French draft copyright law weakens considerably in the face of Apple and Microsoft

The French government is giving a break to Apple and the other software giants in the form of its watered-down copyright law.

The draft law that Pocket-lint reported on earlier this year proposed that Apple, Sony, and Microsoft would have to share their proprietary copy-protection systems.

It was approved by the National Assembly in March, but in order to pass in the Senate, it had to be weakened considerably.

The compromise that must still be approved by a committee of legislators proposes to set up a regulatory authority that can resolve disputes by making companies share their proprietary file formats, but only with the approval of the copyright holders.

This loophole means that companies like Sony and Apple could strike a deal with record companies that include exclusivity clauses so that they wouldn't have to open up their file formats.

Although the ruling UMP party seem to support this bill, Socialist party members are not happy. "It is a form of capitulation before Apple and Microsoft, the two information technology giants which will henceforth be free to control the diffusion of culture", said the Socialist deputy Christian Paul in a statement to Reuters.

The bill approved in March was condemned by Apple as "state-sponsered piracy", and analysts believed Apple would rather shut down its iTunes store in France than comply.

However, the new bill means that Apple can use its leverage to ensure that copyright holders do give it the approval it wants to keep its proprietary file format, or risk not being sold through Apple's music download site, which holds an 80% share of the music download market.

The new draft copyright bill also proposed a fine of up to €300,000 for offering illegal music downloads.