Norway Taking Apple to Court Over DRM

By  |  Monday, September 29, 2008 at 4:15 pm

The battle between Norway and Apple over its Fairplay digital rights management escalated on Monday, with the country’s consumer ombudsman Erik Thon saying he would approach the Norweigian court about intervening in the matter.

The two sides have been at odds since August 2006, when Norway first indicated that Apple’s closed system violated its laws. Thon ruled in January 2007 that the company’s refusal to open up iTunes was illegal. Jobs then called for the end of DRM altogether in an likely effort to save face.

While the two sides have been talking, and Apple did seem to suggest it was open to interoperability, the last time the two sides met was in February. That inaction probably let Thon to take the next step to force the issue, which he spoke to in an interview with Computerworld.

“It’s a consumer’s right to transfer and play digital content bought and downloaded from the Internet to the music device he himself chooses to use. iTunes makes this impossible or at least difficult, and hence they act in breach of Norwegian law.”

Thon plans to ask the could to bar Apple from limiting the playing of iTunes music using Fairplay from anything other than the company’s own devices. The case will be heard by the Norweigian Market Council, which has authority in such matters. A decision would likely be reached sometime later next year following written arguments in January, and oral arguments during March and April.

If Apple refuses to comply, it could be fined. It also has ramifications for the company outside of the country, as other EU states are watching Norway’s moves and may take similar action if it is successful. The EU government itself is also said to be watching the case carefully.

DRM has become a hot button issue as public opinion has begun to sway against copyright protection. Several music services, including Apple, are already moving towards offering DRM-free downloads. Several online music sites, such as Amazon MP3, now sell only tracks without copyright protection.

It is not clear if US regulators would follow suit. Either way, with DRM becoming less fashionable, Apple must make some decisions on how to proceed. A lot of this may depend on the labels themselves, some of which have been at least rumored not to be allowing more DRM-free music on iTunes in an effort to boost Amazon MP3 and others. But if it’s not the labels holding Apple back, maybe its time for the company to ditch FairPlay in the interest of keeping future cases like this out of the courts.


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2 Comments For This Post

  1. thehumanyawn Says:

    I heard that the record labels were forcing Apple to keep DRM on their tracks. Maybe Apple should tell them that if they don’t allow them to open up the rest of the tracks, they will be removed from the iTunes Store. Just a thought.

  2. Lovie Says:

    There’s a terrific amount of knowldege in this article!