Apple is facing a fight with Norway’s Consumer Ombudsman and Market Council, who say that iTunes Music Store violates Norwegian law because of its Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology. The Consumer Ombudsman — an official position in Norwegian government, paired with the Market Council — is tasked with overseeing consumer protection issues in Norway.
According to Norwegian news service Aftenposten, Consumer Ombudsman Bjørn Erik Thon has told television news reporters that Apple will either have to change its DRM technology or will face fines. Thon confirmed he’s already in communication with Apple’s lawyers. Aftenposten did not detail what laws Thon is accusing Apple of violating, however.
At issue is the DRM technology applied to iTunes songs, called FairPlay. Songs downloaded from the iTunes Music Store are encrypted using FairPlay, which limits the number of computers the song can be played on, how many times a playlist containing the song can be burned to CD, and what portable devices the music can be played back on.
Apple was reported to Norway’s Consumer Ombudsman earlier this year by The Consumer Council of Norway, an independent consumer rights organization. The Consumer Council complained that the iTunes Music Store’s terms and conditions and DRM violated Norway’s Marketing Control Act.
The group called FairPlay “an unreasonable technical term of use, in so far as it prevents purchasers of music files at iTunes from using other MP3 players than iPods. The sole purpose of this type of DRM is to lock consumers into buying products from a dominant market player.”
The group said in its complaint that Apple’s terms of service for using the iTunes Music Store expressly forbids users from circumventing the DRM, and said that such a restriction is forbidden under Norway’s Copyright Act.
Apple has been the target of criticism in the consumer electronics market for only allowing iTunes Music Store-bought songs to play back on iPods. While it’s unquestionably helped drive the sales of Apple’s portable music player, other companies want to get in on the action.
Aftenposten reports that Consumer Ombudsmen in other Scandinavian countries including Sweden and Denmark are watching the case with interest.