I'm no xenophobe. But for all of France's concerns about the corroding influence of US culture over the years, it strikes me as ironic that French lawmakers have gone after Apple. Today, they voted to okay a bill (that must still be okayed by the Senate) that would break Apple's proprietary business model by forcing Apple to make iTunes work with other music players, and the iPod to work with other music services. Fretting about the ascension of Walmart and the Burger Royale I can understand. But the iPod is all about elegant design, personal expression, and music of whatever sophistication you choose, from Brittany to Bartok.

Sure, there's an idyllic, if unrealistic, logic behind the proposed law. Personally, I don't think any hardware rival would give the iPod any serious competition, even if they could work with iTunes. But unshackling the iPod from iTunes would give other service providers a chance at success. We might finally get to find out whether there are any other economically viable ways to sell music to digital music player owners, other than Apple's a la carte approach.

I doubt the situation will ever get to that point, however. For starters, there's the inevitable legal challenge should the law be okayed. But even putting aside questions of government interference, Apple holds the most important card: Unless I'm missing something, it could simply stop selling iPods in France, at least until the situation is worked out. Fact is, Apple can afford to take a temporary hit to sales, given the huge growth the company is experiencing in the other places where it does business. And I'd bet France's consumers would send their lawmakers a very different message if they were suddenly left iPod-less.

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