Norway Deflects Apple's DRM Plaint

Steve Jobs' protest letter notwithstanding, the Norwegian Consumer Council maintains iTunes should work on non-iPod music players

One of the European regulators slammed in Steve Jobs' open letter on DRM has hit back, rebutting the Apple chief's position that music companies and not hardware makers are responsible for locking systems down.

In the open letter, published yesterday and entitled "Thoughts on music", Jobs said those working against DRM should be targeting the big record companies, not the Mac maker.

He wrote: "Much of the concern over DRM systems has arisen in European countries. Perhaps those unhappy with the current situation should redirect their energies towards persuading the music companies to sell their music DRM-free. For Europeans, two and a half of the big four music companies are located right in their backyard."

Norway is one of a number of European countries engaged in legal action against Apple, claiming the company's DRM unfairly ties consumers to Apple hardware.

Torgeir Waterhouse, senior advisor of the Norwegian Consumer Council, said: "Our concern is of course that it's Apple and iTunes Music Store [which] 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."

Waterhouse added that while record companies must bear some liability for the situation, Apple is still the company responsible under Norwegian law.

Jobs highlighted the fact Microsoft and Sony use DRM practices that stop users transferring music bought at their stores onto rival MP3 players, noting: "This is the current state of affairs in the industry, and customers are being well-served with a continuing stream of innovative products and a wide variety of choices."

It's not an argument that goes down well with the Norwegian group. Waterhouse said: "It's very true that Apple is not alone in using a proprietary system, and that some of their competitors are trying to compete using similar technology to lock the consumer to their product range. The fact remains that both iTunes Music Store and others are unfair to consumers no matter how many download services follow the proprietary approach."

Norway is one of three Scandinavian countries - along with Denmark and Sweden - that is tackling Apple over DRM and planning to take the company to court unless it amends its practices.

Since the Scandinavian revolt, French and German groups have also announced their intention to take Apple to task over DRM.

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