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Tuesday, March 21, 2006, 08:00 am PT (11:00 am ET)

French lawmakers approve bill threatening Apple\'s iTunes, iPod

French lawmakers voted Tuesday to approve an online copyright bill that would break open the exclusive formats behind Apple's market-leading iTunes music store and iPod players, reports the Associated Press

The draft law — which also introduces new penalties for music pirates — would force Apple Computer Inc., Sony Corp. and Microsoft Corp. to share proprietary anti-copy technologies (DRM software) so that rivals can offer compatible services and players.

Lawmakers in the National Assembly, France's lower house, approved the bill 296-193. The legislation now has to be debated and voted by the Senate — a process expected to begin in May, the AP said.

According to the same report, the new legislation would also introduce penalties ranging from euro38 to euro150 ($50 to $180) for those caught pirating music or movies at home and euro3,750 ($4,600) for hackers who disable copy-protection systems. Those caught distributing software for online piracy face fines of up to euro300,000 ($365,000) and jail terms.

Apple has made no comments on the decision, as of yet, and still reserves the right to pull out of France entirely, allowing it to proceed with its closed iTunes + iPod ecosystem.