Removes key points from copyright bill.

The French Constitutional Council has raised concerns and removed some key measures from the long awaited copyright bill, which was adopted by France’s two houses of Parliament June 30.

The Council, which is responsible for ensuring that legislative proposals comply with the national constitution before they are incorporated into law, has removed from the bill the clause that grants individuals and companies the right to bypass digital rights management (DRM), even if bypassing DRM would facilitate the interoperability of digital music technology systems, which the bill intends to promote.

It argued that legislating for such a measure would require a more precise definition of the concept of interoperability of different DRM technologies.

However, the Council agreed there is a need for an independent body that regulates DRM issues.

Local industry experts say it is too early to determine the impact of the Council's decision. But consumer organization UFC-Que Choisir, which is angry that different DRM systems mean iPod users cannot buy and download tracks from competitors of iTunes Music Store, declared in a statement, "The little interoperability allowed by law…, has been cut again."

Additionally, the Constitutional Council has annulled another of the bill’s key provisions and significantly reduced the penalties for illegal downloading and uploading.

This means copyright infringers using peer-to-peer (P2P) network are still liable to be fined up to €300,000 and sentenced for up to three years in jail.

This is a blow for France’s culture minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, who had wanted to use the bill to fine P2P counterfeiters just a few euros, and "put an end to disproportionate penalties such as sending an Internet user to jail."

In a statement, the culture minister maintained that the sanctions should be fair and in proportion with the gravity of the facts, and said that he would request the French ministry of justice to re-examine the issues.

"The Constitutional Council’s decision placed us back to the situation …where it is up to the judge to decide whether the act of downloading is a matter of infringement or of private copying,” says Paris-based Iliana Boubekeur, an international intellectual property lawyer.

The government could send the bill back for another parliamentary debate. However, sources indicate that it will probably accept the changes made by the Constitutional Council and pass the text into law - a move that will make French law compliant with European Union’s current copyright directive.