/ 26 January 2007

Norway tells Apple to change iTunes or face court

Norway stepped up its battle with Apple Computer’s iTunes on Thursday when its consumer ombudsman said the software giant must open access to its music download system by October 1 or face legal action.

Last June, Norway’s powerful ombudsman said iTunes violated Norwegian law by forcing consumers to play their downloaded music on Apple’s iPod music player — a landmark decision which prompted other European countries to review the situation.

”They must make iTunes music compatible with other players than the iPod by the end of September, or we will take them to court,” the ombudsman, Bjoern Erik Thon, told Reuters.

”iTunes is imposing unreasonable and unbalanced restrictions that are not in accordance with Norwegian law.”

He said the courts could impose fines on iTunes until songs downloaded through iTunes could be played on rival devices to the popular iPod.

The case would first be handled by Norway’s Market Council, a special legal body that has the power to demand changes to contract clauses that are found to be unreasonable. If appealed, the case would move on to the ordinary courts.

Pressure on Apple is building, with consumer rights organisations from Germany, France, Finland and Norway this week 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.

”We believe consumers have a right to play material purchased online on a portable device of their own choice. Contract clauses that make this impossible or too inconvenient are unfair and should be revoked,” the organisations said in a joint statement announcing their cooperation.

Apple’s lawyer in Oslo declined comment and the company’s London-based spokesperson was not immediately available for comment. – Reuters