During the launch of the iTunes Music Store Europe at an event in London, Apple CEO Steve Jobs dismissed other digital-music services today, saying the real competition Apple faces in the market comes from piracy.

He said: "iTunes really competes with piracy, not the other services. Piracy is the big enemy – the market has shrunk in France and Germany and seen zero growth in the UK."

Jobs stressed the hassle and lack of quality guarantees you get when you use peer-to-peer illegal file-sharing services. He also asked: "Have any of you in the audience downloaded music illegally?"

He admitted: "Well, I have a few times – you know, market research. But it's stealing," he said, repeating his observation that buying music online legally is "good karma".

State of independents

Apple has powerful allies in Europe. Major music labels are keen to protect themselves from piracy, as are the independent labels. Sadly, new iTunes users will find little content online from the indie labels because talks between these and Apple failed yesterday.

The company is attempting to offer independent labels less money per track than it offers the majors and is trying to tie independent labels here to a non-negotiable three-year deal.

This deal offers independents less money per track than they receive for selling their songs through iTunes in the US. Music-industry observers say this is also harmful to artists, and that it creates a "new evil music monopoly".

One industry insider said: "I know what margins the majors are receiving. I know that at least two are taking the pi** out of Apple, forcing that company to accept razor-thin margins. But the independents don't want to be tied down to a bad deal in order to subsidise Apple's major-label music content."

However, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), which represents the labels in the UK, welcomed the launch of iTunes, which the industry considers an essential requirement to help it combat piracy.

BPI chairman Peter Jamieson said: "Today's launch is another important step forward in the growing UK downloads market. iTunes joins Napster and mycokemusic as the third high-profile legal digital-music service to launch in the UK this year, and with the imminent arrival of an Official UK Downloads Chart we expect 2004 to be a landmark year for digital music."

"It's great news for the UK music industry, but it's even better news for UK music fans. Music fans now have the chance to sample, share, download and burn without breaking the law and taking the risks presented by illegal peer-to-peer file sharing."

"The record industry is committed to ensuring that music is available as widely as possible in as many formats as possible," he said.

iPod User

Order now!
The magazine for iPod Users