Apple Rebuffs Scandinavians Over Opening Up iTunes

Apple Computer Inc. (AAPL) has struck a defiant stance with Scandinavian regulators, staunchly defending its right to make its iPod the only portable music player compatible with songs purchased from the company's iTunes music store.

Norway's consumer agency on Wednesday released non-confidential portions of Apple's 50-page response to their claims that the company is violating contract and copyright laws in their countries.

The Norwegian regulators expressed disappointment with the limited concessions offered in the response, received Tuesday.

In Sweden, Bjorn Smith of the Swedish consumer society said that Apple had "given in to some demands but not to others."

In June, the consumer agencies in Norway, Denmark and Sweden claimed that the iPod maker's product usage restrictions go against Scandinavian laws.

At the time, the Scandinavians said they were considering taking the Cupertino, Calif.-based company to court, possibly seeking an injunction banning iTunes from their markets.

Apple's letter indicated it is not willing to change its business model by opening its iTunes downloads to rival portable players that cannot play music recorded in the iTunes digital format.

It also asserted that the demands of the Scandinavian agencies are outside of their authority, specifically as they relate to copyright and digital rights management rules.

The company argued that it is reasonable to "prevent users from downloading music acquired from Apple Music Store to other digital players" because users can still burn any purchased iTune onto a CD and then freely play it as they deem suitable, provided that they respect copyright laws.

The letter also stressed that a Norwegian law that allows users to "acquire legally obtained works on what the general opinion regards as relevant playing equipment" applies specifically to "copying music from protected CDs to MP3 players," but does not concern "electronic files via Internet."

Consumers "have the freedom of choice and the mechanism does not violate competition laws," Apple's letter also said.

Apple also proposed a meeting to "probe possibilities for a mutual agreement" with the regulators.

"This is not good enough," Bente Oeverli of the Norwegian consumer agency told The Associated Press, but added that "it seems we may reach an understanding on some points."

Oeverli said the two sides still disagree on the crucial point — the ability to download music files to other players than iPod.

Apple's iTunes also face trouble in France, where Parliament passed a hotly debated law on Internet copyright in June that could force Apple to make its iPod player and iTunes online store compatible with rival offerings.

However, a French court last week threw out some measures of the law. French President Jacques Chirac signed the bill with the court's changes and it has become law.