European consumer groups unite to pressure Apple for iTunes Store ‘interoperability’

“Consumer groups in Germany, France, Norway and Finland have joined forces to step up pressure on Apple to loosen the tight ties between its iTunes online music store and iPod music player,” John Blau reports for IDG News Service.

Blau reports, “At the top of the list of demands is interoperability. ‘We want consumers who purchase music from the iTunes store to be able to copy that music directly to any device without having to go through several complex formatting procedures,’ Mrowka said.”

Blau reports, “The European consumer authorities don’t accept Apple’s argument that the music industry is the reason for the company’s restrictive DRM (digital rights management) policy. ‘We’re not against DRM per se,’ Mrowka said. ‘We accept that music companies need to protect their content. But there is no reason why DRM has to be linked to a single device.'”

Full article here.
Apple’s iTunes Store does not sell music with DRM that is linked to a single device. iTunes Store tracks can be played on iPods, Apple Macs, certain iTunes-compatible Motorola phones, and also Windows PCs. Is copying iTunes Store music directly to an also-ran device really any less complex than copying it to a blank CD? Hey, some people want Outlook, AutoCAD, and PC games to run directly on Mac OS X without having to dirty their Macs with Windows. Others would like websites that work not just in Internet Explorer, but in other browsers, too. Even more would like to see PlayStation, Wii, and Xbox games work interchangeably on all systems. Where are the consumer authorities for those people?

We must have missed the part where Apple held a gun to consumers’ heads and forced them to buy iPods and use iTunes and shop at the iTunes Music Store. You can use an iPod without using the iTunes Music Store. You can use the iTunes Music Store without using an iPod. So, how can either be anti-competitive?

Related articles:
Norway not satisfied with Apple concessions – August 02, 2006
Norwegian council reviews Apple response to Nordic iTunes complaints – August 01, 2006
Can Scandinavians really force Apple to change iTunes Store terms? – June 16, 2006
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
Norway: iTMS DRM under scrutiny, Microsoft DRM next – June 09, 2006
Consumer Council of Norway files a complaint regarding Apple iTunes Music Store’s terms of service – January 27, 2006

Gutted French ‘iTunes law’ ends up solving nothing – August 01, 2006
French anti-iTunes law deemed unconstitutional – July 31, 2006
Parts of French ‘iPod Law’ struck down as unconstitutional – July 28, 2006
French lawmakers give final approval to watered-down ‘iTunes law’ – June 30, 2006
Apple awaits final approval of French DRM Legislation – June 23, 2006
French lawmakers agree to water down DRM bill that would affect Apple’s iTunes – June 21, 2006
It’s no wonder EMI is supporting Apple in France – May 23, 2006
EMI backs Apple on French DRM law – May 23, 2006
BusinessWeek: still very possible that Apple will close iTunes Music Store in France – May 12, 2006
French copyright bill approved: Apple will not have to share FairPlay DRM details with competitors – May 11, 2006
French Senate vote could offer loophole for Apple’s iTunes – May 09, 2006
Vive l’iTunes! French ‘state-sponsored piracy’ DRM law gutted in committee – May 01, 2006
Force open Apple’s FairPlay? What has possessed the French this time? – April 27, 2006
French Trade Minister: Apple’s iTunes must play fair in French music market – April 14, 2006
JP Morgan: French DRM law will have limited impact on Apple Computer – March 28, 2006
Dvorak: What the French got right with proposed DRM law – March 28, 2006
Will Apple’s Steve Jobs bid France adieu? – March 22, 2006
Wired’s Kahney: Proposed French copyright protection law a good thing for consumers in the long run – March 22, 2006
Apple calls proposed French DRM law ‘state-sponsored piracy,’ predicts iPod sales increase – March 21, 2006
French National Assembly approves digital copyright bill; could affect Apple’s FairPlay DRM – March 21, 2006

63 Comments

  1. “We must have missed the part where Apple held a gun to consumers’ heads and forced them to buy iPods and use iTunes and shop at the iTunes Music Store.”

    Neither Microsoft nor Wal-mart have held guns to consumers’ heads either. MDN apparently doesn’t understand anti-competitive concerns.

  2. pffft,

    Selective quoting by you accomplishes nothing. Answer the question:

    You can use an iPod without using the iTunes Music Store. You can use the iTunes Music Store without using an iPod. So, how can either be anti-competitive?

  3. Pffft, the difference between Apple and the Microsofts of the world is simple: Microsofts use closed systems people into systems simply to gain marketshare/revenue/whatever. Apple keeps a closed system because it allows them to deliver a superior user experience (the iPod and Mac).

    If Apple were forced to open up FairPlay (or the Mac, for that matter), they would be forced to deal with all the hardware compatibility issues Microsoft and Windows face, which inherently degrades user experience. By keeping the system closed, they can be sure it works flawlessly. People are choosing the system not because of Apple’s market share, but because of its ease of use.

    I don’t typically buy music from the iTunes store. I still prefer to have a CD which I then rip into iTunes (as MP3s, which can be played in any media program) without DRM. All consumers can make that same choice if they choose to make informed decisions. Most don’t. That’s not Apple’s problem.

  4. Let’s see. This is too complex for Europeans:
    1. Burn to CD
    2. Rip the CD
    3. Load the non-iPod.

    And I was worried about the US education system! Looks like it’s a problem world-wide.

    Or maybe it’s just…

  5. Anti-competitive practices are business or government practices that prevent and/or reduce competition in a market. iTunes purchases being tied to the iPod does reduce competition. Is it anti-competitive? Maybe, maybe not, but MDN’s use of hyperbole is dishonest and disingenuous.

  6. Speaking of utterly seamless interoperability:

    Gizmodo: “Zune 58% Welcomes You to the Social”

    ‘Microsoft Zune propaganda welcomes you to the social, but that’s only about a 58% welcome, because sites around the blogosphere are noticing that around 42% of the songs they’re trying to share Zune-to-Zune are on the “Zune sharing prohibited” list.”

  7. Pffft, if people were concerned about interoperability with multiple devices, they would choose Microsoft’s PlaysForSure (ha!) system which includes multiple stores and devices. Coincidentally, this system is only Windows-compatible. They didn’t, probably because the system was neither simple, elegant, nor easy-to-use.

    If people buy iPods and iTunes music without educating themselves on the limitations, then they are not making informed choices. The information is out there, so if you don’t make an informed choice, it’s your own fault. And if you can’t figure out how to burn a CD, that’s your own fault, too.

  8. “Pffft, if people were concerned about interoperability with multiple devices, they would choose Microsoft’s PlaysForSure (ha!) system which includes multiple stores and devices” That is a joke – These won’t even play on Microsofts own Zune….

  9. All good points in these postings, however, I think the European bretheren have some good points too. I have to say that, while securing what seems reasonable from Apple, MS marches on with a completely closed environment, picking and choosing who they will work with, then changing their minds and doing it themselves – And all without any apparent culpability. That’s really the only troubling thing to me.

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