French lawmakers gave final approval Friday to a weakened version of legislation that could force sellers of online music to provide it in formats that wouldplay on any digital equipment.

The original draft of the copyright law would have forced Apple Computer Inc. to make music from its iTunes Music Store compatible with any music player.

That would have forced Apple to change the copyright protectionon its downloads or provide software that would allow consumers to work around it.

Apple had threatened to pull out of France if the law went ahead.

But the French Senate amended the law to allow sellers of digital music to argue that contracts with artists preclude any kind of music sharing.

Protect copy rights

The intent of the French law was to protect a right consumers already have — to be able to copy music they have bought legally to another format.

Currently, songs bought on iTunes can only be played on Apple iPods or be put on a separate disc. They can't be played on other digital music players.

France also had hoped to curb the dominance of Apple and Microsoft in music downloading.

Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres declared himself happy with the protection for consumers in the current version of the bill.

"It will allow the development of legal services," he told Reuters.

The new law stipulates that companies can avoid the demand for interoperability if a contract with a recording studio or recording star stipulates the download is for one format only.

Apple is expected to renegotiate its iTunes contracts accordingly.

After the text of the law was changed, Apple said it hoped the market would be left to decide "which music players and online music stores are offered to consumers."

The change was condemned by the opposition Socialists, andthey say they will seek a ruling by the Constitutional Court on the bill.