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Wednesday, June 07, 2006, 06:00 am PT (09:00 am ET)

Norwegian consumer group opposes iTunes TOS

A consumer advocate group has won a preliminary ruling that may force Apple Computer to change its iTunes terms of service (TOS) in Norway, according to reports.

Earlier this year, the Consumer Council of Norway lodged a complaint with the Consumer Ombudsman, a government representative, over iTunes Music Store in Norway.

The group argued that Apple iTunes terms of service is in violation of Section 9a of the country's Marketing Control Act and also said that iTunes' digital right management violated consumer protection laws.

While no decision has been made in regards to iTunes' closed digital rights management (DRM) system and a few other issues, the group claimed victory on several points and said that the ruling would also apply to other digital music services, perhaps signaling a movement toward greater consumer rights.

"This is a great victory for the digital rights of Norwegian consumers," the group said. "The decision clearly states that the terms of agreement demanded by iTunes are unreasonable with respect to the country's consumer protection laws."

Amongst its complaints, the Consumer Council argued that Apple must be held liable for security holes and other bugs that could be exploited by hackers or computer viruses.

"Consumers are barred from lodging compensation claims if iTunes' software creates security holes that can be exploited by computer viruses," a group representative said. "This is a very real issue, which was most recently highlighted by the case of Sony BMG's latest DRM, XCP," referencing the recent security hole introduced by Sony on some copy-protected CDs.

Specifically, the group said users can not be forced to give consent to be governed by English Law when running iTunes software in Norway and Apple cannot disclaim responsibility for any damage caused by its software. In addition, the decision also found that Apple could not alter the terms of service at anytime, a disclaimer the company includes in its standard terms of service before running iTunes software.

However, the ruling will force Apple to adjust the terms and conditions of the iTunes agreement to comply with Norwegian law by the 21st of June.

"We are very satisfied with the decision. There is a general tendency for consumers to meet grossly unreasonable agreements when they download files with cultural content. It is therefore positive that the Ombudsman gets a grip on this so that consumer interests are also protected when such material is downloaded," senior advisor Torgeir Waterhouse says.

Still undetermined is whether Apple must include a "cooling-off" period when purchasing from iTunes and whether Apple's geographic limitations are reasonable under the country's laws. Apple currently states that all sales are final.

Consumer Council is also pushing for a ruling on iTunes' DRM, which has faced a backlash in other European countries such as France. Earlier this year the country pushed for a law that would force Apple to open up its iTunes FairPlay DRM to competitors, a move that industry analysts say would likely result in Apple closing its French iTunes Music Store.