European regulators breathe down Apple's neck

by Jeremiah Foster

A host of European countries are concerned about iTunes music downloads and how they only play on the iPod. The latest to speak up is Holland where the Dutch authorities have said;

"What we want from Apple is that they remove the limitations that prevent you from playing a song you download from iTunes on any player other than an iPod. When you buy a music CD it doesn't play only on players made by Panasonic. People who download a song from iTunes shouldn't be bound to an iPod for the rest of their lives."


2007-01-28 09:19:21
The difference between Apple and Microsoft is that Apple refuses to license Fairplay DRM to other parties (thus locking the user into the iPod) while Microsoft does not refuse to license their DRM scheme to third parties.
2007-01-28 09:46:21
I am not fan of DRM, but these European regulators singling out Apple seems to me another example of big government trying to shut down a successful business -- a business made successful because consumers demanded it, not because they were forced to buy into it.

What Norway is trying to do would be the same as if they forced Microsoft to make a Mac-compatible version of MS Project, or forced Nintendo to port Zelda to run on the PS3.

2007-01-28 10:46:19
I'm sitting here scratching my head, wondering why Norway, for example, is so different from anywhere else.

Here, say, iTunes content not only runs on iPods, but on Macs and PCs that have iTunes installed.

More than that, since I can burn a standard audio CD, using that same content, and convert the audio CD tracks to mp3 files, I can play the mp3's on just about any mp3 player on the market.

It's mildly inconvenient, but it's nowhere close to being impossible.

Surely Norwegian bureaucrats aren't incapable of learning how to do something this simple, are they?

2007-01-28 11:56:48
Quite frankly I don't care that the only music player that will play a song purchased from iTunes is the iPod. I happen to love mine and use it every day during my commute to work. I purchase music knowing full well the restrictions and have accepted them. It's not as if Apple is deceiving anyone. If you want music that's universally playable then vote with your wallet and buy something else it's not like Apple is the only choice. Last I look there were quite a few competitors to iTMS/iPod.
2007-01-28 19:29:10
And I always thought the Norwegian gonvernment is a little less retarded than many other governments -- how could I have been so wrong...
2007-01-29 00:19:42
If you don't wear snowtires this time of the year in Scandinavia, you're a real danger to other people. That's the consequence.
I don't think it's legal to drive a car withot brakes in USA or UK.
So that comparison was quite stupid.
Simon Hibbs
2007-01-29 01:58:04

Some very poor analogies there. Your argument against regulation applies to all regulation, which would be a pretty extreme position to take. Most consumers have absolutely no idea what DRM is, let alone the consequences when they come to shop for a replacement for their iPod.

If Apple licensed FairPlay, not only would it take no effort on their part - the licensor would have to do all the 'porting' - but they would earn license fees too. There's absolutely no comparison whatever to having to port a desktop app.

2007-01-29 07:25:37
Simon, if you want to talk licensing, then the analogy would be the regulators forcing Nintendo to license the Zelda game and charaters to Sony and Microsoft for the PS3 and XBox. By your logic, this would be OK, as long as Nintendo was merely licensing the characters and gameplay, and leaving the actual programming/porting work to Sony and MS.

My anology is valid, because fundamentally, governments should not dictate what businesses do, beyond basic health and safety regulations -- and no one is saying being able to play your iTunes music on a Zune is a matter of life or death.

2007-01-29 09:41:57
Apple has NOTHING to be embarrassed about, NOTHING to apologize for.

1) you can buy and enjoy content on iTunes without owning an iPod.
2) you can fill an iPod to bursting with non DRM content of your choice.
3) you can burn iTunes Store music to an AUDIO CD with no DRM.

I don't see Europe banning all commercial DVD sales. This is a stupid witch hunt for publicity's sake.

2007-01-29 10:08:01
For the record: not any Dutch authorities, mind you, but the "Consumentenbond", a Dutch consumer organisation, is where the above citation is coming from. So far, I haven't heard anything on the subject from Dutch lawmakers. It's all a bit of a storm in a teacup anyway, because there are easy workarounds for those who want to play their songs from the iTunes store on other players. I myself do not care at all for the judgement of the Consumentenbond.
Amsterdam, Holland, Hans van der meer
2007-01-29 10:35:03
You're not locked into the iPod unless you insist on buying songs from the iTunes music store. This is no different than being locked into other MP3 players if you buy music from Napster, or other Windows media outlets.

If Norway is serious about this, they need to apply the law equally. And you know what that will mean for consumer choice in Norway? Sorry, no one wants to do business with you any more... Norway will get blocked from access to any of the online music stores that insist on DRM, which is to say everyone but eMusic.

Norway's not exactly a big music market for the US, so they're going to get cut off. How is that better for consumer choice? Congratulations, you now have less choice.


2007-02-16 12:30:40
I can play iTunes on my Motorola mobile phone. I do not own an iPod.

Governments need to address whether a certain codec or other system for decoding music and/or video is actually a monopoly or not. That is a question I don't hear. The Norwegian government has simply declared that it's not nice to restrict iTunes to iPods. But is that really unfair practice? Perhaps there is an open-source codec out there which can break that hold. Then the whole question becomes moot. If it's open source it's totally adaptable, right?

jeremiah foster
2007-02-16 12:39:47
It is not so much the codex that are at issue, if by codec you mean AAC for example, it is the FairPlay DRM that has upset the legislators. That and the fact that Apple dominates digital downloads in Europe. What the Europeans want to see is Apple licensing FairPlay which Apple refuses to do. If another player could play FairPlay DRM'd music, then Apple will lose iPod sales, or so the theory goes. This is why Apple will not license FairPlay though Apple contends that if they do license FairPlay they can no longer guarantee security from piracy which is what the labels demand, but this is nonsense.
2007-02-27 11:27:34
Ok I am so tired of this crap! Seriously this has got to be one of the most retarded things that has ever been an issue (well other than CNN's top headline being about Brittany Spears Shaving her head) I think that Apple works on making there product the best not the cheapest. I dont think that it is fair to say that Apple invested all the time and money into making something that will play with better audio quality and then have to let everyone else use it. That is like saying if you are going to make a game for PC's then you have to make them for Mac. I dont see that happening. The only reason that Apple has so much buisnes with that is because they made a better product, and it seems like because they made a better product (wich by the way does not need iTunes) they have to make it easier for the competition. I know that I buy stuff from iTunes because of the quality not because I own an iPod.
Peter Boocock
2007-10-24 07:06:57
Universal, Sony BMG, Warner and EMI - the four major music companies required that Apple employ DRM - to quote Steve Jobs from

The third alternative is to abolish DRMs entirely. Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music.