Apple Faces iTunes Challenge in Norway

Back in 2006, Norway’s consumer Ombudsmen sided with critics that claimed the Norwegian version of the iTunes store violated consumers’ rights by tying content purchased there to Apple’s iPods and iTunes software. (Presumably, that would now be extended to include things like the iPhone and Apple TV.) The issue may have falling off the international radar, but Norway hasn’t forgotten about it: the consumer Ombudsman Björn Erik Thon is taking Apple before Norway’s Market Council in an effort to get the company to open up the iTunes store to devices other than the iPod.

Apple has until November 3 to respond to the complaint. Although Apple hasn’t commented publicly on the case, Thon has states Apple wants to sell music without embedded digital-rights management technology. However, in more than two years since Thon first stated Norway’s position on interoperability for iTunes, nothing has changed.

Under Norwegian law, the Market Council can compel companies to change trade practices, and levy fines and penalties against companies that do not comply. Apple CEO Steve Jobs has said in the last he would prefer to do away with DRM on music sold via iTunes altogether, but that record labels weren’t willing to go along with the idea.

The Market Council is expected to issue a ruling in early 2009. If it weighs against Apple, the company may have to decide whether to withdraw from the Norwegian market, offer a stripped down version of the iTunes store which only carries DRM-free content, or carry on as usual in Norway, enduring any fines or penalties may be assessed against it.

Other European countries are watching the Norway case with interest, including Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands, France, and Germany.

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