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January 25, 2007 

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German, French Consumer Groups Join Nordic-Led Drive Against Apple's iTunes
Posted: January 22, 2007
OSLO, Norway (AP) -- German and French consumer groups have joined a Nordic-led drive to force Apple Computer Inc. to change rules for its iTunes online music store, including compatibility with other digital music players, Norway's Consumer Ombud said Monday.

"This is important because Germany and France are European giants," Ombudsman Bjoern Erik Thon told the Associated Press. "Germany, in particular, is a big market for digital music."

In June 2006, consumer agencies in Norway, Denmark and Sweden claimed that Apple was violating contract and copyright laws in their countries by making its iPod the only portable music player compatible with songs purchased from the company's iTunes Music Store.

Thon said French consumer lobby UFC-Que Choisir and its German counterpart Ferbraucherzentralen had joined the effort late last year, and that more European countries might join the drive. Finland's Kuluttajavirasto consumer group is also part of the effort.

The Nordic regulators have met Apple officials at least twice on the complaints.

In a written statement after one such meeting in Oslo in September, Apple said it "is working to address the concerns we've heard from several agencies in Europe, and we hope to resolve these issues as quickly as possible."

Apple's technology restricts use of songs downloaded from its iTunes store to its own iPod playing device, excluding rival devices.

"We have agreed that the lack of interoperability, from the Norwegian side, is illegal," said Thon. He said Norway gave Apple until September to change its polices, or face possible legal action and fines in Norway.

He said they had given Apple eight months, because the group may need time to review polices, draft new ones and re-negotiate music industry contracts. Thons said the music industry is changing so fast that Apple might have to revise its policies anyway.

"It cannot be good for the music industry for them to lock music into one system," he said.

A French law that allows regulators to force Apple to make its iPod player and iTunes online store compatible with rival offerings went into effect in August.

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