French Senate vote could open negotiations for Apple

Apple could negotiate new deals with record labels and artists to sidestep French government plans to open its exclusive iTunes music download format to rivals, under a draft Senate amendment to be voted on this week, an Associated Press report said.

The report said the amendment, proposed by the Senate Cultural Affairs Committee, softened the terms of a government-backed copyright bill Apple criticized as "state-sponsored piracy" after its first reading in March by lawmakers in France's lower house.

Apple's iPod is currently designed to play music only from iTunes, which is also incompatible with rival players.

The bill adopted by the French National Assembly included proposals that would force Apple, Sony and others to share their copy-protection technologies, so that competitors could offer music players and online stores that were compatible with theirs, the report said.

The measures were demanded by consumer groups and backed by the government, the report added.

But the Senate committee's changes could allow Apple to maintain the exclusive link between iTunes and the iPod, lawyers and officials told the Associated Press.