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Summary:

First it was France, described as loopy by the great one. And now Sweden, Denmark, Norway and soon Finland are asking that Apple offer iTunes downloads that can playback on any device, and not just Apple’s iPod. In UK, BPI is making similar noises as well, […]

First it was France, described as loopy by the great one. And now Sweden, Denmark, Norway and soon Finland are asking that Apple offer iTunes downloads that can playback on any device, and not just Apple’s iPod. In UK, BPI is making similar noises as well, reports The Financial Times.

An Apple spokesman said on Friday: “We have received a letter from the Norwegian Consumer Council and are looking into it. We’re looking forward to resolving this matter.” Previously Apple has called the French legislation “state-sponsored piracy”. Working together, Norway, Sweden and Denmark have sent letters to Apple setting deadlines for their demands. Similar action by Finland is expected.

My good buddy, Pip Coburn says it best when he writes, “When push comes to shove folks want their close rivals to be forced to open up so they can stay in the game but I doubt they want a precedent that suggests all content must work to all devices.” This is a indeed a slippery slope.

On topic of Apple specifically, the company for now can afford to ignore these countries for now, because they are not such a significant part of its revenue stream. Robert Semple, an analyst with CSFB had recently issued a report and indicated that iPod had an estimated penetration rate of 7.1% compared with 15.5% for the United States. He had also pointed out that Apple has only six retail stores in Europe – all of them in UK, which means, the company is not that hot on rest of Europe. Looks like if these countries are successful, it is going to remain that way!

Update: The anti-iTunes brigade will be holding protests in the US outside some Apple stores tomorrow. Boing Boing is championing that. My view – don’t like it, don’t buy it. Vote with you dollars, spend them else where, like on MTV Urge.

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By Om Malik

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  1. iTunes music store needs to work with any player but no other online store even has to work with my Mac let alone my iPod??? I say screw all of Europe – shut the stores down and let them use napster with the Micro$oft DRM and see how the voters like how the government helped them out!

  2. I’m sure Microsoft and the MP3 hardware providers are behind this move, both financially and politically. Apple don’t provide the most popular DRM (Microsoft does), but the most commercially successful DRM and are being singled out. It’s ironic that the same logic used by these countries doesn’t apply to proprietary lock in of Windows or Microsoft Office.

    If I were Apple this would be how I’d comply with the request. I’d require all non-Apple MP3 devices to be erased and for a DRM supporting software/file system to be installed on them. This software would not have an iPod interface so as not to cannibalise iPod sales. If this is not possible, then I can’t see the problem in packing up the iTunes stores in these countries and going home.

    As an aside, doesn’t Finland have huge problems with copyright issues? Haven’t they just passed legislation in the last week or two, to shore up copyright issues because their citizens illegally download anything, much more so than any other country? So where do these countries (ie governments and the citizens who elected them) get off requiring businesses to make it easier to hack and rip-off intellectual property?

  3. Hi,

    I’m spanish, so first of all, i want to say that we have to difference between the goverments and the citiciens. I don’t know exactly what is happening in France, Finland, Sweden, Dennmark, but in Spain the spanish RIA is very close to the goverment, so they are trying to receive a canon for each CD, DVD, MP3 player, USB, any storage disk (except the hard disk and the ADSL) and they are trying to shut down webs.

    As you’ve said the percentage of Apple sales in Europe is very low, in Spain for example there are very few people with Mac, although there are a lot of iPods. It’s a pity, because Mac is much better that Windows (for me :-)). Spain is in the TOP 10 of the countries with highest “piracy”, so iTunes sales are minimal, because almost nobody buys songs.

    I think like Om, if you don’t like it, don’t but it; the economic laws will do the rest, so if anyone buys songs, Apple will change its model. But it’s stupid to make a law to change that.

  4. You might be interested in the Consumer Council of Norway’s original complaint leading up to the Ombudsman’s decision:
    http://forbrukerportalen.no/Artikler/2006/1149587055.44

  5. Europe is wrong. Actually I think this should be extended to CDs and DVDs. Sony BMG CDs should only play in Sony players and Disney DVDs should only play in Disney (maybe also Apple) players…
    This is not Europe against Apple, this is Europe against monopolies.
    (By the way how come and PC users voted with their dollars for ‘not the best’ OS: MS Windows??)

  6. No one is forcing anyone to buy songs from iTunes, or buy an iPod, if you don’t like it, don’t buy it. This whole issue is absurd. Go buy a CD. URGE is just simply terrible how can anyone recommend URGE over iTunes boggles the mind. If you want the best complete user experience and aren’t an uber-geek iTunes iPod is fantastic.

  7. Like the DRM in Urge is any better? You’ll just be locked into some other hardware.

  8. What’s stopping them from playing songs from iTMS on any device?

    It seem most articles leave out (intentionally?) the part about being able to burn and then rip them into mp3 formatt straight from iTunes, not to mention third party programs out there.

  9. Jesse Kopelman Monday, June 12, 2006

    I think Europe is going about this bassakwards. Don’t force iTunes to use a different DRM, force Apple to license their DRM for free. I can’t imagine anyone is buying an iPod simply because it works best with iTunes — more like the other way around. And Apple isn’t really going to lose out on revenue from DRM fees, since no one is paying them anyway. So, that would be a win-win for everyone. More customers for iTunes and better utillity for those who don’t want to pay a premium for a portable player.

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