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EU Countries Call Out iTunes DRM 457

Posted by Zonk
from the cue-the-gunfight-music dept.
seriouslywtf writes "Europe is upping the pressure on Apple to open up its restrictive DRM that ties iTunes to the iPod. Norway ruled last year that the iPod-iTunes tie-in was unreasonable and gave Apple a deadline to make a change to its policies, but was unsatisfied with the response they got. Now France and Germany have joined forces with Norway, making it a lot harder for Apple to just walk away from those markets. From the article: 'France's consumer lobby group, UFC-Que Choisir, and Germany's Verbraucherzentrale are now part of the European effort to push Apple into an open DRM system, with more countries considering joining the group. However, the company has been under some fire over the last year due to those restrictions, first with France and then Denmark looking to open up restrictive DRM schemes (including, but not limited to iTunes) ... Norwegian consumer groups were unimpressed by Apple's response. Norway has now given Apple a new deadline of September of this year to change its policies, and the pressure on Apple will likely grow in the months leading up to the deadline.'"
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EU Countries Call Out iTunes DRM

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  • by Kenja (541830) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @12:44PM (#17725626)
    Without the hardware tie in there's realy no incentive for Apple to keep running iTunes. Its the iPod & iTv sales that make them money.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @12:45PM (#17725640)
    So, if Apple has to open its DRM, then so does Microsoft and everybody else trying to hide behind such things. Anything else is merely targeting one or more members of a group under the pretense of customer satisfaction.

    People have lots of alternatives to iPod's, as well as alternatives to iTunes. Is there anything that's ONLY available from iTunes that can't be acquired elsewhere?
  • Translation: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hawthorne01 (575586) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @12:51PM (#17725754)
    "You're being too successful. Please stop."

    Look, I loathe DRM as much as the next guy, but Apple's not using their market dominance to smack around, say, Microsoft from making a run at them. Microsoft is doing a FINE job all by themselves at lousing up their attempts to dethrone Apple. :-)

    Ergo, this is just market forces at work. The market has spoken, and people prefer the iPod and iTunes to the competition. Until there's good evidence that iTunes prevents someone from, say, playing a WMA file on Windows or the like, Apple's in the clear on this. Let them have their success, and stop monkeying with the system.
  • by dedazo (737510) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @01:02PM (#17725948) Journal
    You know, I thought about the same thing when Microsoft was forced to unbundle WMP from XP. I mean, one of the first things I do when I set up a new XP box is install Winamp. I never use WMP. Yet in their infinite wisdom, the EU decided that I was being "harmed" because RealAudio can't convince people to download their spyware vehicle enough to make a profit. And that cost Microsoft a good couple of billion.

    If they had been serious about controlling Microsoft they would have gone after the unholy PC maker/Microsoft alliance. But no, that would probably have affected more European companies. So, we have Windows XP N. I for one find it hilarious that pretty much the same demographic that whines about government involvement in their lives were more than happy to see Microsoft get the shaft. Whatever makes you tick, I guess.

    These things have a root in protectionism, as always. Europeans just love to dilute markets enough through regulation that consumers end up with less and no one makes any money. The idea that people would go to another player/music service out of choice because they have realized that DRM is bad for them is completely foreign to our pseudosocialist European friends. Competition is good only as long as the they have control over it.

  • by Shivetya (243324) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @01:23PM (#17726296) Homepage Journal
    the deal here is that while "techies" may know how to get around the DRM you cannot easily integrate an iPod without using iTunes and you cannot easily use iTunes with another MP3 player.

    The problem becomes, whats in it for Apple? I think now that the iPod is so successful that there is little risk allowing iTunes to work with other players, other than the support issues that the other players just foul up iTunes. Same goes for the reverse, allowing the iPod to be easily integrated to other Music managers. This requires that their DRM be available for anyone else to incorporate.

    Frankly if I were in these governments I would just make all companies use the same standard. Its bad enough consumers deal with DRM, let alone 10 different shades of it.
  • by Anonymous McCartneyf (1037584) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @01:24PM (#17726322) Homepage Journal
    To buy a song from iTunes and play it, you must have the iTunes music manager on your computer. You don't need the iPod; you only need a computer that can run the iTunes manager. You do need the iTunes music manager if you intend to play or burn the purchased trax without breaking the DMCA because only it will remove the Fairplay.
  • by rvw (755107) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @01:36PM (#17726528)

    A magazine I subscribe to included in this month's issue a free 35 song sample from eMusic.com. I investigated it and the service was horrible in every way. Music catalog sucked. Finding songs in their catalog sucked. The sound quality of samples sucked. Their purchasing options were limited to three subcription models. Even with free music samples I could not find any compelling reason to use their service.

    I've used emusic. Their catalog is limited compared to ITMS. That's true. I can't judge the sound quality of your samples, but they offer 192 bit MP3 download. ITMS offers 128 bit AAC with DRM. Maybe AAC is better than MP3, but I don't think ITMS offers better quality. Then emusic offers MP3, no DRM!

    Their publishing options are limited to three subscription models. What do you want to say here? That this is a bad thing? ITMS only has one option. Normally emusic is a lot cheaper than ITMS. The cheapest subscription is $20 I believe, giving you 40 downloads. If you only want one song, that's bad. But probably you can get all their songs in ITMS as well, so nothing is keeping you from going there if you only want that one song.

    They are just offering a different service. And I hope they stay. They are giving the right example.

  • by argoff (142580) * on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @01:49PM (#17726740)
    Am I missing something here?


    YES! You see, the music industry has this greedy scheme: Get DRM on all devices and then slowly close the door on all free formats. The only problem is that Apple decided to screw the screwers. They put DRM on iTunes that only they could use in addition non DRM formats to ensure wide distribution and seize the marketplace.

    Now the RIAA and the copyright cartel have a huge problem. If they beat down on Apple, then Apple may just say "well screw you, we'll just disable any DRM and all music will be free" - ruining their plan to close the doors. However, if they don't beat down on Apple, then Apple will be the DRM master, also runining their greedy plans to be the DRM masters themselves.

    The RIAA and the music industry are like the Mexican Army. You see, the Mexican Army (mid 1800) had better equiptment, more men, and better training than the US Army, but the US Army was albe to waltz in and kick ass because none of the Mexican generals trusted each other enough to work together. That's why the western half of America today belongs to the US and not Mexico. Well the same is true with DRM, they will kill each other before they will help their peers at their expense.
  • I think he was referring to Windows computers, which run iTunes, and thus will play iTMS-derived songs, or burn them to a CD so that any old CD player can use them. They're (for the most part) not particularly portable devices, but there are probably more of them than iPods.

    It would be interesting for Apple to make the argument that the burn-to-CD option is the "openness" in their DRM system, but I doubt that would satisfy anyone.

    Frankly I think Europe would be better off -- and Apple might be, too -- if they just shut off the iTMS store there, and told people to go and buy CDs to get their music. I don't know what Apple's iTMS revenue is versus its iPod-sales revenue, but I'm willing to bet the latter is much greater than the former, and if push came to shove, they'd kill the Store to keep iPod sales up. (This is assuming that they thought that opening the iTMS up to other players would threaten iPod sales, which I'm not sure it would.)

    IMO, the original purpose of the iTMS wasn't a revenue generator, but simply as an excuse for the existence of iPods. The RIAA was about ready to sue Apple (maybe they did?) for contributory infringement, because according to them, iPods were basically little 'piracy machines' whose only purpose was to carry around unauthorizedly-copied music. With the introduction of the iTMS, Apple could argue that there was a legitimate sales model for loading music onto the players, and the revenue basically was used to buy off the RIAA's sponsor companies, and remove the threat to Apple's actual profit, the iPods themselves.
  • Re:Wrong solution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by modeless (978411) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @03:06PM (#17727758) Journal
    There is no need for lawmakers to "go after" DRM; it is only necessary for them to stop protecting it. It's ironic: these countries are "calling" for Apple to make it possible to play iTunes files on other hardware, when software to enable this already exists. It's called myFairTunes6. If it was simply made legal, then problem solved!

    Imagine a country in which it was legal to make and even sell software/hardware for the explicit purpose of breaking DRM for interoperability purposes. Software companies could openly employ DRM-breakers like DVD Jon and muslix64. You could go to the store and buy a copy of DeCSS or BackupHDDVD or myFairTunes6, only with user-friendly interfaces developed by paid coders. With the full resources of a completely legal software/hardware company at the disposal of DRM-breakers, it is quite obvious that *no* form of DRM would stand a chance.
  • by davester666 (731373) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @03:17PM (#17727870) Journal
    Apple is locking out other hardware makers from being able to play music purchased from iTunes.

    Uh, no. This should be changed to: "Apple is locking out other hardware makers from being able to play music purchased from iTunes with no extra effort ."

    Right now, you can buy music from iTunes, burn them to a CD or a CD-RW, then rip them in whatever format you want and that your musicplayer supports. Now, it's a hassle for consumers to go through this process [someone did write a script on the Mac to automatically do this process using a CD-RW], but it certainly works.

    Where exactly should the line be drawn? Should iTunes re-encode to wmv [bleh]? Or should Apple be forced to license their DRM for other manufacturers to include in their devices? Then does iTunes [the app] also need to be forced to directly support all these other devices [because it would be a hassle for consumers to use another app to sync their device after buying through iTunes]? Or does it have to be totally licensed, so other's can also 'vend' iTunes DRM'ed music as well [possibly with iTunes needing to also support these other music stores]?

    But I am in agreement that changing the contract terms after the sale and using British laws should be fixed.
  • by gutnor (872759) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:23PM (#17730358)
    "Apple is locking out other hardware makers from being able to play music purchased from iTunes with no extra effort ."

    The "no extra effort" is very important. You could always uses Netscape with Windows instead of IE with a little extra effort.
    In this case a heavy iTunes/iPod uses can have his entire collection in iTunes. If that's the case in order to use another player than the iPod the user need to burn its entire collection.

    That would too bad for the user (and a common business practice) but when you reach a certain importance on a market, authorities can blame you for this "extra effort". They must do it for a monopoly, but they can also do it to achieve specific goals.

    I think the EU (at least France and Germany ) has in mind to force portability of various DRM to open the market ( concurrency on product features instead of compatibility matrix ) In that case they go for the biggest player first and others will follow.

    How Apple will do that? EU says nothing as far as I know. But if Apple doesn't comply they will simply follow Microsoft path: they will be fined millions euro per day until they release the complete documentation and keys of their DRM.

  • by Timbotronic (717458) on Wednesday January 24, 2007 @03:22AM (#17735110)
    Right now, you can buy music from iTunes, burn them to a CD or a CD-RW, then rip them in whatever format you want and that your musicplayer supports. Now, it's a hassle for consumers to go through this process [someone did write a script on the Mac to automatically do this process using a CD-RW], but it certainly works.

    You can't do that without a potentially serious loss of quality though. Any music you purchase from the iTMS has already undergone lossy compression to the point that it's quite audible. If you burn it to CD and then re-rip to another lossy format the quality degrades further. So it's clearly an inferior product than the music you've bought. That's unacceptable IMHO.

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