August 3, 2006 10:39 AM PDT

Norwegian watchdog scrutinizes iTunes DRM

Apple Computer has refuted claims by Norway's consumer watchdog that it uses unfair practices by making its iTunes service incompatible with rivals' systems.

Norway's consumer council complained to Apple earlier this year that iTunes' lack of interoperability with digital-music players other than the iPod was not in the best interest of consumers. The watchdog said consumers must be allowed to transfer their iTunes-bought songs to the MP3 player of their choice, both now and in the future.

Apple has filed its response to the complaint, telling the regulator that it isn't behaving unfairly--rather, it's protecting the interests of the individuals whose music it sells.

Torgeir Waterhouse, senior adviser at Norway's consumer council, refuted the idea. "It's very difficult to see how locking consumers into the iPod is preserving the rights of any given artist...It's just not replying to (the complaint). Apple is trying to 'smoke screen' it away," he said.

Waterhouse said other elements of the council's objections to Apple's business practices, such as its ability to change terms of service after purchase and have the terms retroactively apply to downloads, have been responded to positively by the company.

"The reply from (Apple) is a good start, but it's a very, very long way to go before we can say we're satisfied," he said.

Apple's response is still being reviewed, and there has been no decision yet on what the next step will be. However, if it's found that Apple isn't complying with the council's wishes, the company could face court.

Waterhouse said Apple appears unmovable on the issue of digital rights management, or DRM, and he expects a "long struggle" over the issue.

Jo Best of Silicon.com reported from London.

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9 comments

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Norway's not a big market
With a population roughly half of New York City, Norway doesn't
have a lot of weight to throw around. Apple may simply choose
to do business elsewhere.

Without iTunes, Norway's music lovers, like others around the
world, will probably opt for the dark side and download their
music for free.

Apple gets no revenue, Norway collects no taxes, and if the
downloaders have any tech savvy they face little or no risk of
detection.
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It's not the size... but the influence...
Norway is only 5.8 million in population but is one of the most wealthy nations on earth (due to oil found on their west coast in the 1970's) So what Norway does, so goes the world.

They are also known for intelligent diplomacy, so their size really doesn't play into the overall equation. This is not about record sales, it's about figuring out a workable DRM.

As a worldwide population, we all need to figure out how DRM is going to work on a planet wide scale. Apple doesn't have any choice but to make songs, movies, tv shows protected by their owners. Apple is just a pawn in this long decision making process.

Yes, Apple is the biggest player, and probably always will be in terms of "legal" content providers. So Norway really needs to think through the DRM concept before they single out Apple as doing anything that won't be part of the worldwide format for "legal" data exchange going forward.

This is not about the customer, not about Apple, it's about making "media" legal in a internet based world. It's a tough problem and only Apple has provided a workable solution. Go Apple! Go Norway! in figuring out the best solution so everyone on the planet can enjoy "legal media" going forward.

-
Posted by OS11 (844 comments )
Link Flag
Waaahhh
Why is it that people are crying foul over Apple's end to end
buisiness model? When someone buys a song on iTunes, aren't
they agreeing to the terms of service defined by Apple and not
by the government??

It's Apple's choice not to liscence their AAC technology, so that
iTunes songs could play on competing players. Since when can
the government define competition? It's not that Apple has
become an abusive digital music monopoly; they're players are
slightly more epensive than competitors, but their songs are
roughly the same price to buy. Heck, Apple thwarted attempts
by record companies to RAISE the price or more popular digital
music. But that's a story that the press quickly overlooks,
because bad news sells better than good news.

Hey Norway, while you're assulting Apple for doing too well with
digital music, why don't you take on every software maker and
force them to make my Windows software work on a Mac
natively! I own a liscence to use that, just like I do for my iTunes
music, so explain to me the difference.

- Software: music = program
- Hardware: iPod (or other digital player) = Personal Computer
(Mac or PC)
Posted by URTido (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Cool! another wicket down.
When will US do the same?
Posted by ggupta7 (137 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It would be nice..
Unless there is a obvious visible disclaimer stating that the paid for songs are not transferrable, then there is a problem. Otherwise it's a buyer beware thing.

Shouldn't we worry more about population control and our dwindling resources?
Posted by GrandpaN1947 (187 comments )
Reply Link Flag
weird
your statement seems to suggest that you don't think people worry about that. i'm fairly certain that we as a race are capable being concerned of more than one thing- concurrently, even. voicing a concern about one circumstance does not eliminate any concern about other topics.

in fact, aren't there many many many organisations devoted to worry about this stuff? :p
Posted by gesslar (21 comments )
Link Flag
DRM and free market capitalism are incompatable...
What Apple is doing is describing what DRM is intended to be: encoding content such that it can only be played on "authorized players", with the only authorized players being those where the manufacturer retains control and where the owner of the device is considered the attacker of that device.

Any country that has ratified the 1996 WIPO treaties is in a dilemma: the practises which these treaties legalized are at their heart anti-competitive. One has to give: either the laws that protect free market economies must be preserved, or the 1996 WIPO treaties are preserved, as the two are incompatible with each other.

I know my vote is in protecting the economy, not protecting platform monopolies or duped copyright holders who mistakenly believe that platform monopolies will help them.


Want to protect your right to own information technology? If you are a Canadian, sign the etition to protect Information Technology property rights <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.digital-copyright.ca/petition/ict/" target="_newWindow">http://www.digital-copyright.ca/petition/ict/</a>
Posted by Russell McOrmond (63 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Apple the new Microsoft...
Congratulations Apple, you have become the same problem company as Microsoft. Protecting the musicians my hind end. Your protecting your monopoly, your hardware and yourself. What a joke!

Robert
Posted by Heebee Jeebies (632 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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