Apple, music labels face European Commission antitrust probe

Apple Store“Apple and several major music companies are facing a European Commission antitrust probe after Brussels issued formal charges alleging that the deals that underpin the sale of music through the hugely popular iTunes platform violate competition rules,” Tobias Buck and Karl de Meyer report for The FInancial Times.

“In a surprise development, the Brussels regulator last week sent a confidential statement of objections outlining the accusations to Apple and to “major record companies”. These are understood to include Universal, Warner, EMI and Sony BMG,” Buck and de Meyer report.

Buck and de Meyer report, “The Commission’s main concern is that iTunes’ current set-up in the European market prohibits users in one country from downloading music from a website intended to serve another country.”

“‘Apple has always wanted to operate a single, pan-European iTunes store, accessible by anyone from any member state,’ an Apple spokesman said on Monday. ‘But we were advised by the music labels and publishers that there were certain legal limits to the rights they could grant us. We do not believe the company did anything to violate EU law, and we will continue to work with the EU to resolve this matter,’ he said,” Buck and de Meyer report.

Full article here.
You give them the stars, they ask for the moon.

This sounds like a music labels’ licensing morass (old country-by-country contracts that aren’t EU-applicable), not an issue caused by Apple.

Apple iTunes

Related articles:
Apple’s DRM-free iTunes play trumps Microsoft’s huge bet on DRM – April 02, 2007
Norwegian Consumer Council senior advisor applauds Apple’s iTunes Store DRM-free music – April 02, 2007
CNBC video: Apple CEO Steve Jobs and EMI Group CEO Eric Nicoli – April 02, 2007
EMI’s Nicoli on DRM-free iTunes: ‘We have to trust our consumers,’ Apple’s Jobs: ‘right thing to do’ – April 02, 2007
Kudos to Steve Jobs and Apple for having courage to call for end of DRM and making it happen – April 02, 2007
Analyst Gartenberg: iTunes Store’s DRM-free music ‘a great win for Apple’ – April 02, 2007
Apple CEO Steve Jobs to appear live on CNBC within the hour – April 02, 2007
Apple: Higher quality 256 kbps AAC DRM-free music on iTunes Store coming in May – April 02, 2007
EMI rejects Warner Music buyout bid – March 04, 2007
EMI halts talks about selling DRM-free music – February 26, 2007
Warner Music approaches EMI in possible takeover bid – February 20, 2007
Macrovision posts pro-DRM open letter to Steve Jobs and digital entertainment industry – February 16, 2007
Warner’s DRM-loving Middlebronfman warns wireless industry it may lose music market to Apple iPhone – February 14, 2007
Monster Cable announces full support of Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ call for DRM-free music – February 13, 2007
BBC columnist doesn’t believe Steve Jobs’ Apple would stop using DRM if music labels would allow it – February 12, 2007
EMI may sell entire music catalog DRM-free – February 09, 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
Technology Review editor gets a lot wrong in his article about Apple CEO Jobs’ push to end 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

103 Comments

  1. I’m sure we’re get plenty of anti-Europe posts here, but I’d like to hopefully “first post” by saying that I think that the EU is right here, although I do believe it is the fault of the record companies and not Apple.

  2. The music publishers aren’t the first industry which had to change plans for the common european market – they’re just trying to be the last ones, it appears… ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />

  3. Is it me, or are the European antitrust probers extra whiney?

    What good is there in keeping a french customer from buying a track which Apple has to restrict to only the british iTunes store?

    The whole system of fractured licensing with localized special restrictions for individual european countries is severely outdated and needs to go the way of the german Mark and the french Franc.

    Most of us are paying in Euro nowadays – there’s no good reason why we shouldn’t see interesting music from other corners of the continent.

  4. Was the news today with EMI an effort for EMI, which is struggling, to get a jump on their competition? What if EMI and Apple are DRM free? Then the onus is on the other record labels to show that they aren’t the anti-competitive ones.

    EMI removing DRM: Crazy like a fox.

  5. Amazing the level of effort these countries go through to prove anti-competitive behavior and imply some sort of collusion over something as benign and uneccessary as music.

    How about lets see this same level of investigation aimed at oil companies.

  6. Some of you aren’t getting it: The Commission is trying to remove actual restrictions which hurt both the buyers and Apple.

    iTunes customers, Apple and the European Commission are clearly on the same side here, the rigid and legacy-ridden music industry on the other.

    Sure, it will take the labels some effort to sort out their messy licensing contracts which enforce the existing restrictions, but forcing them to get their stuff together at last is long overdue anyway. Apple doesn’t have enough power to push this simplification through, but the EU does. Fortunately.

  7. The EU needs to start worrying about their own, namely the labels that are based out of Europe that aren’t playing along. Apple has shown that they’re genuinely trying to open things up, so for the EU to go after them at all shows just how pathetically out of touch the EU truly is.

  8. Ping / Jamie

    I agree with you in principle but Brussels is targeting Apple as well even though they may agree with Apple. With “friends” like these…

    In the affected countries, Apple should either: 1) pull out entirely or 2)sell music only from the vendors that allow DRM free music to be sold. If 2) is not good enough, then implement 1).

    Whole-heartedly agree with MDN’s take.

    Peace.

  9. This is nutty. The EU has no business getting involved in these types of decisions by private companies selling/leasing their property. There are always unintended negative consequences from these types of mandates. What if a music company (or any other company) wanted to try a new product in a single country because it was too risky it its previous business model to implement it across the EU? This mandate would make such a company less likely to innovate and try new products. The common market shouldn’t be about mandates on private transactions between willing sellers and buyers. It should just be about preventing individual national governments from restricting trade.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.