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Apple requests secrecy in bid to keep iTunes legal in Scandinavia

Apple's request that its submission to Scandinavian consumer rights regulators be kept secret is being reviewed and could be declined. The Californian computer firm is fighting to prevent a ban on its market-leading iTunes music download software.02 Aug 2006

In June the Norwegian Consumer Ombudsman ruled that the terms and conditions for iTunes were unlawful and that the fact that only iPods can play iTunes files was anti-competitive. The company was given until 21st June to respond to the iPod compatibility question.

Apple requested and was granted an extension until 1st August. It has now filed its response and requested that it be kept secret. That request is being assessed by regulators, though consumer rights advocates are urging that the case be conducted in public.

"We find this highly unfortunate as we feel that all the information and arguments put forward in this very important case should be available for all interested parties," said Torgeir Waterhouse, senior advisor at Forbrukerradet, the Consumer Council of Norway.

The Consumer Council of Norway took the case in the first place, and OUT-LAW revealed in June that parallel cases in Sweden and Denmark were underway and that Norway's lead was likely to be followed in the other Scandinavian countries, since the legal systems are very similar.

"The iTunes case is very important for consumers everywhere since it directly addresses the struggle for consumer rights in the digital sphere," Waterhouse told OUT-LAW. "It is our view that the consumer should be able to follow the different developments of this case as it progresses. We do of course respect Apple / iTunes' need to preserve their own interests, but full secrecy is a dramatic step to take and we really hope it will be possible to make at least some of Apple / iTunes reply publicly available."

A 50-page response was submitted by Apple, and Swedish regulators told Associated Press that a decision would be reached by Friday on whether or not some portions could remain secret. Apple spokespeople did not tell AP why it had requested secrecy.

The action in Scandinavia mirrors legislation in France designed to force Apple to allow iTunes-bought songs to be played on any device. A controversial section of a new copyright law is designed to force inter-operability between all song buying services and all devices.

That section of the law was first watered down and may now be rewritten by France's Constutional Council, which says that it could breach the French Constitution.

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