06:43 AM

1.24.07: Apple DRM illegal in Norway

Apple's DRM scheme for iPod and iTunes is illegal in Norway, the Consumer Ombudsman has ruled. Germany and France are joining Norways' action.

The Norwegian Consumer Council brought the action against Apple claiming the company's Fairplay DRM is against consumers' interests, Out-Law.com reported. (Does this mean that in Norway corporate actions against the interests of consumers is illegal?! What would happen if the US had such laws?)

"It doesn't get any clearer than this. Fairplay is an illegal lock-in technology whose main purpose is to lock the consumers to the total package provided by Apple by blocking interoperability," Torgeir Waterhouse told OUT-LAW.COM. "For all practical purposes this means that iTunes Music Store is trying to kill off one the most important building blocks in a well functioning digital society, interoperability, in order to boost its own profits."

"iTunes Music Store must remove its illegal lock-in technology or appear in court," he said. "As of right now we're heading for a big breakthrough that will hopefully pave the way for consumers everywhere to regain control of music they legally purchase."

What must Apple do? According to the Council: license Fairplay to all interested vendors; develop an open standard; abandon DRM altogether.

The Ombudsman considers Fairplay to be an unfair contract term.

"The Ombudsman has confirmed our claim that the DRM must be considered part of the contract terms and not a copy protection scheme only," said Waterhouse. "This means that under the Norwegian Marketing Control Act the DRM must provide balanced and fair rights to the consumer when they purchase music form iTunes Music Store and similar download services."

Nice retort from Apple: By disallowing a scheme in which Apple locks up the hardware, software and content encoding, Norway is anticompetitive.

"Apple is aware of the concerns we've heard from several agencies in Europe and we're looking forward to resolving these issues as quickly as possible," Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr told AP news agency earlier this week. "Apple hopes that European governments will encourage a competitive environment that lets innovation thrive, protects intellectual property and allows consumers to decide which products are successful."