iTunes faces the music over restrictive digital rights policy

Norway’s Consumer Council has filed a complaint asking for a ruling that Apple’s digital rights management policy violates the country’s law because users can’t play the iTunes music they buy on any music player they choose.

And consumer representatives from several Nordic countries are discussing how to proceed in their battle against Apple Computer Inc. over the iTunes digital rights management (DRM) policy.

The leaders have convened in Reykjavik as part of a regularly scheduled meeting and iTunes is among the issues they’re discussing, said Torgeir Waterhouse, a senior advisor on Norway’s Consumer Council.

His organization filed a complaint in June asking the consumer representative, or ombudsman, in Norway to rule that Apple’s DRM violates Norwegian law because users can’t play the music they buy in iTunes on any music player they choose.

The ombudsman, who was joined by colleagues in Denmark in Sweden, asked Apple to defend its policy. In its response, Apple was “unmovable” on its DRM policy, Waterhouse said.

In Reykjavik, the ombudsmen planned to discuss whether they should work together to prepare their cases against Apple, Waterhouse said. If they do decide to join forces, they’ll still individually file legal actions in their respective countries, which have similar laws.

“They’re trying to work out the best way to approach this because this is a big, new type of case for the ombudsmen,” Waterhouse said.

In the meantime, lawyers from Apple plan to meet with the Norwegian ombudsman at the end of September to present their views, Waterhouse said. Apple requested the face-to-face meeting as part of its response submitted in August.

If the issue isn’t resolved during that meeting, the ombudsman in Norway will likely file a suit against Apple in a consumer court, the first level of the court system. That court has the authority to make a ruling against Apple that is enforceable, he said.

Opposition to the link between iTunes and the iPod has also emerged in France and the U.K. France recently passed a law that initially would have required Apple to reveal its DRM technology to other music player makers, although the final law allowed companies to keep their technologies private. In the U.K., a recording industry trade group has publicly complained about the iTunes exclusivity.

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