Apple Computer has accused France of "state-sponsored piracy" in reaction to a proposed law that would allow iTunes users to play their music on devices other than iPods.
Apple's harsh words follow the initial passage of legislation in France on Tuesday that, if passed by a second legislative body, would ultimately force companies to sell digital music that is compatible with any music player. Currently, songs bought on Apple's popular iTunes online music store can only be played on Apple's iPod music players.
If the law passes, "legal music sales will plummet just when legitimate alternatives to piracy are winning over customers," the company said. Free movies would follow close behind, the company asserted, "in what will rapidly become a state-sponsored culture of piracy."
Apple also predicted that iPod sales would increase, because customers could load their players with music that can't be protected, including music from illegal sources.
Some analysts said that Apple is likely to exit the French digital music market rather than alter its policy. Making an exception in France would allow users in that country to share their unprotected files around the world, Jonathan Arber, an analyst with Ovum, said in a research note.
"If the bill goes through, Apple is likely to choose a loss of revenues over opening up its model to competitors and piracy and thus shut down the French iTunes store," he said.
While the law is bad news for Apple, he wrote, it's great for French consumers, who would be able to use the digital music files that they've bought however they wish.