Despite pressure from some member states, European Commission officials are wary of forcing Apple to open up iTunes.

European Commission director general of competition Philip Lowe told Reuters yesterday: "We wouldn't at this stage regard iTunes' inability to play back on devices other than the iPod as an instance of major concern until we've seen further market developments."

He also observed that Apple has built its dominant market position in a fair and open competitive market. "Apple obtained its strong market position in open competition with many similar players, including some with their own web sites," he observes.

The statements emerge as Apple faces pressure from France and the Scandinavian states to open up iTunes song downloads to play on non-Apple music players. In the UK, consumer groups have begun campaigning against certain iTunes features while record label trade body the BPI also voices its concerns.

Norway's consumer ombudsman Bjorn Erik Thon says he will act soon against Apple, citing consumer law, but not before he has received a letter of explanation from the company.

Thon faces cooler heads in the Norwegian legislature. Norway's director general of competition Knut Eggum Johansen describes the local market as "emerging", warning: "This may be an argument for competition authorities to have a somewhat more hands-off approach."

Meanwhile, US intellectual property lawyer Richard Neff has observed that the digital music market must be seen as including piracy, warning that doing so shows a truer representation of the market. He told Techweb: "I don't see in this market, which is in complete state of flux, with piracy probably as high as legitimate sales, I can't see how Apple can be considered to have the dominant position," he said. "It depends on how you define the market."

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