updated 06:20 pm EST, Tue February 6, 2007
Norway responds to Jobs
Senior advisor Torgeir Waterhouse of the Norwegian Consumer Council has responded to Apple CEO Steve Jobs' open letter concerning digital rights management and free music, which the executive published earlier today. "We're happy to see Steve Jobs take on the responsibility that follows from Apple's role as one of the leading companies in the digital sphere and comment on the complaint issued by the Norwegian Consumer Council," Waterhouse told MacNN, referring to Jobs' letter. "Our concern is of course that it's Apple and [the] iTunes Music Store [that] should be addressing the issue of record companies and DRM themselves if it needs to be addressed - and as we've stated earlier it's iTunes Music Store that's providing a service to the consumers and therefore has the responsibility to offer up a consumer friendly product."
Responding to Apple's chief about the Cupertino-based company's closed iPod/iTunes ecosystem, the senior advisor says Jobs' claim that consumers aren't locked into using Apple's own products when they purchase music from the iTunes store is a contradiction, since the point and function of FairPlay -- Apple's digital rights management (DRM) -- is to lock the music purchased from the iTunes store to work exclusively on iPods.
"[Steve Jobs] also goes on to turn the whole issue on its head by stating iPod owners are not locked into [the] iTunes Music Store - the issue our complaint [addresses] is of course the opposite, iTunes Music Store customers are locked to the iPod."
Apple's CEO argued that Apple, Microsoft, and Sony all compete with proprietary systems and that music purchased from each store will only play on that company's hardware. Waterhouse effectively expressed that Apple is not free from fault simply because it is not alone in its proprietary ventures, and that the iTunes store as well as other closed music offerings are unfair to consumers.
"The fact remains that both iTunes Music Store and others are unfair to consumers no matter how many download services follow the proprietary approach."
Addressing the delegation of blame to record companies, Waterhouse admits that music labels need to carry their own weight to ensure fairness for customers at the global level.
"It's quite clear that the record companies carry their share of the responsibility for the situation that the consumer [is] stuck in," exclaimed Waterhouse. "However no matter what agreements [the] iTunes Music Store [has] entered into, they're still the company that's selling music to the consumers and are responsible for offering the consumer a fair deal according to Norwegian law."
Jobs concluded his open letter by stating that he fully embraces free music, and that Apple would sell unprotected tracks if it were possible to do so.
"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," Jobs said in his letter published earlier today.
Waterhouse viewed Jobs' conclusion as a potential good sign that Apple is indeed willing to "kick the lock" in technology from the iTunes/iPod combination.
"This is really good news - news that should be put into action as soon as possible to bring us all one important step closer to a well functioning digital society."