Apple protest gets US commerce chief's support

US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez backed protests by Apple Computer over a new French law that would throw open Apple's popular online music store to competitors, an AFP report said.

Gutierrez was quoted in the report as saying that he needed to make a further study of the copyright law passed by the French parliament's lower house this week.

"But any time something like this happens, any time that we believe that intellectual property rights are being violated, we need to speak up and, in this case, the company is taking the initiative," he was quoted as saying.

The French legislative chamber earlier passed a bill that would force Apple to make its downloads work on all digital music players and not just on the iconic iPod, the report said.

Analysts said Apple would have to choose between sharing the secrets of the exclusive online music technology that had helped make it a market leader, or, more likely, stop selling music downloads from the iTunes store in France, the report said.

The report said supporters of the French legislation argued that it would better protect the rights of musicians and other artists whose works were sold online.

But Apple had condemned the French bill, which had yet to be passed by the upper house, as no more than "state-sponsored piracy," the report said.