The parliamentary debate on French controversial copyright bill will resume March 7-9. The new text, presented by minister of culture Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, will quash the "global blanket license

The parliamentary debate on French controversial copyright bill will resume March 7-9.

The new text, presented by minister of culture Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, will quash the "global blanket license" scheme voted by the parliament last December, but also soften penalties for P2P infringers, and introduces the right to interoperability.

Speaking yesterday (Feb. 23) to Billboard.biz, Donnedieu de Vabres said that the new bill has been slightly revised compared to the one submitted to the parliament in December. "There was a need for clarification," he stressed, "but I didn't give anything up regarding copyright [protection]."

The original text had been significantly amended by the parliament during its discussion before Christmas. In particular, an amendment introduced the notion of global blanket license, opening the door to legal peer-to-peer exchanges. The amendment will not appear in the new draft, although it could still be voted by the parliament.

Most notably, the new bill introduces the right to interoperability, entitling consumers to listen to legally downloaded songs on any type of player. Under the terms of the bill, end-users would not be penalized if they attempted to bypass technical protections preventing circumvention.

"We do not want technology to serve as an alibi for any kind of compartmentalization," said Donnedieu de Vabres. He added that this move was necessary to stimulate the online offer.

"We will be one of the first countries to do that," he acknowledged. When asked about the potential reaction from companies such as Apple or Microsoft, Donnedieu de Vabres said: "They will come to it anyway -- this will be a consumer requirement."

The minister also pointed out that the new text was clarifying the right of private use. A dedicated body of mediators will be appointed to define the rules to be applied to each medium.

The new version of the bill has also revised the level of penalties for copyright infringers. Rather than the heavy-handed approach in the original bill, Donnedieu de Vabres proposes "gradual" penalties and enforcement procedure against individuals downloading copyright protected material for free from peer-to-peer services. "This puts an end to disproportionate penalties such as sending an Internet user to jail," he said.

The minister, who presented the redrafted bill before the parliament's commission of economics yesterday, was fairly confident that it would be adopted without substantial changes.

Donnedieu de Vabres made these comments as he officially launched yesterday in Paris the Web site lestelechargements.com. He was joined with his government colleague minister of finances Thierry Breton.

The specially-created site is aimed at encouraging discussions about the download issue between the public and film and music artists. It has been funded by the French ministries of culture and of finances and French authors rights' organizations Sacem and SACD.