Could Europe Unravel the Music DRM Model?

Now Norway’s authorities have come out against Apple and Denmark and Norway may be soon to follow. That adds to the list of the UK and France. It’s beginning to look like Europe’s legislature and regulators don’t like the idea of one (American) company dominating the online music market, nor the idea of non-interoperability. The Norwegian Consumer Ombudsman’s complaints centre around:

· overly restrictive usage terms, most notably the fact that iTunes Music Store purchases cannot be played on non-iPod media players
· the absence of a cooling off period after purchase (which applies to other consumer purchases in Norway)
· geographical restrictions

Apple has until the 21st June to amend its terms or face punishment, which at a worst case scenario may even result in Apple leaving the Norwegian market….which of course would leave the digital music market open for local Norwegian companies.

There are some echoes here of the French bill which I covered some time ago. The French bill was the harshest looking on paper but by the time it left the upper house of parliament it had been heavily watered down, significantly swapping a legal right to hack into DRM for a DRM Commission that would actually protect the concept of DRM. However it is yet to be seen whether this much milder version will be passed into law due to its huge disparity from the lower house’s draft.

So when all the pieces are put together, do this mean the beginning of the end for DRM in Europe. Not quite yet, but just as I said on Monday, Apple really needs to start formulating its plan B now so that it is best positioned in any potential transition of terms. Otherwise it could find itself watching European countries falling like dominoes, bring down the whole house of cards (don’t you just love mixing metaphors?!)