Apple faces iTunes test case in Norway

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OSLO, Norway (AP) -- Norway's top consumer advocate said Monday he is taking Apple Inc. to the government's Market Council in a test case seeking to force the American company to open its iTunes music store to digital players other than its own iPod.

Norway is leading a European campaign that began two years ago to get Apple to make its iTunes online store compatible with rivals' digital music players.

"We discussed this at a meeting two weeks ago, and decided that Norway will do the test case," Consumer Ombudsman Bjoern Erik Thon said by telephone. "This could have international consequences."

The council has the power under Norwegian law to order companies to change trade practices, and can also order fines if companies fail to comply. Thon said Apple has until Nov. 3 to respond to the allegations, and that the council was likely to decide on the case sometime early next year.

Apple in Norway did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

Thon began pushing Apple to change its system and rules more than two years go, saying the restrictions violate Norwegian law.

Currently, songs purchased and downloaded through iTunes are designed to work with Apple's market-leading iPod players but not competitors' models, including those using Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Media system. Likewise, iPods generally can't play copy-protected music sold through non-Apple stores.

"It's a consumer's right to transfer and play digital content bought and downloaded from the Internet to the music device he himself chooses to use. iTunes makes this impossible or at least difficult, and hence, they act in breach of Norwegian law," said Thon.

Thon said Apple agreed at a meeting in February that they wanted to sell music without the protection known as "Digital Rights Management," or DRM, and that they shared his goal of making systems interoperable.

But "iTunes has now had two years to meet our demands regarding interoperability. No progress has been reported by iTunes since our meeting in February," said Thon about the decision to file a complaint. "This is a matter of great principal importance."

Finland, Denmark, France, Germany and the Netherlands all back the Norwegian drive.

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