at 3.55am Paris time, finishing with a flurry of amendments that pro-open source lobbyists said preserved programmers' right to work around DRM (digital rights management) systems to ensure interoperability between proprietary and open-source systems. Earlier drafts of the bill would have punished such activities with a three-year prison sentence and a fine of €300,000.
But Ligue Odebi, a group representing broadband internet users, described the effect of the bill on its members as "repressive" for the way it treats P-to-P software. The bill will render illegal the development, distribution or use of P-to-P software for any purpose. That could be bad news for the developers of software like the P-to-P file-sharing application Kazaa, since opponents of such software will no longer have to prove its use for trading illicit files.
If internet users are found to have traded illicit files, though, the bill sets a fine of €38 per file downloaded, or €150 per file uploaded.
Deputies will vote on the bill, "Authors' rights and related rights in an information society", on Tuesday. If they approve, it will go on to the Senate for its final reading. The government is pushing the legislation through under emergency procedures that allow it to dispense with the usual third and fourth readings by deputies and senators.
Other measures in the bill could force companies using DRM to publish details of the system, letting other manufacturers to develop interoperable systems. The measures are widely seen as aimed at companies such as Apple. By refusing to disclose details of its FairPlay DRM system, Apple effectively shuts out competitors from developing digital music players that can play music downloaded directly from its iTunes Music Store, or from selling DRM-protected music that will play on an iPod.