Apple failed to show up for a hearing in which the music industry fought a proposal by US Congress that by law all music files should be compatible.

At the hearing on Wednesday the music industry and consumer groups insisted that the music industry would be able to deal with the interoperability issues itself, and that the government should not get involved.

Apple was invited to testify but the company failed to appear at the hearing. Criticising the no show, government representative Lamar Smith, who once sponsored an infamous bill that would have let music companies jam the PCs of illegal downloaders, said: "Generally speaking, companies with 75 per cent market share of any business, in this case the digital download market, need to step up to the plate when it comes to testifying on policy issues that impact their industry. Failure to do so is a mistake."

Lucky for Apple, rival Napster was present to defend the music industry against government intervention. Napster CTO William Pence said: "It does not seem prudent for government to pick a winner in the continuing marketplace battle between Apple's Fairplay DRM and its competitors.

"Government intervention can lead to politicizing and inhibiting innovation. Marketplace forces will continue to drive innovation in the DRM arena with attendant consumer benefits – new ways to enjoy digital music at a variety of different price points – while gradually solving the interoperability problem."

Platform envy

However, president of the Progress and Freedom Foundation Ray Gifford urged Congress not to give in to "platform envy and mandate some sort of interoperability," suggesting that antitrust and intellectual property laws are well suited to handle the situation.

He said: "For public policy makers, we can never forget the lessons of public choice theory, which predicts that firms and interest groups will seek government favour in promoting their standards solution and handicapping their rivals. Any call for the government to prefer one standard or model over another must be subject to most exacting scepticism."