Norway still trying to ‘unlock’ iTunes

September 29, 2008

Norway still trying to 'unlock' iTunes  Norway is continuing its bid to force Apple to make iTunes songs playable on devices besides iPods. Consumer advocates are now planning to use the clout of Norway’s market council to make it happen.

The market council has the authority to force companies to change their trade business. Guardian reported that Erik Thon, Norway’s consumer ombudsman, is making the push to have Apple open up its software. He says that it is a consumer right to be able to play iTunes-purchased music on any device, not just Apple’s proprietary iPod. iTunes’s proprietary AAC format files are locked with Apple’s DRM, though now customers have an option to pay extra to purchase DRM-free songs instead.

Thon won’t be alone in his efforts. Colleagues in Denmark, Finland, France and Germany have been co-coordinating with him in making a test case; should Norway’s efforts succeed, similar efforts could likely happen in those countries.

"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," said Thon. "iTunes makes this impossible or at least difficult, and hence, they act in breach of Norwegian law."

He also said that iTunes had two years to meet interoperability demands, and since the last February meeting, has shown no progress in the matter. Ultimately, the goal is to force Apple to remove the DRM locks and convert fully to an open system. Apple has until November 3 to reply to Erik Thon.

Though Apple has been making baby steps towards releasing DRM-free songs, it does have its music suppliers to think about. DRM is not merely about forcing customers to listen to music on Apple’s iPods; it’s to pacify worried music executives who fear that open MP3 files will hurt their business.

If this ‘case’ is supposed to be a victory for consumers, then one wonders what took so long for consumers to do something about it in the first place. When the iTunes store first opened, consumers could have chosen to ignore or boycott the store because of all the restrictions. But despite the DRM restrictions, consumers kept coming back. Would the death of iTunes DRM mean the waning of the iPod’s popularity? Perhaps, or maybe Apple will learn that closed, proprietary systems aren’t essential for profitability.

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