Scandinavians to meet Apple over iTunes

Sweden's consumer rights agency will discuss complaint that iTunes service breaches consumer laws.

Sweden's consumer rights agency on Wednesday said it and other rights groups in Scandinavia will meet Apple Computer to discuss their complaint that the U.S. company's popular iTunes service breaches consumer laws.

In June, consumer agencies in Sweden, Denmark and Norway jointly wrote to Apple alleging that customers had to waive fundamental rights, such as the free use of legally bought products, to download music from iTunes.

The U.S. computer maker has responded in writing, but wants a face-to-face discussion as well, Marianne Abyhammar, Sweden's acting consumer ombudsman, told Reuters.

"They (Apple) have asked to meet the authorities and explain their position," she said. "We will call such a meeting, to be held in Oslo, as soon as possible."

"The ambition is to arrange for a meeting at the beginning of September, but no date has been set yet."

Norway's consumer rights agency has said that one of its main concerns was that iTunes limited customers' right to freely use legally acquired products by implementing software to protect downloaded files from illegal copying and distribution.

The technology, known as Digital Rights Management (DRM), means no portable players other than Apple's own iPods can play files downloaded from iTunes.

In June, the French parliament pulled back from legislation that would have forced stores like iTunes to share their DRM code, effectively removing barriers that keep songs from being played on other companies' devices.

After complaints from Apple and other opponents that the French legislation would open the door to piracy and threatened the future of online music sales, the French parliament passed a watered-down version of the law that left online distributors with significant control over this code.

In its written response to the Scandinavian agencies' complaint, Apple said it might consider changing some of its practices, Abyhammar said.

"But not in those parts that deal with geographical specifications and limitations on other MP3 players than iPods," she said.

The Swedish and Norwegian consumer ombudsmen both said the agencies were not planning any immediate legal action.

"The issue in the first round is how we'll deal with the answer we got from iTunes and what to do about it," Norwegian Ombudsman Lars Helgesen said.

"We will not take legal action immediately...On the points were we disagree we will negotiate further and an eventual (legal) case will come further ahead in time."

Story Copyright © 2006 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

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