The European Commission is launching an antitrust probe against Apple and several major music companies after Brussels issued formal charges alleging the deals that underpin the sale of music through the hugely popular iTunes platform violate competition rules, the Financial Times reports.
In a surprise development, the Brussels regulator last week sent a confidential statement of objections outlining the accusations to Apple and to "major record companies". These are understood to include Universal, Warner, EMI and SonyBMG.
Separately, EMI said Monday it will make all of its digital music available without any antipiracy software through Apple's iTunes Store.
The deal includes only music from EMI's existing digital catalogue, quashing speculation that the Beatles' recordings would be available to download legally for the first time.
Earlier this year, Apple CEO Steve Jobs called on the world's four major record companies, including EMI, to start selling songs online without copy protection software to thwart piracy known as digital rights management, or DRM.
“You can buy music from iTunes and burn it on a CD and rip it and just strip off the DRM and put it on any music player you want," Jobs told CNBC. "So, while this deal removes that hassle, there’s never been the firm lock that some people say there has been. We’re going to survive based on making the best music players in the world and making the best store in the world and if consumers think we do those things, we’ll do fine -- and if they don’t we’ll hear about it.”
DRM technology restricts how people can copy the music they legally buy from online stores, such as transferring songs from their computers to MP3 players and mobile phones.
Jobs said 90% of recorded music is now shipped without DRMs.
"There’s no DRM on a CD," Jobs said. "So, if you’re shipping 90% of the music without DRMs, then why burden the other 10% with a DRM when that 10%, the digital part, is hopefully the salvation of the industry as the physical part -- CDs -- declines over time?”
Jobs said there appeared to be no benefit for the record companies in continuing to sell more than 90% of their music without DRM on compact discs, while selling the remaining small percentage of music online encumbered with a DRM system.
EMI is the first major label to strip out the anti-piracy protection.