The US government has taken Apple's side, condemning France's move to legislate for interoperable copy protection technologies.

Speaking on CNBC, US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said he needed to take a close look at France's proposals, but warned: "Any time that something like this happens, any time that we believe intellectual property rights are being violated, we need to speak up and in this case, the company is taking the initiaitive."

French lawmakers this week passed a bill which would force Apple, Microsoft and others to ensure that files purchased with one form of digital rights management (DRM) would work on computers and portable devices that employ another of the standards.

The move seems set to open up the industry, allowing songs purchased from Napster to play on an iPod, or tracks acquired from iTunes to play on a Windows Media-backed player.

Apple has condemned the move as "state-sponsored piracy".

Major labels continue to insist that DRM be applied to the tracks they sell. However, a growing body of music industry opinion favours the removal of rights management and placing more trust in music fans, while offering legitimate music download services.

Some argue that removal of DRM while offering legitimate and effective music services will help defeat piracy.

Speaking at an industry event in January, Simon Wheeler, head of new media at indie label, Beggar's Group, discussed the rift between major and indie labels regarding copy control.

"Are we even in the same business as the majors anymore? The majority of the independent sector is of the belief that if you treat customers with respect then they will treat the labels and artists with respect in return – and legally purchase music."

"DRM punishes the general public by imposing lower sound quality and restrictions on use," he said.

Analysts meanwhile consider that if the French bill is passed into law, Apple is likely to quit the French market, to the benefit of local MP3 player makers there.