EU attacks Apple over iTunes

THE European Union's consumer chief has hit out at Apple's bundling of its iPod music players and its iTunes online music store. "Do you think it's fine that a CD plays in all CD players but that an iTunes song only plays in an iPod? I don't. Something has to change," EU Consumer Protection Commissioner Meglena Kuneva was quoted as saying in weekly magazine Focus. Apple could not be immediately reached for comment on the report.

Norway, a European country that is not in the EU, is battling Apple for the same reason. In January, it said the computer and software giant must liberalise its music download system by October 1 or face legal action. Pressure on Apple has been building, with consumer rights organisations from Germany, France, Finland and Norway recently agreeing a joint position in their battles against iTunes. They argue that Apple uses digital rights technology to limit consumers' free use of songs bought on iTunes, including the ability to copy and transfer songs to other users and other MP3 devices besides the Apple iPod. Both at the national and EU levels, however, the issue has been looked at by consumer agencies rather than the competition watchdogs whose role it is to decide whether a business activity violates rules on fair competition

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What the article fails to mention is that the statements were the personal opinion of this woman. They do not represent the views of the EU, which does not hold the same opinion of Apple as she does. It's been blown way out of proportion, and the EU has no plans to legislate Apple (which I feel they should. Wanna attack Microsoft for using anti-competitive practices? Then you'll have to do the same to Apple).

I think part of the difference between wanting to attack Microsoft and not Apple is that in most people's eyes the iPod is the best digital music player there is and the iTunes Store is the best digital music store there is. Things are made even more interesting with the introduction of the iPhone, whose music interface is most likely the next step for the iPod as well and surely beats the pants off of any other music player out there. So while Apple my be anti-competitive with the iPod/iTunes they are still creating competition and creativity by being the best out there; it's a pretty interesting situation.

Creating competition? Apple is doing no such thing. Other companies are trying to get into the market and develop products to compete but Apple's actions only serve to restrict them and extend the dominance of the iPod. Sure the iPod might be the best MP3 player about (hence why I own one) but I detest the way that Apple restricts online music purchases to iTMS, or the few fringe DRM-free operations out there. I wish the EU would take Apple to account and force them to open up the iPod/iTMS or prevent them from operating - the current situation is unacceptable.

The Crazy old farts at the EU are at it again, and they continue to baffle me with how far they are out of touch. Steve Jobs has already commented on why Apple uses DRM, I was angry with Apple for forcing people to buy iPods to listen to purchases from iTunes until i hear Steve’s side of the story.

The EU knows very well that the big four record companies refused to sell music on-line unless there was strict control over what can be done with the files once downloaded. Steve pointed out that on-line sales account for less that 10% of the world music sales - which leaves 90% of music DRM free. Apple has been forced to do a deal that required strict use of DRM

beatlesdb said,
Apple has been forced to do a deal that required strict use of DRM

Please don't act as if Jobs is in between a rock and a hard place. He loves the situation he's in. He gets to make money off of the RIAA's scare tactics all the while making more money on selling his bolt-on player.

But who forced him to create and use a DRM that he won't license to anyone else then ?

I don't believe the record companies said anything about that, in fact I believe they said they'ld love for him to license fairPlay to others.

Exactly. The labels have expressed concern over Apple's domination of the market and their refusal to licence the DRM technology to other online stores. I'm all for the EU protecting me against that and pity people that worship Apple / hate the EU so much that they can't see the situation for what it is.

You can stick your head in the sand and continue to be raped by multi-billion dollar companies (seeking to make a profit and please their shareholders) if you so desire but don't try to include me in that - I support the EU's consumer protection laws and the way they have been enforced. I have no sympathy for Steve Jobs, in fact I rather dislike that little windbag.

If you don't want itunes don't get an Ipod.

If you don't want DRM then forget about buying music online(for a while at least).

I'd like to see a DRM standard and the way its being used, but I do not agree with the EU having the right to push it like they do.

If you buy music from Apple why should you have to use it in an Apple product?

Buying toothpaste at Wal-Mart doesn't require a Wal-Mart toothbrush.

Apple intentionally created a proprietary format to make money. They're shutting out their competitors purposefully. That's illegal.

Yes, particularly because there is no technical reason for it, any mp3 player should be able to play any common format, they are just artificially limited.

What I think is funny is that part of the reason iTunes sells protected music is because the music labels wouldn't let Apple sell their music unless it was protected. Not that I think Apple doesn't make out with that deal but it still seems like the EU is going after the wrong company.

Neithr Norway, Scandinavia or the EU is going after the DRM. They are going after the fact that Apple uses a DRM that is locked to the ipod and iTunes and can't be licensed by third parties.

and when MS moves their Zune store and copy protection over to europ makign a Zune-zune lock in, they will go after MS as well.

HawkMan said,
Neithr Norway, Scandinavia or the EU is going after the DRM. They are going after the fact that Apple uses a DRM that is locked to the ipod and iTunes and can't be licensed by third parties.

and when MS moves their Zune store and copy protection over to europ makign a Zune-zune lock in, they will go after MS as well.


Didn't think of that. Good point.

DRM is only bugging if you notice it ... I agree Apple needs to change its ways, but for god sake we don't need government legislating it.

Whats next?

Suing Ford because their parts won't work in a Suziki?
Suing Atari because their games don't work on Linux?
Suing lock makers because their keys only work in their locks? (imagine this is already in process).

Your analogies don't fit are irrelevant and completely different to the case at hand.

As far as Atari making games for windows only, windows isn't locked so only MS can make games for windows, the reason you can't play Aatari windows games on Linux is technical in nature, it's not an introduced limitation caused by anddign a non licenseable DRM to the games. And you can play windows games on linux if Linux has the right libraries to support it, wine/Cedega


Keys are allready pretty mcuh standardized you know. You can go ot a place that makes keys and they can make the key for you from a set of standard key molds.


Your ford/suzuki analogy would be more likecomplaingin you can remove the zune diisplay and put it on an iPod. And cars are just like CD and everything else standardized, anyone can make tired andwheels for any car you don't need o buy special ford gas. Your radio doesn't tune in to only ford radio and you can also replace it with any stanadard car radio.


Your arguments only goes to prove that Apple's DRM shoudl be licensed so that anyoen can use it on their devices.

Suing Ford because their parts won't work in a Suziki?

It is more akin to ford selling a car, then saying you can only fill it with special ford petrol, which is inflated in price and no one else can produce.

If that was the case then you would be seriously ****ed off.

There is no technological barrier to iTunes tracks playing on other mp3 players. The restraints are artificial. AAC files on their own can be played back on any device which supports AAC.

Your analogies only work if Ford embedded a chip in their parts which meant they refused to function when not part of a Ford car.

If DRM was standardized and could be played across all mediums while still having some sort of secure technology, all would be well. But then that would be a lot easier for the security to be compromised a lot faster. However, DRM in its current state does need to change. I'm glad people are starting to realize that the way DRM is going is the wrong way.

No wait how can another corporation be greedy if they compete with Microsoft!
Oh yeah, cuz they always were, they just suck at it.

Do you think it's fine that a CD plays in all CD players but that an iTunes song only plays in an iPod? I don't. Something has to change.

Wow, a politician with a brain!

DRM is largely a market control tool nowadays, and not just for copy protection.

Sure, what we will no doubt see here is the old brain dead "if you dun like it dun use it!" comment, but with that stance, we won't get far in good business practices. I'd much rather be able to use iTunes but be free in which players I choose.

It's simple what needs to be done, either abolishing DRM (which may not happen very soon), or doing something akin to what the movie industry has done. Standardizing on a protection scheme like AACS and using that. Then Apple as well as MS can go and encrypt their stuff in DRM Standard X and apply access rights in some standardized way. Protection and security has nothing to do with making things propreitary anyway... AES is an international encryption standard and it works great! Why can't a common DRM standard then exist?

god the eu should really get someone to really think before they speak, I would be the first to agree and drm needs to come to an end.

But it is unfair to only target itunes and apple when Microsoft have there own format that yes is supported by more stores but still there format cant be played on an ipod, a mac or a linux or other box.

please EU your representing Europe when you talk get the facts right!

They're probably going after Apple first and now because they're influencing the largest part of the market with the DRM control system, because iTunes has the largest market share in online music sales. Priorities... And while it's true that PlaysForSure music is also restricted, it's not as bad as FairPlay.

Banzai said,
But it is unfair to only target itunes and apple when Microsoft have there own format that yes is supported by more stores but still there format cant be played on an ipod, a mac or a linux or other box.

Ok get your facts right - first, Apple are a _monopoly_ (just like MS is in a different market) - this is not a good thing for you and me (the consumer). Second, Apple sustain that monopoly by _not licencing_ their DRM - something which MS actually does (believe it or not). So Apple are in a position of dominating the market and effectively locking out competition. Nice.

Banzai said,
But it is unfair to only target itunes and apple when Microsoft have there own format that yes is supported by more stores but still there format cant be played on an ipod, a mac or a linux or other box.

Err.. what?
WMA doesn't work on the iPod because Apple won't let it - not because Microsoft won't. Apple disabled that ability in the chip. And i don't use a mac or linux, but i'm pretty sure there are players for both operating systems that play WMA...

dangel said,

Ok get your facts right - first, Apple are a _monopoly_ (just like MS is in a different market) - this is not a good thing for you and me (the consumer). Second, Apple sustain that monopoly by _not licencing_ their DRM - something which MS actually does (believe it or not). So Apple are in a position of dominating the market and effectively locking out competition. Nice.

Apple has a monopoly on their products, much like Microsoft has a monopoly on the Windows OS, much like Ford has a monopoly on Fusion cars....etc etc. There is nothing wrong with these monopolies. They all dominate their respective market (well maybe not the Fusion). Microsoft got into trouble by using anti-competitive tactics. What has Apple done to keep other companies from succeeding in the portable music player or the online music stores? Nothing at all. Creative, Microsoft, and whomever the hell else can enter these markets. All Apple is doing is protecting their products. If they choose to not let some music format on THEIR players, they have that right. If they choose to not allow other players to play songs purchased from THEIR store, they have that right.

Chad said,
Apple has a monopoly on their products, much like Microsoft has a monopoly on the Windows OS, much like Ford has a monopoly on Fusion cars....etc etc. There is nothing wrong with these monopolies. They all dominate their respective market (well maybe not the Fusion). Microsoft got into trouble by using anti-competitive tactics. What has Apple done to keep other companies from succeeding in the portable music player or the online music stores? Nothing at all. Creative, Microsoft, and whomever the hell else can enter these markets. All Apple is doing is protecting their products. [??] If they choose to not let some music format on THEIR players, they have that right. If they choose to not allow other players to play songs purchased from THEIR store, they have that right.

All Apple is doing is protecting their products? From what exactly? And isn't that something Microsoft would say?

Microsoft seems to be pushing their .wma format out to third parties, Apple is pushing their AAC nowhere and holding it to their own MP3 player. Maybe that doesn't seem wrong to you, but when the iPod's holding back playability to make sure people use iTunes or vice versa, it's doesn't help any of us consumers.

Either way, if you look at other places using the same argument, well.. would it be okay for Microsoft to not allow other third party applications of its choice to work on THEIR OS? Or if they chose to not allow say iTunes to install on Windows? Would that be okay? Or would that seem a bit.. anit-competitive? Ya know, considering that there are many more PC users than Mac users, Apple needs Windows functionality because I don't about the rest of you guys, but I'll be damned if I'm going to buy a stupid Mac just to play my iPod.

(Oh, and for the jackass that wants to bring up "iTunes doesn't work for Vista", that's something Apple's got to work on, not Microsoft. Same way every program developer has to make their application work for a new/different OS.)

Chad said,

Apple has a monopoly on their products, much like Microsoft has a monopoly on the Windows OS, much like Ford has a monopoly on Fusion cars....etc etc. There is nothing wrong with these monopolies. They all dominate their respective market (well maybe not the Fusion). Microsoft got into trouble by using anti-competitive tactics. What has Apple done to keep other companies from succeeding in the portable music player or the online music stores? Nothing at all. Creative, Microsoft, and whomever the hell else can enter these markets. All Apple is doing is protecting their products. If they choose to not let some music format on THEIR players, they have that right. If they choose to not allow other players to play songs purchased from THEIR store, they have that right.

If Fusion was a popular car, and if Ford also happened to have petrol company, this case would be like Ford limiting Fusion to its own petrol products. It probably wouldn't be illegal, but it would be taking unfair advantage of being both a petrol company and a car manufacturer.
edit: winmoose beat me with the metaphor

Chad said,
Microsoft got into trouble by using anti-competitive tactics. What has Apple done to keep other companies from succeeding in the portable music player or the online music stores? Nothing at all.

arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrghhhhhhhhhhhh

All I can say is that the EU goes after more than Microsoft. In fact, despite the one-sided "tech"-oriented news that we typically see, the EU has gone after other companies and organizations, too.

Example: http://www.cnbc.com/id/17258736

Computing-centric sites typically don't report elevator news. They do report Microsoft and Apple news, therefore we see a skewed version of events.

markjensen said,
Computing-centric sites typically don't report elevator news. They do report Microsoft and Apple news, therefore we see a skewed version of events.
lol Mark. I say Neowin extends to elevator news coverage!