updated 10:45 am EST, Wed January 24, 2007
Norway rules against DRM
Norway today ruled that Apple's digital rights management technology on its iPod and iTunes store is illegal, following a report earlier this week that both France and Germany have also decided to go after Apple's closed iPod/iTunes ecosystem. According to Out-Law.com, the Consumer Ombudsman in Norway has ruled that the closed system is illegal because the songs, encoded with Apple's FairPlay DRM cannot be played on any music device other than an iPod, breaking Norway's laws. "It doesn't get any clearer than this. Fairplay is an illegal lock-in technology whose main purpose is to lock the consumers to the total package provided by Apple by blocking interoperability," Torgeir Waterhouse, senior adviser at the Consumer Council, told the publication. Apple, for its part, told publications that it hopes to resolve the issues, but was vague about its future actions.
"For all practical purposes this means that iTunes Music Store is trying to kill off one the most important building blocks in a well functioning digital society, interoperability, in order to boost its own profits."
According to the report, Waterhouse also noted that the Ombudsman has written to Apple, telling the company that the iTunes Store must remove the DRM for customers in Norway or appear in court. Waterhouse says the move could help the push movements in other countries, such as France and Germany.
"As of right now we're heading for a big breakthrough that will hopefully pave the way for consumers everywhere to regain control of music they legally purchase."
Apple only has three options, according to the Consumer Council: it can license its proprietary FairPlay DRM to companies that produce other media players, co-develop an open standard with other companies; or it can abandon DRM altogether, the report said.
The Ombudsman also noted that the DRM violated contract laws in the country, backing the Consumer Council's allegations that FairPlay DRM is more than just a copy protection scheme: restricting consumers' use of music so heavily, the Council claimed, broke contract law in Norway.
"The Ombudsman has confirmed our claim that the DRM must be considered part of the contract terms and not a copy protection scheme only," Waterhouse said. "This means that under the Norwegian Marketing Control Act the DRM must provide balanced and fair rights to the consumer when they purchase music from iTunes Music Store and similar download services."
"Apple is aware of the concerns we've heard from several agencies in Europe and we're looking forward to resolving these issues as quickly as possible," Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr told an AP news agency earlier this week. "Apple hopes that European governments will encourage a competitive environment that lets innovation thrive, protects intellectual property and allows consumers to decide which products are successful."