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Apple will be forced to allow iTunes downloads to be compatible with other MP3 players

Apple has been given two weeks to fix iTunes after the Norwegian Consumer Ombudsman ruled that the MP3 download service breaks consumer protection law.  In fact, at least three Nordic nations, want iTunes downloaded songs to be playable on all digital music players -- not just iPods.  If Apple does not make its songs playable on all music devices by June 21, the company will first face heavy fines which would then be followed by court action.

The formal complaint is online as a PDF file and claims the following:
The Consumer Council of Norway hereby wishes to lodge a complaint against iTunes Music Store with the Consumer Ombudsman. The complaint is based on iTunes’ standard terms and conditions as specified at http://www.apple.com/no/support/itunes/legal/terms.html (Terms of Service) and http://www.apple.com/no/support/itunes/legal/policies.html  Terms of Sale). It is the view of the Consumer Council that several aspects of these terms are in breach of the Marketing Control Act (Markedsføringsloven) and other legislation.

In addition, iTunes uses DRM (Digital Rights Management), a type of technical standard terms and conditions, which determine how the service can be used. The Consumer Council of Norway also believes that certain aspects of the technical terms and conditions are in breach of the Marketing Control Act.
The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) recently stated that iTunes music downloads should be allowed on non-Apple MP3 players.  European regulators have given Apple enough time to eradicate the problem, with reportedly little interest from Apple.


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A positive step
By PrinceGaz on 6/10/2006 11:37:47 AM , Rating: 2
I feel sorry for people who've bought many tracks from iTunes because up until now they've been unable to play them on any portable device other than an iPod. Granted, iPods are popular (though only because of marketing rather than actually being a superior product) but anyone who has spent several hundred pounds buying music from iTunes is effectively prevented from switching to a non-iPod music player because they lose their music collection.

Okay, they can always resort to "unofficial" software that is available (if they know about it) which strips the DRM from the AAC files, but even then they need a music player which supports AAC format or have to go through a lossy conversion to a more mainstream format like MP3.

Apple won't like being forced to remove the DRM from their files in Scandinavia, Britain (hey it's good that the British Pornographic Industry are actually on the side of us consumers for once), hopefully all of Europe or better still worldwide. The iTunes/iPod scam has made them a lot of money and they want to force their customers to contine buying iPods to access their music, and continue using iTunes to buy more music for them, but it's about time a stop was put to it.




RE: A positive step
By michael2k on 6/10/2006 11:57:50 AM , Rating: 2
You can believe an iPod is only successful because of marketing, but if it were ONLY marketing, it wouldn't have lasted past one generation. They are now at, what, five generations of iPod and three generations of mini/nano, and one generation of Shuffle.

Hype would only have gotten them through one, at most two generations.

Do you know what you anti-iPod people sound like? The original Mac users who hated Windows!

How does it feel to be lumped in with them?

"You're stuck because you're tied to your entire software collection is tied to Windows"
"Windows is only successful because of massive business adoption, because really it sucks"


RE: A positive step
By Strunf on 6/10/2006 12:39:51 PM , Rating: 2
You're wrong marketing can make sell crap for as many generations as it takes... just look to Intel and how long have they been selling inferior CPU when compared to the competition and they still there with an hefty 75% of the market share...


RE: A positive step
By michael2k on 6/10/2006 3:47:33 PM , Rating: 2
Uh, Intel is hardly crap. It may note be best of breed, but it's certainly not crap. If you think Apple:Intel as ???:AMD, the problem is who will take the role of Apple as the superior product? Creative didn't have a superior usability, size, or function, and Sansa is #2 and is copying Apple's physical design.


RE: A positive step
By Zelvek on 6/10/2006 5:42:32 PM , Rating: 2
Ah last I checked the creative zen micro was smaller than the Ipod of the same generation (hell the nano is onle slightly smaller and its the next gereration). Creative suports as many mainstream formats as Ipod and the usability of the Ipod is due to an interface that Creative owns. So is apple superior to creative when the only thing exclusive to them is a propriatary music store which with a simple hack programe can be used with creative? obviously not. No I don't hate Ipod I think their fine players I have even owned one but I do feel that they are not the best as many people claim they are.


RE: A positive step
By michael2k on 6/10/2006 6:32:26 PM , Rating: 3
1) Zen Micro is 3.3"x2.0"x0.7" while the mini was 3.5"x2.0"x0.5", so approximately the same size; shorter, but thicker.
2) The Zen Micro was released 9 months after the iPod mini, and three years after the first iPod; it took Creative 3 years to release something smaller than an iPod.
3) Creative still doesn't support MP4 (also known as AAC), and it lists only 3 codecs supported: MP3, WMA, and WAV, while the iPod lists MP3, AAC, WAV, AIF, Audible, and ALE, a losslessly compressed codec
4) The Zen interface wasn't actually implemented until AFTER the iPod. Apple inherited the interface from NeXTStep, who had the interface since 1986.
5) Apple is superior because it consistently creates better players. Here's the list of "revolutionary/evolutionary" capabilities that Creative LATER copied.

A) 1.8" HDD in 2001, Creative later adopts this size and format in 2004
B) 1" HDD in 2004, Creative later adopts this size and format 9 months later in 2004
C) Firewire support in 2001 allowing for 16mb/s synchronization, Creative later adopts USB2 in 2002
D) Mass Storage support to allow for driver-less synchronization on any computer, using as a HDD, and a boot device in 2001. Creative later adopts USB mass storage with the Zen Neeon 2005, but until the relies on PDE and later MTP, requiring drivers to use their devices.
E) Simple, usable, easy UI; the iPod introduced the now famous 5 button+scrollwheel interface in 2001. Creative doesn't follow suit until 2004 with the Zen Touch and Zen Micro.

Now it is 2006 and Creative has been able to copy ALL of Apple's at the time innovations. Maybe now you can buy a Zen without fear, but they have consistently been ahead of the pack in terms of features, UI, design, and size. Even now the Zen Vision:M is thicker than an iPod with Video.

So for the first three years of it's life the iPod was the king of MP3 players (2001-2004) and it's been augmenting that success with the addition of the ultra portable and compact Shuffle, the ultra slim and stylish Nano, and the addition of new content from the iTMS. If Creative wants to take that crown away, it'll take more than a 3 year late copycat!


RE: A positive step
By Wonga on 6/10/2006 5:24:49 PM , Rating: 2
The point I'm driving at here is that the iPod is a huge success, which in turn is making iTunes a huge success. Due to this, people will end up buying AAC songs which won't work on any other players by design.

Maybe the stats say the average number of songs people are getting from iTunes is small, but some people get loads. I know loads of people who buy off iTunes.

I'm pleased that Apple is getting into hot water over this in Europe, not because I like to see a company fail (as I really like the iPod, as I said), but because people are going to struggle in the future when they have a load of songs that won't play on anything but an Apple device. Now, who's to stop Apple from raising the price of their players at this point?

I'm not having a rant about DRM or anything here (I don't mind that at all, if people don't want to buy the CDs themselves and copy them onto the device), but rather the proprietary nature of this format. No matter how you slice it, it has the potential to force consumers to buy a certain brand (short of throwing all their music away).


RE: A positive step
By Wonga on 6/10/2006 5:25:20 PM , Rating: 2
Ummm... that shoulda gone further down the topic...


RE: A positive step
By PrinceGaz on 6/10/2006 11:57:17 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly, you put it a lot better than I did.

Once people have bought an iPod and start building a music collection from iTunes, they are locked into only ever buying iPods in future, or throwing away their entire music collection. Or using "unofficial" (unauthorised, probably illegal) software to remove the DRM from the music they've already paid for if they want to play it on anything else.

Personally I hate this whole virtual ownership model that companies are pushing. When I buy the rights to use something, I want a complete unrestricted copy of it on an industry standard media-format so that I know I'll always be able to use it provided I take care of the media. That's why I never bought a copy of Half Life 2 because the disc was useless without going online to obtain the part of the game they excluded from the disc (it was still a damn good game though, but I'd never buy it in that format).

Sell music in an unrestricted format and we'll buy it. Ideally follow the example of AllOfMP3 and allow us to buy it in whatever format and bitrate we want, and at a price that represents what it really costs after all the marketing, distribution, and retailing costs are removed.


RE: A positive step
By ElFenix on 6/11/2006 1:11:10 AM , Rating: 2
apple has found plenty of buyers without putting the music in an unrestricted format. you're aware that iTMS would not exist whatsoever if it weren't for that restricted format, aren't you?

and marketing costs need to be paid regardless of the distribution method. and of course, iTMS involves a distribution cost: someone has to pay for the servers, the bandwidth, the programming, the techs to keep the whole thing running, etc. so, obviously you can't strip out *all* the marketing, distribution, and retailing costs. again, apple has found plenty of buyers. there were tons of people buying CDs for the 3 good tracks on them. the price for those 3 good tracks has decreased from ~$5 each to $1 each. that isn't a bargain?


RE: A positive step
By Wonga on 6/10/2006 12:41:58 PM , Rating: 3
I don't know, I could be wrong here, but I think it has survived five generations because of great marketing. Everyone knows about the iPod and iTunes - the media often talks about "iPods" before they talk about "MP3 players". In fact, I bet some people still don't know what an MP3 is, but they know about "iPod files".

So, since everyone knows about these things, everyone gets an iPod, so therefore uses iTunes, which in turn causes them to stick with iPods. It is a little bit of a trap.

Not to say that iPods are bad - I actually wish I'd paid the extra and got one instead of my Creative Zen I have now (well, in fact, I don't have it, since it's a second one returned under warranty - I no, I aint been throwing it around!).


RE: A positive step
By michael2k on 6/10/2006 3:56:15 PM , Rating: 2
The numbers are out there; do the math, there is something like 11 songs per iPod. On the other hand how many CDs are there per iPod? 80? 90? 100?

The iTMS is essentially irrelevant to the success of the iPod. It is, however, because of the success of the iPod (42 million sold now?) that the iTMS is a success. If everyone who owns an iPod got a $15 gift certificate for Christmas from the iTMS, that would explain a lot of the success of the iTMS.

I bought an iPod in 2001. The only real alternative were 128mb Rio flash player or a 6GB Creative Nomad. Both were crap compared to an iPod. Then look at Creative's players; they didn't release a 1.8" HDD player, the Zen Touch until 2004, giving Apple three years and tree generations to cement their lead. Apple additionally released the wildly successful iPod mini in the January 2004 Macworld, which Creative could not match until later in November with the Zen micro.

So 3 years is a long time to give the competition to dominate the market.


RE: A positive step
By Wonga on 6/10/2006 5:25:38 PM , Rating: 3
The point I'm driving at here is that the iPod is a huge success, which in turn is making iTunes a huge success. Due to this, people will end up buying AAC songs which won't work on any other players by design.

Maybe the stats say the average number of songs people are getting from iTunes is small, but some people get loads. I know loads of people who buy off iTunes.

I'm pleased that Apple is getting into hot water over this in Europe, not because I like to see a company fail (as I really like the iPod, as I said), but because people are going to struggle in the future when they have a load of songs that won't play on anything but an Apple device. Now, who's to stop Apple from raising the price of their players at this point?

I'm not having a rant about DRM or anything here (I don't mind that at all, if people don't want to buy the CDs themselves and copy them onto the device), but rather the proprietary nature of this format. No matter how you slice it, it has the potential to force consumers to buy a certain brand (short of throwing all their music away).


RE: A positive step
By acejj26 on 6/10/2006 12:03:07 PM , Rating: 2
You can play iTunes songs on other mp3 players but it requires that you jump through a hoop. You just burn the songs to a CD in iTunes and rip them back using another program of your choosing (i.e. Windows Media Player). Not that big of a deal in my mind.


RE: A positive step
By Griswold on 6/10/2006 12:51:48 PM , Rating: 2
Too big of a deal for Joe and Jenny Average.


RE: A positive step
By michael2k on 6/10/2006 3:57:42 PM , Rating: 2
So is converting their library of AAC files to MP3 to play on alternative MP3 players!


RE: A positive step
By modestninja on 6/10/2006 4:35:05 PM , Rating: 2
You also lose quality from the already questionable quality of the 128kbs aac unless you rip it to a lossless format (which takes a tone of space for a poor quality song.)


RE: A positive step
By Strunf on 6/10/2006 12:35:36 PM , Rating: 2
I agree with you, more so when Apple did all that crap against Real's Harmony, I know very well Real Networks ONLY wants to sell just like Apple and ANY other company... some may say MS and Real do the same just like Apple but at least they give the chance to make MP3 players compatible with their solution and that's not the case of Apple... I’m somewhat surprised that the authorities took so much time to start filling lawsuits maybe they were too busy filling lawsuits against MS…


Only Half What I Want
By kelmon on 6/10/2006 12:38:44 PM , Rating: 2
My position on the subject is that I want digital music to be treated in the same way as CDs. I not only want to have the choice on WHICH media player to use when playing back my music but also to be able to choose WHERE I buy it from. Since I use a Mac, and have no intention of going back to Windows in the near future, it's disappointing that I have very little choice of where I buy music from because most of the "alternatives" require Windows. I'd like to see cross-platform access to music stores so that I can take advantage of the best prices/services, and be able to playback that music on whatever device I want.

Adding Apple's FairPlay to other players and adding Windows DRM to iPods would certainly help but the software used to access the stores also needs to change.


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