Apple response on Norwegian iTunes case fails to impress

Norway's consumer protection official is not satisfied with Apple's response to his issue with iTunes DRM restrictions violating the country's laws.

Apple has responded to the Norwegian Consumer Ombudsman's plan to bring an iTunes case before the country's Market Council, but Apple's answer hasn't impressed the official. He now expects the case to go before the council in March or April next year.

Apple has been in the sights of Norwegian Consumer Ombudsman Bjørn Erik Thon for more than two years. The iTunes contract terms breach the Norwegian Marketing Control Act, according to Thon.

"It's a consumer's right to transfer and play digital content bought and downloaded from the Internet to the music device he himself chooses to use. iTunes makes this impossible or at least difficult, and hence, they act in breach of Norwegian law," he said in a statement on Sept. 29, when the plan to submit the case to the local Market Council was announced.

Apple had until Monday to submit comments on Thon's decision. "We have received an answer from iTunes, but it was an answer that didn't add anything of substance. We will now continue what we have done so far, prepare to bring the case before the Market Council," said Thon.

The company is keeping a low profile, declining to comment, according to Adam Howorth, head of Apple Music PR in Europe.

Thon wants all tracks on iTunes, as well as other music stores, to work on any music player, either by removing DRM (digital rights management) restrictions or by making FairPlay, Apple's DRM system, interoperable with devices other than iPods. The latter was ruled out by Apple CEO Steve Jobs in his February 2007 "Thoughts on Music" letter, which Apple still refers to when asked about the subject.

If the Market Council sides with the ombudsman, and Apple still doesn't want to comply, fines can be handed down.

The issue could be solved before March or April, since DRM-free downloads will be one of the major trends in the music industry going forward, said Ian Henderson, vice president, EMEA digital music development, at Sony BMG Music Entertainment.

It has started to take off this year, but will make a major impact during 2009, said Henderson.

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Mikael Ricknäs

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