French Still Chippy About Apple DRM

    April 14, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

France’s Trade Minister Christine Lagarde visited technology executives in Silicon Valley, and brought plenty of European attitude along on the trip.

The last time Lagarde was in the US, she visited Washington and touted the virtues of investing American dollars in the country. As the Washington Times noted, France was experiencing some trouble with youth riots roaring across Paris, leaving destruction and burning cars in their wake:

“At a time when television images and newsprint give a less-than-flattering picture of France, you may consider it strange for me to suggest that my country could be a paradise for investors,” she told the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

And Europeans think Americans are smug, ho ho.

Now the Lagarde road show, which really ought to stop by Comedy Off Broadway on its way back home, has emerged from a round of executive meetings with the likes of Oracle, Cisco, and Sun. Apple executives were conspicuously absent, according to a report posted at Yahoo News.

But if Steve Jobs had suddenly appeared in all his black turtlenecked glory, Lagarde would have had something to say to him:

“Any time a company restricts competition in a market, it gets the attention of regulating agencies. We have to play by the rules of the game,” she said.

Those “restrictions” refer to the DRM Apple uses with music it sells through iTunes. French legislation may compel Apple to open its Fairplay DRM to other music sellers and MP3 player manufacturers in France. Ideally, that would permit people greater choice in how and where they get their music.

But how does Lagarde feel about suggestions that maybe France should fix its exceedingly outdated political and labor policies before coming to Silicon Valley to beg for investment? Evidently those aren’t an issue to her:

“I don’t want the crap,” Lagarde said. “It annoys me when France is portrayed as an awkward, backward country. It is not.”

Apple does not appear likely to open Fairplay up at any point in the future, and could even withdraw from the French market. Lagarde thinks Apple couldn’t possibly ignore the French youth market, with lots of iPod owners.

She may be in for a shock if Apple decides it really has no interest in cannibalizing its profitable hardware business just to placate France. But that’s just the sort of thing a smug American would do anyway, right?


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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.