back to article EU consumer chief roasts Apple

The European Union's Bulgarian 'commissioner for consumers', Meglena Kuneva, has hit out at the Balkanised world of digital music. "Do you think it's fine that a CD plays in all CD players but that an iTunes song only plays in an iPod? I don't. Something has to change," she has told German weekly Focus. An EU spokesperson …

COMMENTS

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who needs iTumes anyway?

    Winamp and www.allofmp3.com are your friends...

  2. Jon Fitt

    Workaround

    I guess somewhere there must be some software which will cause a CD Drive to "appear" for the purposes of burning, allowing you to essentially transcode to CD Format on a location on your hard drive?

    I'm not a fan of the burn and rip method, it seems shoddy. Can anyone definitively state that the already low quality of sound isn't affected by this?

  3. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    What a pile of ***&^%&$%^$

    What a stupid suggestions, to say that iTunes DRM isn't really closed because there's a way around it ! I have a much better way around it, I simply buy a CD containing the original high (well I kow that's open to debate) quality recording and convert it to my chosen format at my chosen quality setting. Lets call it the music industry loophole - they sell DRM embuggerance inflicted tunes online, but also sell the same tunes DRM free. Shop around and it can be cheaper than buying from the iTunes store - especially if you aren't bothered about getting the latest stuff RIGHT NOW.

    The commissioner has a point, it REALLY should be as simple as "buy tune from customers choice of vendor", "play tune on customers choice of player". Just like, as she says, customer can buy CD from customers choice of vendor and play on customers choice of CD player.

  4. Hywel Thomas

    It's not THAT bad...

    "Then, hit the "Burn CD..." button and hope for the best"

    This implies that burning a CD is a hit-and-miss affair, or maybe that iTunes has trouble burning CDs. My (admittedly anecdotal) experience is that I don't recall ever producing coasters from iTunes.

    "Then, grab the original playlist and start typing in the Artist, Track Name, Number, and Album all over again

    "

    "all over again" implies that this information has been typed in twice by the user, but it only needs to be done once.

    Now fanboy though I am, I don't think there's any need to make the Fairplay loophole out to be any more difficult than it already is. Red Book CDs continue to win over Fairplay for me.

  5. Adrian

    Re: Who needs iTumes anyway?

    "Winamp and www.allofmp3.com are your friends..."

    Agreed.

    <rant>

    Except that VISA and Mastercard have withdrawn support for allofmp3.com so you cannot replenish your balance using credit card any more. But as you know, buying kiddie porn using a credit card is ok, mp3s are, however, a greater evil...

    </rant>

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Quit Whining

    1. If you don't have an iPod then Don't buy Music from the iTunes music store. Just buy your music on CD or from another online music store.

    2. If you have an iPod and another MP3 Player then Don't buy Music from the iTunes music store. Just buy your music on CD or from another online music store.

    3. If you only have an iPod then WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL? Buy Music from the iTunes music store or buy your music on CD or from another online music store.

    Clearly the DRM isn't a problem for the millions of iPod owners because:

    A) They buy so little music on iTunes it just doesn't matter and/or...

    B) They like their iPod so much that they don't even think of buying any product of lesser quality.

    No one likes DRM (except the recording companies) but Apple's DRM is the least offensive to consumers. IF you actually decide you hate your iPod and want to buy another manufacturers lesser quality MP3 player then you can...

    A) Use your posted solution for burning the music to CDs and re-converting them to MP3 (without any DRM). The only real pain will come from you having to deal with the other MP3 player's lame software.

    B) Find one of the illegal but available softwares that removes Apple's DRM from songs.

  7. A J Stiles

    A Mess

    It's all a mess, isn't it?

    Let's take a non-computer analogy.

    If you ask a chef to bake a birthday cake for you, one thing he might do is ask you for some money and a list of requirements, go away and bake the cake in secret and then come back with the cake for you.

    But what if he insisted to come into YOUR OWN kitchen, then bake the cake there -- using your ingredients, your utensils, your electricity and your gas -- and all the time refused to allow you into the kitchen, claiming that his secret recipes must be protected at all costs? He could be stealing your spoons, drinking your cooking sherry, making rude gestures to the neighbours' kids or dialling up pr0n chat lines on the kitchen extension -- and you wouldn't know.

    Would you think that is a fair way of doing business? At the very least, it potentially diminishes the Quid pro Quo.

    I take the view that, as the administrator of several computers, I have a right to see the Source Code of any software running on any computer I administer.

    And until the Source Code of iTunes is made available for me to view, I will not run it on any of my computers.

    To Jon Fitt: It should indeed be possible to write a device driver which will emulate a CD-RW drive and output to a file (or perhaps a pair of data and TOC files, à la CDRDAO). The quality loss comes *not* from any imperfection in writing and re-reading the CD, but is inherent in the behaviour of the lossy CODECs. Decompressing AAC to raw PCM won't restore what the AAC codec threw away, and re-compressing to MP3 or OGG Vorbis may well throw away something else. It *might* be possible to re-compress to non-DRM AAC without quality loss.

  8. Joe Montana

    Apple's isnt the worst of the DRM schemes

    Microsoft and Real's DRM schemes are far more restrictive than Apple's. Apple have the burn to CD hole mentioned in the article, whereas other schemes don't even have these.

    Everyone is going after Apple because they're the market leader, but the reality is other DRM schemes are even worse, and really something needs to be done about all of them.

  9. Chris

    Hypocritical EU

    Politicians are also hypocrits. They're being lobbied like mad by the music industry on this subject.

    What needs to be done is let all music be DRM-free, end of all discussions. What the RIAA hates is that they have to talk to Apple now, and it's Steve Jobs that tells them they can't put their prices up like they would like to do. That's why they would like everyone to use Fairplay, so their influence gets a lot bigger and Steve Jobs' influence gets so diluted they don't have to listen to him anymore.

    The same thing would happen with no DRM on the songs, but then the RIAA control-freaks are no longer in control, and then they can't see the difference between a copied song and a 'genuine' one. That means they have to stop their hobby of sueing innocent and hardworking people. They're screwing their customers and their artists, so enough already.

  10. Andrew Ducker

    Workaround

    The workaround will, of course, reduce sound quality. It's converting to analog and then converting to a lossy format - almost certainly a different lossy format to the one it was in the first place.

  11. Kevin Hall

    Whole thing is a farce...

    Having owned an iPod for a couple of years I have to admit that the whole thing is a farce. The iPod offers incredibly average sound quality (MiniDisc machines of 1998 vintage are better) that syncs with an admittedly good desktop application however the iTunes store sort of personifies lock-in. The odds are the DRM in iTunes will never go away so I've decided on a personal moritaurim against buying any more music from iTunes. I don't actually want to buy any more Apple hardware (my old Sony MP3 CD Walkman has better sound quality and battery life than a iPod) and I don't want any vendor lock in. CDs I bought 20 years ago still play fine on any player I put them in which is more than can be said of iTunes over the next decade I bet.

    Ultimately iTunes is fundamentally just crap value - audio books are encoded at 64kps (some even less!) yet are the same price as physical CDs which are of almost infinitely higher sound quality. You add the crap sound quality with crap hardware and vendor lock in, then buying into iPod/iTunes is a no brainer. All I will say is iTunes is an excellent application - no point in throwing the baby out with the bath water...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Europe's colonial head rises up again. This time it's Technology: iTunes

    The probblem with Europe is that it still has the colonial mindset. "If i don't have it, let's go to the king and colonise the source". They did it in the Berlin conference splicing up Africa and Asia to feed their industrial appetites. Africa was and is still being raped of it's resources and not a voice of "fairness".

    However in Technology, Europe has failed to compete with America and the new Asia and so now theye are crying foul. Cry foul, my foot, you have been playing colonially unfair all these years. Please take off your tech diapers and grow up. This is the new order, colonial control days are over. Innovate and leave Apple, Microsft and Lenovo alone. If Nokia was not European I bet you'd find something to pick on it.

    Sam Kawesa

  13. Peter D'Hoye

    Transcoding? Bah!

    So you're advising to transcode from one lossy format to another, thereby reducing the crappy itunes quality even more. Yuck!

    Just face it: if you buy from itunes, you're stuck with itunes and ipod. Call me oldfashioned, but I still buy CD's and rip them myself (they're no longer protected anyway)

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Colonial???

    I don't wish to start a flame-war but Sam Kawesa is an idiot. This has nothing to with "colonialism" - if you want to play in Europe's backyard then you play by its rules. Say what you like about the EC, there is at least some level of democratic accountability whereas what he's talking has absolutely no democratic legitimacy. If you want to sell in Europe then I don't see what's at all wrong with playing fair and DRM lock in is fundamentally unfair to both the consumer and to competition generally - as ultimately it'll drive out competition altogether. If we're talking about protectionist colonialism I'd recommend that Sam looks in his own backyard and he'd see that America has become hegemony writ large - in this context, it's in all our interests to control how they do business in Europe. Europe belongs to us, not to Apple, Microsoft, etc, etc...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Playlist...

    For what its worth, if you use practically any other s/w to rip the CD back again, it will go fetch the song details from Gracenote. The problem only really arises if you buy individual tracks. Anyone know of s/w that can fetch individual tunes details from Gracenote?

  16. Giles Jones Gold badge

    One persons pirate is another persons freedom fighter?

    It comes to something when the copyright law abiding citizen has all the chains and restrictions while the pirates are free to do what they like with the media in their possession.

    There's even professional software out there that has performance limitations due to the use of hardware protection. These restrictions were removed by pirates and the software runs much faster.

    Look at DVDs and their copyright messages, these are removed when the films are pirated so the pirates never see them, so who are they trying to educate? preaching to the converted me thinks.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Playing in Europes backyard

    I'm not surprised that Europe has failed to come up with any kind of product to compete with iTunes and the iPod. These are the guys that are trying to bring us the A380.

    Question is, why aren't the European talking heads putting big time pressure on their 2 1/2 record companies?

    I guess it is the European way to blame someone else.

  18. Michael Sanders

    Whoa...hold up....

    I don't know how you got from DRM to European Colonial conspiracy. The first thing I noticed is that Apple’s i-tunes files are not DRM controlled. You can copy the files from PC to PC. All you need to play the files is the proper CoDec installed on the machine. You can even play i-tunes music using WinAmp or Windows Media player. If I’m not mistaken they are just AAC audio streams part of the MPEG2/4 standard. So the whole basic point is wrong, unless the Mac cooperates in some DRM scheme that I am unaware of. Not to put too fine a point…but as a Mac user from 1986-19 ”95” I wouldn’t be too surprised. Now that Vista is out, both Mac and PC suck just as much now.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    colonial??? eh

    Ha!

    The colonial thing must have hit the note. They say if you throw a rock in a bunch of dogs, the one that whines is the one that was hit. Europeans claim free enterprise as long as its on their terms. Lets, please keep the debate civil and stop the name calling. I wish there was a DRM against name calling and politicians in debates, (like the last commentator on Sam's ideas) I would support it to filter out filth.

    Note: before you attack the Americans, I am not American, just a free enterprise guy who dislikes dictatorships even in technology. I say let the inovators win. That's why Toyota and Honda have taken over the world. Because no longer do we have the colonialists determine what people buy or make. Long live free enterprise, long live Japanese, American, Korean and Chinese companies that inovate and are forwad looking.

    BTW If it were not for the Americans we would not have the internet. Oh, yeah the first web browser was written by a European (who now chose to live in America, I wonder why) on an American computer called NeXT whose technology is now owned by Apple maker of iTunes. Wake up Europe. Take politics and jealousy out of technology.

    Signed

    "Scientists for Free Enterprise everywhere"

  20. sleepy

    What a load of nonsense

    The iTunes store sells music for downloading to and playing on Windows and Macintosh PC's using free player software. Its only serious competition is CD's which outsell it by a substantial margin. The player software both imports from CD's and exports to CD's without DRM. The export is digital, and effectively lossless, because the CD is in a higher resolution, uncompressed format. Therefore what you get from the iTunes store is effectively interchangeable with the CD format. Any licensing restrictions are imposed by the recorde labels; Steve Jobs has said he would drop them if the labels agreed.

    The player software also allows download to a number of "tethered" iPods of music from either source. Far from being "forced" to use an iPod, or "forced" to buy from the iTunes store, consumers can actually do pretty much what they like. The amount of music that is single sourced in Fairplay DRM format is negligible. Next the EEC will say that you can't buy anything that's specifically designed to work with a particular product (such as blades for your razor), because by definition it doesn't work so well, or at all with everything else. The stance is unsupportable becaue it can only be implemenmted by the state confiscating part of the current assets of copyright holders.

    A J Stiles is a bit dishonest saying he won't allow iTunes on his machine because he doesn't have access to the source code. If that is his rule for installing software, he is by definition not using MS Windows or Mac OS, and so has no choice in the matter. Several other posters seem to think that because they don't like iTunes store music, that's an argument for outlawing it. It's not. I don't like it either. So what.

  21. Stephen Hill

    It's not that bad

    The I-tunes DRM workaround is easy enough, especially if you only buy the odd album. I routinely copy all my I-tunes music over to my various Sony players, and it's not a problem at all. The quality is fine, especially since I listen to my music in relatively noisy environments such as the train or the office.

  22. Alex Wood

    CDs

    Go and buy second-hand CDs from Amazon. Last CD I bought -- not very obscure, not very popular -- was £4.74, including VAT 'n' P&P. Eleven tracks, so that'd be £8.69 on iTunes (I'm pretty sure they still charge a flat rate regardless of age and popularity). Do I want to pay twice as much for low-quality, non-portable audio without a hard copy and booklet? Tricky, that.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pot calling kettle of free enterprise

    Mr Free Enterprise:

    "They say if you throw a rock in a bunch of dogs, the one that whines is the one that was hit"

    ...but then:

    "please keep the debate civil and stop the name calling."

    I would also remind you that it wasn't the backward Europeans who started the argument about "colonialism" vs "free enterprise" anyway.

    And, following your impeccable line of logic that we wouldn't have the internet without America leads us to the inevitable conclusion that wouldn't have the computer without Britain. Turing, you know?

    Oh, and Madonna lives in Britain. And, erm...

    PS we don't often see pictures of protagonists in stories in El Reg. Presumably she was put in because the reviewer found her more attractive than, say, Neelie Kroes. When pretty men are the subject of an article, can we have pictures of them too, please? Last week, you shamefully failed to include one of sky-high shagger Janus Friis, relying instead on the poor punter to follow a link.

  24. Eric Van Haesendonck

    The problem is continuity

    To me the main problem with DRM is the possible lack of continuity in the support of the format.

    When you buy music, you actually buy a license to listen to it until the copyright expires, which is 50 years away. An ipod typically lasts only 3 years.

    With unprotected music or at the very least a standardized DRM scheme I am pretty much assured that in 20 or 30 years I will be able to buy a compatible player or to convert without much loss of quality to a newer format.

    With an apple only format I have no garrantee that apple will still be in the music bussiness or that the ipod will still be a competitive player in 20 years. Even now if you want to move from a pure music player to a music + widescreen video player you have to switch from Apple to Creative or Archos, because apple doesn't release any widescreen hdd player!

    Using the CD loophole is impractical, degrade music quality because of the transcoding and may end up being costly (especially if you live in a coutry that taxes blank CDs on the behalf of music publishers).

    I also don't want to go back to physical CDs because choice is actually limited by inventory space. It may look like there is a lot on Amazon but if you are looking for more exotic stuff (such as japanese or indian pop) the choice is actually fairly limited and the P&P can climb a lot if it has to be physically sourced abroad!

    To really enable the next age of music you need a dematerialised format (to solve the inventory space problem and increase choice) that will also be supported by multiple vendors on the very long term (typically equivalent to the duration of copyright on the song). Currently the only format that meet these criterias is unprotected mp3.

    Faiplay meets the first condition of the sentence, not the second. Even if apple promissed to support and update the ipod for 50 years what guarantee would there be that apple doesn't end up bankrupt in 15 years?

  25. Leigh

    EU off track with iTMS DRM

    This just seems crazy.

    Why is the EU all up in arms about the iTunes Music Store?

    The comment about not being able to play your music on any CD player is of course totally incorrect. If you purchased music without DRM you would still need to burn a CD, and it would be identical to one that is burnt from iTunes purchased DRM enabled music - YOU CAN PLAY IT ON ANY CD PLAYER!

    To extrapelate this argument out, Why can't I play my Playstation games on an Xbox or vice versa, Why does the GameBoy have cartidges that won't fit into the PSP - let's sue them all for inoperability. For that matter, why won't a DVD that I bought in the UK play on a DVD player in Australia... in fact why won't a Blu-ray play on a HD-DVD player. It's crazy to get wound up at Apple when it's simply following widely accepted models of proprietory hardware & software.

    But wait - as I mentioned Apple has made it possible to play the tracks you bought on any CD or DVD player anywhere in the world, so there's actually no difference in buying from the iTMS as from any shop (exactly as it was before the ipod revolution) so I can't see what the song and dance is all about. Apple has the right to sell great hardware, and back it up with great software - The DRM enforced by the Record Labels is at present unavoidable, but YOU CAN PLAY your iTMS music anywhere.

    Let's face it - if it's not a great business model why is it that Microsoft, Sony, and many others are trying to mimic Apple's success by copying their harware and software to the letter.

    Apple's got it all happening right, just like Sony did with their PS2, so why penalise them for getting the jump and doing it first?

  26. Tom Hawkins

    Can someone explain...

    ...how come Apple has this supposed moral obligation to make iTunes and the iPod interoperable with other music stores/players, in spite of the fact that there are perfectly good ways of obtaining the same music without restrictions elsewhere... but meanwhile no-one seems to be suggesting that if I buy a piece of Windows software from Microsoft (who appear to have much greater domination of the software market than Apple do of the music market) there should be an equivalent obligation on them to make it work on Linux or a Mac?

    Sure, it'd be great if we could take iTunes-purchased content and play it on another MP3 player without re-ripping, but until such time as Apple's "dominance" prevents fair entry to the market by competitors I don't see how this falls foul of consumer rights law.

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