Apple may just have gained an amazingly powerful tool for the future of its iTunes music business: A new deal could allow pan-european licensing of digitally downloaded music. It's perfect timing for the iTablet too, don't you think?
We first reported on this issue back in May 2009, centering on the efforts of the E.U.'s Commissioner for Competion Neelie Kroes to break down some of the archaic and business-blocking music licensing deals across the Union's 27 nations. Kroes main concern was that there were numerous examples of unfair trading raised by the conflict between different nation's laws--and French iTunes users, for example, may have to pay the same to get the same track at a later date than, say, German iTunes users. This uneven playing field could also be contributing to piracy--with users seeking illegal downloads where the legal system was, for some license-based reason, blocking their access.
No more though. Though the full details have yet to emerge, the E.U. members have reached a new agreement that should enable pan-E.U. licensing for all music. It'll shake up the industry (and the music charts too) since it should also enable simple E.U.-wide launches for new albums. And it's absolutely perfect for Apple which has long been unfairly accused as being the cause of some intra-E.U. price disparities. It could even play into the rumored iTunes.com "iTunes in the cloud" system that may arrive some time this year.
With the media-centric iTablet due to launch tomorrow, it's also absolutely perfect timing...and we'd be surprised if Steve doesn't allude to the news somewhere during tomorrow's presentation. And before you go "Pshaw! What do I care about some E.U.ro-legal wrangling?" remember that the population of the E.U. reached roughly 500 million in 2009, versus the U.S.A.'s 308 million. And with faster Net and broadband connections on average, the E.U. will be a far more crucial market for digital music in this decade. Now all the E.U. has to do is get that pesky video licensing issue sorted out...