iTunes out of Norway?

Apple and the Norwegian Consumer Ombudsman, Forbrukerombudet, have been complaining about each other for quite some time now. The issue that has sparked the controversy is the locked format of Apple iTunes, where music is only available for Apple’s own platform (iPod). The Consumer Ombudsman demands that music sold in the iTunes music shop are made available in a format thatcan be used freely on other devices on the market. Apple had until the 3rd of november to comply with the demands, but have responded that they will not do anything to resolve the issue (Read the letter from Apple here). This has lead the case to now move up higher into the bureaucracy, onto the desk of Markedsrådet. This instance have the right to enforce laws and any decision made here will have to be followed by Apple if they want to keep themselves in the Norwegian market.

I’ve written a bit about the market for digital distribution earlier, and while iTunes have been a great way forward for introducing people to digital purchasing of music, I think that they’d get that position regardless of their use of DRM. They’ve done a few things to loosen up their tight DRM regime, but other providers, such as Amazon, has done a much greater job.

I’m glad to see that the issue is going somewhere serious here in Norway, and I fail to see this as a great threat to the online distribution in Norway. People have made the complaint that this will just lead to Apple pulling out of Norway, leaving our quite small market to itself. If that happens, then we suddently have a large market available for other online ventures, without the threat of Apple going after their market. Imagine the music distribution market in the united states if iTunes suddently decided to stop distributing music. Amazon would laugh all the way to the bank, other ventures would pop up all over the place, and the consumer would probably be better off.

If Apple decides to remove DRM, then it suddenly becomes a viable place for purchasing digital music here in Norway for me. If Apple wins we’re in the same situation as we are today, where they don’t respect the wishes of the consumer organizations anyways.

5 thoughts on “iTunes out of Norway?”

  1. This is very interesting news. has teamed with iTunes, so might need to make some changes.

  2. I on the other hand dont understand the case. I have bought music for over 3500 kr ( aoround 500 USD ) and I am quite happy with ITunes. When I buy from ITunes I accept the terms of the buy, even though it measn I can only use their DRM-music on my mac or an Ipod. People shou start reading the terms , before signing an agreement.
    If you dont like the terms, then dont use ITunes to buy songs. I dont like DRM either, but to force a company to change their policy, wich their deals with the record-companies are based upon, will not change anything. With a marked as small as Norway I think Apple rather will withdraw Itunes from Norway, than start a “war” with the record-companies.
    If ITunes is withdrawn from Norway many people will have a lot of songs that cant be played anymore. Itunes use servers to check that the unit you play a bought song on is validated. Doesnt all the people that have bought these songs have rights as well?

  3. I think you answered a bit about the case in the last paragraph of your comment; if iTunes suddenly decides to withdraw from Norway — although people could probably still play their purchased music on Approved Devices — and people are unable to play their music, they’ve been blatantly ripped off.

    The record companies are living in the past, and yes, while they want DRM, there are certain measures in place to control the behaviour of companies in the market. Apple has gotten several warnings that their iTunes <-> iPod lock-in may be illegal according to these terms, and action should be taken to make everyone happy. While this case only regards Norway, France and Germany are also getting involved, as they have much the same regulations (iPhone in a non-locked version was first sold in france because of their laws). Amazon sells DRM-free content, and I actually think that if iTunes decided to only sell DRM-free music (they sell certain DRM-free tracks already, for a premium price), the record companies would be too scared to do anything else. A few might say no, but the rest would enjoy more focus, an even larger market.. and the ones who refused, would come back.

    In 10-20 years we’ll probably look back on the whole DRM thing and wonder what the hell we were thinking about.

  4. The problem will appear , I think, the day when I have to reinstall and after that want to play music that has DRM. It´s at that point the Mac (Yes even Macs needs to be re-installed now and then :) ) or pc needs to be re-validated. Since then ITunes has been withdrawn from Norway and my music was bought on a Norwegian account. It is at that point my concern appears. Will I be able to play the music again?

  5. In that case you’ve sold a faulty product (in this case, the customer will no longer have access to his rightfully purchased music) and the customer will be entitled to a refund.

    This would never be a problem with DRM-free music, and we can’t sidestep the issue by attempting to change the case into “keeping the DRM is good for the customer”.

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