EU Commish on Apple’s iTunes + FairPlay DRM: ‘Something has to change’

“European Union consumer chief Meglena Kuneva has hit out at Apple’s bundling of its popular iPod music players and its iTunes online music store, according to German weekly magazine Focus,” Reuters reports.

“‘Do you think it’s fine that a CD plays in all CD players but that an iTunes song only plays in an iPod? I don’t. Something has to change,’ EU Consumer Protection Commissioner Kuneva was quoted as saying in a preview of an interview to be published on Monday.”

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Adam W.” for the heads up.]

MacDailyNews Take: The something that has to change is the EU consumer chief’s target. It’s the music labels, not Apple, stupid. Oh, by the way, iTunes Store songs don’t “only play in an iPod.” How about first learning about the product upon which you’re commenting, Ms. Kuneva? We know, that’s a novel idea. For the record, iTunes Store songs can be played an any Mac or PC, certain Motorola mobile phones, and can also be burned to CD and played anywhere, even – gasp! – ripped into any format for the also-ran, barely-in-business, crapola MP3 player that your addled and ancient Great Aunt Edith bought you by mistake last Christmas which the store wouldn’t take back on December 26th.

We can’t wait for the EU, Norway, France, et al. to require Microsoft IE-only websites to work in other browsers; after all, there are tens of millions of Mac users and many millions more Firefox users than there are owners of also-ran MP3 players that are being unfairly excluded. Do you think it’s fine that a standards-compliant website works in all browsers but that certain government, banking, state-run broadcasting, and other websites and online services only work in IE and/or Windows? We don’t. Cue righteous indignation bordering on the hysterical: “Something has to change!”

Apple’s iTunes Music store works on Macs and Windows PCs. All of the other major also-ran services we’ve seen use Microsoft DRM and exclude tens of millions of Mac users (which, incidentally, might go a long way towards explaining why they’re also-rans).

Hopefully, the end result of this stuff will be the end of DRM and any negative impact will not be unfairly focused solely on Apple. Either all companies trying to sell music have to make their ineffective and useless DRMs perfectly interoperable (good luck with that) or all companies have to stop with the meaningless DRM schemes. It’s the music labels that should be the EU’s and Norway’s and whomever else’s focus. Pressure the music labels, dummies, not Apple!

Since Apple does not own or control any music itself, it must license the rights to distribute music from others, primarily the “big four” music companies: Universal, Sony BMG, Warner and EMI. These four companies control the distribution of over 70% of the world’s music. When Apple approached these companies to license their music to distribute legally over the Internet, they were extremely cautious and required Apple to protect their music from being illegally copied. The solution was to create a DRM system, which envelopes each song purchased from the iTunes store in special and secret software so that it cannot be played on unauthorized devices.

Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. – Apple CEO Steve Jobs, February 6, 2007

Steve Job’s complete “Thoughts on Music” open letter here.

Related articles:
Anti-DRM activists rap Steve Jobs; Group petitions Apple CEO to remove FairPlay DRM software – March 10, 2007
Is DRM doomed? – March 09, 2007
How Apple’s FairPlay DRM works – February 26, 2007
Windows Vista’s DRM is bad news – February 14, 2007
Monster Cable announces full support of Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ call for DRM-free music – February 13, 2007
Recording Industry Association of America wants their DRM, calls for Apple to license FairPlay – February 08, 2007
Warner’s Middlebronfman: Jobs’ DRM-free music call ‘without logic and merit, we’ll not abandon DRM’ – February 08, 2007
Dvorak: Apple CEO Steve Jobs is dead right about DRM – February 07, 2007
Apple’s Jobs jolts music industry; Zune exec calls Jobs’ call for DRM-free music ‘irresponsible’ – February 07, 2007
Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ posts rare open letter: ‘Thoughts on Music’ – calls for DRM-free music – February 06, 2007
Norwegian Ombudsman: Apple’s FairPlay DRM is illegal in Norway – January 24, 2007
Major music labels ponder DRM-free future – January 23, 2007


  1. OK. It’s starging to look like an old Rock and a Hard Place kind of situation.

    Maybe Apple should pull out of selling to the EU? Probably not a good move.

    If they go to the labels right now and ask them to allow Apple to open up the DRM of the songs they sell, they’re probably gonna get some proposed crap like the deal Universal ‘pulled-over’ on Microsoft, i.e. they want a percentage of the value of every iPod sold.

    Why exactly the labels feel they should get *any* money for anything these days is beyond me. What exactly do they bring to the table? Nobody markets music they way they still insist on trying to do it. Ads in local and national music mags? Please!

  2. I love when you dumbasses say nonsense like “maybe x should pull out of europe”.

    Can you even start to comprehend what would mean to Apple to lose 690 million potential clients? The European Union alone is made of 27 (!) countries which totals 492 million people! Also the EU has the world’s largest economy with an estimated nominal GDP of 14.2 trillion USD (2006) accounting for 35% of world GDP!

    Think a bit before making stupid comments…

  3. And what was stopping the developers of the cd or dvd or vhs or any other format from not licensing their technology? Nothing. They just decided that they had to in order to ensure it took off and became the standard. Do Sony allow people to make PS3’s which they can then run games on? Do Nintendo with the wii? Microsoft? No. If they want music to run on all formats then they’ve got to have open DRM – which for a variety of reasons won’t work or they remove DRM. Ultimately it’s not Apple or any other format provider they need to speak to.

  4. On another note: The EU is still letting MS off the hook on software anti-trust issues.

    Have you seen the new Vista? It defaults to IE!?!?

    Didn’t this get MS in trouble in the first place?

    Not only does it default to IE, you can’t change it to any other browser.
    Plus it doesn’t remember your settings after you close Firefox, etc.

    Why doesn’t the IE complete one issue before going after a real non-issue of iTUnes/iPod which is originally purchased as a close system.

    My 2 cents.

  5. In addition to exposing the commissioner’s lack of understanding of the issue at hand, this article is also a poor translation.

    Hit out? Was she playing baseball? Cricket?

    I would venture a guess that she lashed out at Apple.

  6. Hey MDN,

    Did it even occur to you for a second she was talking about the music labels? Or are you always attacking anyone to make smoke and noise! Talk about MY RDF!



    p.s. The magic word is “basic,” as in MDN doesn’t do it…

  7. Apple locks you in and you love it.

    What we have here is a clear example of playing on both sides of the fence. On the one side Apple tells you that physical media is old and dying and that portable music players are the future. On the other side they tell you that you aren’t being locked in because you cam burn your iTunes purchased music to CD. They’ll tell you you can burn your music, but at the same time they’re subtle belittling you for being behind the times out the other side of their mouth.

    For shame. If you truly care about freeing up music, strip off Fairplay. Let’s actually see how much the record execs would enjoy losing billions in revenue should they have the spine to pull their music.

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