updated 2/7/2007 10:12:23 AM ET 2007-02-07T15:12:23

Norway's Consumer Council applauded signs of willingness from Apple Inc. to open its iTunes music store to players other than its iPod, but said Wednesday the company was skirting key issues and passing responsibility to record companies.

Norway is leading a European campaign to force Apple to make its iTunes online store compatible with rivals' digital music players.

This month, Norway's consumer regulator declared the lack of interoperability illegal, and gave Apple until Oct. 1 to change it or face legal action and possible fines.

In an open letter on Apple's Web site Tuesday, Chief Executive Steve Jobs said he was ready to open iTunes to players other than iPods if the world's major record labels abandoned their anti-piracy technology.

In the letter called "Thoughts on Music," Jobs argued for abolishing the protections known as "Digital Rights Management," or DRM, saying that technology was the main reason music sold through iTunes can't be transferred to other portable players.

"We welcome Apple taking this problem seriously, and addressing it at such a high level," Torgeir Waterhouse, senior adviser to the Consumer Council, told The Associated Press. However, he said Apple was hiding behind the record companies and distorting aspects of the dispute in the letter.

Jobs said consumers unhappy with the current system should push the world's four largest labels _ Vivendi SA's Universal Music Group, EMI Group PLC, Sony BMG Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group Corp. _ to sell their online catalogs without the DRM restrictions.

"It is clear that the record industry has some of the responsibility, but that does not relieve Apple of responsibility," Waterhouse said.

"Our concern is, of course, that Apple and iTunes Music Store should be addressing the issue of record companies and DRM themselves if it needs to be addressed," said Waterhouse. "It's iTunes Music Store that's providing a service to the consumers and therefore has the responsibility."

Jobs wrote that consumer groups complain that users of iTunes or other proprietary music stores are locked into buying music from one store for one player. However, he said most music on the world's iPods is from other sources, such as compact discs.

"It's hard to believe that just 3 percent of the music on the average iPod is enough to lock users into buying only iPods in the future," wrote Jobs.

Waterhouse countered that the intent of Apple's DRM system, called FairPlay, is to lock users into iTunes and iPods and that Jobs had attempted to "turn the whole issue on its head."

"The issue our complaint addresses is, of course, the opposite: iTunes Music Store customers are locked to the iPod," Waterhouse said.

Apple did not immediately return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

Last month, the consumer organizations in Finland, Norway, France, Germany and the Netherlands launched a joint drive to force Apple to change its policies.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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