Apple and Europe in DRM Showdown

By Richard Menta 1/29/07

Apple's astute use of DRM and its passion for everything proprietary accounts for much of the company's sustained success in the digital music market. But as that market grows and users find interoperability is something discouraged in the iPod/iTunes world they find themselves essentially locked into Apple-only formats. The same goes for the other side of digital music's commercial world, the content suppliers.

For the last week governments in Europe are rattling their sabres in an attempt to force Apple to open up is proprietary technology to competitors. It started in Norway who said the restrictions imposed by Apple's digital rights management scheme violated the law. By the weekend Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France and the Netherlands followed.


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All of these countries are demanding Apple must change. My question is can the companies who supply and compete with Apple wait through a time consuming legal process if Apple should resist these call? The record industry presently is considering - with much reluctance - a shift to non-DRM paid downloads in an attempt to break Apple's control. They can avoid that if governments can pressure Apple to open its system. The issue is are they avoiding a move that can actually bring them the immediate results they want?

Time is a luxury in the speedy world of the Internet and technology. Waiting for the courts and governments only chain down companies like Napster and Rhapsody while preventing new entrants in the paid download arena from finding enough early success. We'll have to wait to see how this all pans out, but I suspect it will not provide the relief the record industry and those who offer alternatives to the iPod and iTunes are looking for, at least in the short run.

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