Norway Pushes iTunes for DRM-free Music

Dennis Faas's picture

Norway's leading consumer advocate wants to bring down Apple's "walled garden" between the iPod music player and the iTunes online retail store. Bjorn Erik Thon, Norway's consumer ombudsman, says he is going to ask the country's Market Council -- a court that has legal authority to make companies change their business practices -- to force Apple to allow competition within the iTunes-iPod ecosphere. (Source:

Currently, Apple's iPod is the only portable device that can sync with iTunes and the iTunes store. Since its launch in 2003, The iTunes Store, Apple's online retail arm, has become the No. 1 music retailer in America, and is quickly becoming a strong competitor worldwide. (Source:

Thon and other critics believe this structure creates an unfair monopoly for Apple's digital music player. "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," Thon said. "ITunes makes this impossible or at least difficult, and hence they act in breach of Norwegian law." (Source:

Thon has pressuring Apple to change its strategy for over two years now. According to Thon the company, while receptive to his concept, has done little to change their business model. Thon argues that Norway is not alone in advocating for this change, and he says he has support from many European countries including Finland, France, Germany and the Netherlands. The European Union's consumer commissioner, Meglena Kuneva, is reportedly in line with Norway's proposal as well, which means that, if passed, Norway's test case could become EU policy.

It's too early to tell whether this effort will affect North American customers, but a substantial move against Apple's DRM-like digital music store structure has the potential to affect users worldwide. Apple has faced immense pressure in the past few years to liberalize its policies; earlier this year the company moved to lower retail prices in the UK after being pressured by the EU to adopt European prices in the island country. Even some artists, like AC/DC and Kid Rock, refuse to sell their music on iTunes. (Source:

iTunes started selling DRM-free music last year after Steve Jobs' famous open letter to advocate a restructuring of the digital music business. Some record labels were hostile towards Jobs' concept, saying it threatened their already fragile industry. Now, Apple may be forced to accept a similar change to its own business practices.

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