Can Scandinavians really force Apple to change iTunes Store terms?

“A Norwegian complaint accusing Apple’s iTunes Music Store of breaching that country’s law may turn out to be a twist on the old debate between government and business – not one government, however, but many,” Natali T. Del Conte and Mark Hachman report for PC Magazine.

“Following a similar complaint by France, Norway seems ready to be joined by both Denmark and Sweden in making the case that iTunes needs to be modified in order to do business in those countries. In Norway, the government has demanded that Apple revise its iTunes Terms of Service by August 1 — an extension from June 21 — or else face fines and possible prosecution,” Del Conte and Hachman report. “‘There is definitely a feeling so far that markets work themselves out, but that is not the attitude that European legislators are starting to take,’ said Paul Resnikoff, founder and editor of Digital Music News. ‘We’re talking about different economic systems, which is why most of the action is happening overseas.'”

“The complaint, filed by the Norwegian Consumer Ombudsman, demands that Apple make iTunes content usable by other manufacturers’ MP3 players. Apple has yet to officially say what it will do, but experts have warned that this could force the company to pull iTunes from Norway altogether. Representatives for Norway’s Consumer Council told PC Magazine that Apple’s Norwegian representatives have said that they hope Apple wouldn’t have to pull out of the country,” Del Conte and Hachman report.

“According to analysts, Apple is not at liberty to simply lift its Digital Rights Management (DRM) policies and open its content, because the company’s licensing agreements with the music industry are binding,” Del Conte and Hachman report. “‘It’s a question of whether Apple created this DRM solution to lock you into using a device, or did they do it because they had to, because otherwise the record labels wouldn’t license them the content,’ said Michael McGuire, a lead analyst with Gartner. ‘The legitimate online music market is still very, very young, and this isn’t just going to be Apple’s issue if legislation goes through. It will be anyone who provides DRM content.'”

Much more in the full article here.
This is not limited to Apple. Apple’s is just the biggest, so they get tested first. It is an interesting case that we hope will ultimately successfully establish precedent for consumers to be able to legally strip or circumvent DRM on legally-purchased material (perhaps with something like JHymn, for one example). You should be able to do what you want with stuff you own, within reason, right? Of course, with iTunes, you can just burn an audio CD which removes the DRM, so we’re a big foggy on what really is the problem; iTunes Music Store customers simply are not “locked in.” If anyone’s “locked in,” it’s the three customers of the WMA-based music outfits that only work with Windows and “lock out” Mac users completely.

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Related articles:
Scandinavian triumvirate extends deadline to August 1 for Apple to reply to iTunes concerns – June 14, 2006
Norway gives Apple until June 21 to change iTunes Music Store terms – June 12, 2006
Apple’s iTunes Music Store faces fresh legal attacks from Norway and Sweden – June 09, 2006
Norway complains about Apple iTunes Music Store – June 07, 2006
Consumer Council of Norway files a complaint regarding Apple iTunes Music Store’s terms of service – January 27, 2006
Apple’s vs. Microsoft’s music DRM: whose solution supports more users? – August 17, 2005

41 Comments

  1. I think Apple should pull out if they try and force this issue. Apple has a legitiment business and the terms of the iTunes agreement is very clear. Why should Apple give away any advantage they have to anyone. Microsoft even today still has not been forced to do anything about there advantages in there operating system. Now of course there are none but still it is the same principle. If Apple pulls iTunes then what do you think the people of these countries would say to there loving governments, YOU SCREWED UP!!! That’s what they would say. Then it will only be a matter of time before those governments change there tune and invite Apple’s iTunes back with no conditions!

  2. Hey, I bought a song at a WMA store and now I can’t play it on my Powerbook. Guess that’ll be my excuse to buy a new Mac and run Boot Camp.

    And MDN, don’t make fun of me. Just tell me who the other 2 customers are so we can form a community!!!

    (Just jesting)

  3. I think that the argument that “when you buy something, you should be able to do with it what you want” is getting old. If I buy a book, I can’t copy the pages and give it away. If I buy a house, and the neighborhood has a covenant, I must sign that I agree to the covenant. That means that I can’t build another story on top, can’t put up an ugly chain link fence, or whatever the convenant says. If I buy a CD, I can’t copy that and distribute it. If I buy a song from iTMS, I agree to their rules and cannot copy it to more than 5 computers, or create more than a certain number of CDs from it. If you don’t like the rules when you buy it, then don’t sign the agreement and don’t buy it. It’s just that simple.

  4. Yes, we know we can burn a CD of our purchased music if we want to strip the DRM. But what happens if we have 500 songs that we purchased online? Is it Apple’s decision to require you to burn a CD in order to strip the DRM or the record labels? There’s no technical reason why you must burn a CD in order to remove the DRM, so if its Apple’s decision to do this, it is a big sign that Apple is using DRM to lock you in.

    Also, if Apple gives you any ability at all to strip the DRM, then what in the hell is it doing on there to begin with? All it takes is for one person to burn a CD and load it onto some P2P sites. I used to believe it was the insistence of the labels to require DRM, but I really believe it was a trojan horse by Apple all along. If Apple didn’t want the DRM, why can’t an independent artist request that their music be downloaded from iTunes without DRM?

    And if the record labels had any brains what so ever, they would drop the idea of DRM. With DRM, Apple controls both the music player business and the online music store business. Without DRM, any online music store could now sell to the iPod owners. Without DRM, any music player could now be used with iTunes Music store. And then Apple would have less leverage in negotiating prices on music. But the labels are run by idiots. They can’t see the forest for the trees. They are more concerned about the 1% who steal and won’t buy ever, than the 99% who will buy music and not share it.

    DRM and software patents are the two worst ideas in the history of computer technology.

  5. It is an interesting case that we hope will ultimately successfully establish precedent for consumers to be able to legally strip or circumvent DRM on material they have legally purchased. You should be able to do what you want with stuff you own, right?

    Yes, you should.

    The question is whether you own the music, or the rights to listen to it. As the consumer, you do not own the music, the record labels do. When you “bought” the music, what you got was the right to listen to it at your leisure.

    Making copies of the media, and giving them away to anybody that wants one, is a violation of the record label’s/artist’s property rights.

    Apple’s DRM is a compromise (a good one I think) that gives the consumer a great deal of flexibility, while at the same time protecting the property rights of those that actually own the music.

    You wouldn’t advocate that your readers make copies of Final Cut Pro and distribute them for free, why do you feel its OK to make unlimited copies of music files and distribute them for free?

  6. Apples stock price is merely big investment holders hedging, waiting for that moment when they perceive it will be headed up, and then, buy buy buy, ride it up, sell sell sell.

    Stock prices are determined by what big investors think they will do, not how the company is actually doing, however, a good performing company stock usually appreciates because investors think the stock will be going up.

    The Nordic iTunes problems are more non story filler during an incredible lull of Apple announcements. Take all the profit Apple makes from selling to these countries and it probably does not equal one billable day for one of Apples attorneys. I look for Apple to pull the plug on them if they push the issue. Apple already includes an MP3 scheme for getting material onto other players so it’s a non issue.

    All Apple resources are focused on getting all the software to work right on Intels, getting ready for WWDC and finishing the replacement for the Powermac.

  7. There are a couple of things apple could do i suppose. Being able to burn a cd of itunes purchases and remove the drm is fine, but as the agreement reads right now, they can change that without any user approval/denial. THAT is probably a bigger problem and should be defined and locked down a bit more. As far as competing players, Apple created the product and the music store, why should they support a competetiors product? Well comparing hardware, Apple has a much nicer player, good looks, and easy to use interface from the music store/cd to mp3 converter/library. If apple licensed out fairyplay (er fairplay), charged a set price per song for licensing , and charged a set price per player for licensing, then they could still profit from other manufacturers devices. Apple is a business tho. They might have somethign like this planned, but are going to make sure to squeeze their currently successful combination as long as they can….and when they license it out, they will only look the better. But if they wait till a lawsuit forces them to do it, it will look just like big business as usual.

  8. I still don’t see what the big deal is. You can burn a CD and re-rip it then use it on any POS MP3 player out there.

    Also, the point of WMA needs to be made as well. You can’t play WMA files on an iPod – so should Microsoft make available converting software to make it so? (It would probably help make MS DRM sites more popular, but they’ll never do it.)

  9. I’ve looked hard, but I can’t find either a CAT-5 connector or a wireless capability on my iPod that would let me connect it directly to the iTMS. Strangely, only my COMPUTER seems to be able to connect to and interoperate with iTMS. So what is all this about making iTMS compatible with “other players”? Now, iTunes is an application that works with almost any computer to play and manage music bought on CDs or on iTunes. It allows the music to be played on the computer, burned to a new CD, or transferred directly to an iPod. Once that music is burned to a CD in one of many available formats it can be transferred to ANY MP3 player. Now isn’t it a bit strange that people feel that iTMS somehow locks them into buying an iPod?

  10. I am sure Apple would prefer NOT to have DRM on their music. That is just one more hassle.

    If Apple wanted the music to play on their own products, then they can use a unique form of licensed AAC for high quality and offer a lower quality MP3 file for everyone else. This way, if you want quality, you buy an iPod.

    DRM is for the music producers.

    If countries insist upon removing the DRM, then Apple must pull out of those countries per their agreement with the music producers.

  11. Zeke, you may have a point.

    iTMS is intended for audio and video download to your iTunes software on your computer, where you can play it as many times as you wish without interruption (unlike subscriptions). The format is ONLY for iTunes software, much like CDs can’t be played in cassette platers, etc. But, you still OWN it!

    Now, if you want to send it to other media or devices, that it totally up to the user to do.

  12. Hey MDN – I thought it was great that the article mentioned purchasing games for one system and not being able to play those games on another system. To your credit, you’ve pointed out that same arguement in the past – and received negative feedback that games are not the same as music.

    Peace.

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