Norwegian watchdog scrutinizes iTunes DRM

Norway's consumer council accuses Apple of unfair practices. Apple says it's protecting the interests of musicians.
Written by Jo Best, Contributor

Apple Computer has refuted claims by Norway's consumer watchdog that it uses unfair practices by making its iTunes service incompatible with rivals' systems.

Norway's consumer council complained to Apple earlier this year that iTunes' lack of interoperability with digital-music players other than the iPod was not in the best interest of consumers. The watchdog said consumers must be allowed to transfer their iTunes-bought songs to the MP3 player of their choice, both now and in the future.

Apple has filed its response to the complaint, telling the regulator that it isn't behaving unfairly--rather, it's protecting the interests of the individuals whose music it sells.

Torgeir Waterhouse, senior adviser at Norway's consumer council, refuted the idea. "It's very difficult to see how locking consumers into the iPod is preserving the rights of any given artist...It's just not replying to (the complaint). Apple is trying to 'smoke screen' it away," he said.

Waterhouse said other elements of the council's objections to Apple's business practices, such as its ability to change terms of service after purchase and have the terms retroactively apply to downloads, have been responded to positively by the company.

"The reply from (Apple) is a good start, but it's a very, very long way to go before we can say we're satisfied," he said.

Apple's response is still being reviewed, and there has been no decision yet on what the next step will be. However, if it's found that Apple isn't complying with the council's wishes, the company could face court.

Waterhouse said Apple appears unmovable on the issue of digital rights management, or DRM, and he expects a "long struggle" over the issue.

Jo Best of Silicon.com reported from London.

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