Japan's music industry may have thwarted Apple's attempts to launch an iTunes service there, a local report claims.

The local recording industry there has opposed the start, refusing to license its catalogue, because it fears such a service would impact against CD sales in the world's third-largest music-buying market.

The Asahi Shimbun claims the business there, "deems iTunes' copy protection measures to be inadequate, and has refused to offer its music catalogue".

'Can't hold out forever', says Apple

However, Apple Japan's vice president in charge of marketing, Yoshiaki Sakito believes the popularity of the iPod in Japan will eventually "pry the market open": "The record companies won't be able to swim against the tide forever", he said.

Japan's labels want to charge around double the 99 cent price most US digital music operators expect for music downloads - effectively more than it costs to buy CDs in the shops, the report reveals.

However, a selection of small digital music operators (many involving Japan's Sony recording label) have begun to appear.