Digital Rights Movement Reaches America

It may not be as pressing an issue as women’s suffrage or civil rights, but there is a quiet revolution gaining steam within our culture: digital rights. On June 10, sparsely attended protests were held at seven Apple Computer stores throughout the nation, protesting the exclusive music format restrictions placed on digital music purchased from Apple’s iTunes music store.

In Europe, the French government had placed pressure on Apple to open up their DRM systems to competitor’s formats. In Norway, the country’s Consumer Ombudsman and Consumer Council said that by limiting music purchased through iTunes to just iPod devices is against Norwegian law. Apple has until June 21 to revise it’s policies or they face fines. Scandinavia, Denmark and Sweden are considering similar actions against the digital music giant.

When iTunes launched, record labels insisted on a single, exclusive format – DRM – to help protect music from piracy, one of the industry’s biggest problems. However, critics claim that not allowing competitor’s devices to use music purchased from iTunes limits how legally acquired music can be used and as such reduces its value.

What this fight may boil down to is the rights of the consumer for free digital range, versus the distributor’s right to restrict the format to their own software. Like other rights battles, the outcome of this protest may very well have a huge impact on the future of digital download services for generations to come.

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